“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
And just what is the “kiss of love?” One thing for sure, it is not what we normally see on the television screen. J. B. Phillips brings the biblical practice up to date with his contemporary, “Give each other a handshake all around as a sign of love.” This we can understand.
What I want us to consider is the way in which Peter, the fisherman, brings his letter to a close (5:14). The context is one of suffering. Just a few verses earlier Peter noted that their restoration will take place “after they have suffered a little while.” There has been a lot of talk about religious persecution in recent months. In a number of countries the Christian road is not a tree-lined country lane but a busy thoroughfare filled with a number of dangerous intersections. It is not a pleasant path to Nirvana but a route that may, and probably will, involve the believer in significant suffering. Remember that it is, “after you have suffered a little while” that everything will change.
So Peter’s closing blessing is, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ Jesus.” Peace, yes, the shalom of God. The Hebrew word that we translate as “peace” connotes far more than the lack of strife. It is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness. It carries the sense of complete contentment, perfect well-being, harmony with God and man.
Against this background it is not hard to see that shalom is a state of being that, while intended for all, is experienced only by those who are “in Christ.” This is not a reward for extraordinary ethical behavior but the result of accepting the biblical account of the story of man. It began with God’s intention to create a people he could call his own, followed by man’s decision to try it on his own, and concludes with Christ’s entry into human history to pay the penalty and provide a way back to eternal shalom. It is the greatest of all redemption stories. It reveals the heart of God as pure and unadulterated love. Peace exists when we live in harmony with the nature of God – a supernatural relationship for sure! The entrance of sin was an alien disruption that has thrown the universe into violent turmoil – the very opposite of God’s intention. God laid the plan, sin disrupted it, but Christ has restored it for all who believe. History will close with the triumph of good over evil. Once again the shalom of God will reign supreme.
So when Peter extends the peace of God to “all who are in Christ” he is blessing them with the ultimate benediction. The sense of wholeness and completion that comes with faith in Christ is a deep satisfaction that denies adequate explanation. It can only be experienced, and that decision rests in the hands of each individual.