"peace to this house"
Was Jesus really saying "peace to this house" as we might consider it in modern English? Is he saying that these houses - or the people in them - are at war and require peace proclamations to be made inside?
While we find the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē) is being translated to peace along with most of the other English Bible translations including the King James, we do find in the New Living Version that it is being translated to "God's peace" - even though God's Name is not being mentioned in the original Greek text.
What is being assumed here is that Jesus is not speaking of "peace" as in a lack of warfare. This contextual use of "peace" is indicated from Strong's lexicon, as it defines the alternate use of εἰρήνη (eirēnē) as being, "the way that leads to peace (salvation)." So this is indicating another kind of peace being spoken of by Jesus - relating to salvation.
Just consider the state of the physical world for a moment. Currently, we find suffering and violence in various places. We find terrorism, kidnapping, war. We find daily occurrences of murders, rapes and other acts of hatred each day in the news.
We find in some places people are being enslaved in prisons for speaking freely. We find in some places women are enslaved in sex syndicates. We find in some places that children are being worked as slaves in factories.
In other places we find people starving, or trampled by natural disaster and left homeless. And throughout the world, we find millions of people sick from cancer, AIDS or suffering from other diseases. Even in places that seem like idyllic places, we find outbreaks of malaria and other ailments throughout the populations.
Where is the peace in this world? Where is the freedom from suffering? Can we find peace from the onslaught of suffering around the world by walking around and talking about "peace"? This was, in fact, the mission of hippies of the 60's and 70's - with the peace signs and all the talk of "peace." Did it help? Perhaps a little. But not much.
Thus we find that while this may be the best translation into English possible, it does not convey the meaning of this instruction by Jesus. It is, in fact, sort of a "code word" - referring to a grander teaching of Jesus, similar to how Jesus taught in parables.
And yes, Jesus was speaking of the freedom from the various sufferings of the physical world - all of those things mentioned above and more. How? How could a house be freed from these sufferings?
By those inhabitants understanding their real identity and their relationship with the Supreme Being.
You see, all of the sufferings of the physical world - they belong to this world. And our temporary physical bodies - they too belong to this world.
The physical body was designed to suffer.
It was designed not to have peace, in other words. The physical body is in pain from the time of birth and even before, as it grows within a tiny womb space. As the body is pushed out of the womb it is typically covered in various bacteria and as it makes contact with the outside environment it is full of pain. Yes, this is why virtually every baby cries loudly at the time of birth. Because the body is born into pain.
And the pain of the body continues throughout life. The body is in pain from any number of injuries; from disease; from being hungry; from being thirsty; from being otherwise hurt; from even growing (hence the term "growing pains"). The body goes from one type of pain to another - on a virtual cycle of pain.
And as the body ages, it reaches new types of pain; including the various pains of working; the pains of aging; the pains of breaking down physically and getting old, which include muscle pain, joint pain, breathing pain, teeth pain and so on.
Adding to these are the pains associated with the mind. These include being scared, being anxious, being nervous, being embarrassed and others. These pains of the mind fill in the gaps between the physical pains. In other words, we might have a period where we have little physical pain, but during that time we may have more mental or emotional pain.
Yes, this physical body and mind are full of pain. They are born in pain and they die in pain. At the end of our physical lives, our bodies will die in excruciating pain, accompanied by mental pains associated with fear and anxiety, and losing what we are attached to.
But all of these pains belong to the physical body and the physical mind. They are elements of the physical world. They are part of the design of this physical world - created by the Supreme Being.
Yes, we are in hell. This physical world is hell - and our particular region of hell might be better or worse than others.
Yes, all of the pain of hell was designed. Why? Does God want to torture us? What kind of loving God wants to torture us?
Actually, we are the cause of all this pain. We are the cause of all the pains of the physical body and mind and the physical world. How so?
The Supreme Being simply created a space for us to play out our self-centered desires, and experience their consequences (good or bad). He simply created a zone where we could experience the position of feeling that we are better than others. A place where we could act superior to others, and thus experience being "king for a day" (or lifetime or whatever).
But this "zone" - the physical world - also had to be built with certain parameters. One of the central parameters programmed into the physical world is the law of consequences. We must be able to experience the consequences of our actions.
This law of consequences is also seen within the scientific observations of the physical world such as the "law of cause and effect." This principle dictates that every action has a reaction and every event, a cause.
This is part of the dynamic of the physical world. Without it, we would have chaos. There would be no order within the physical world.
In the spiritual realm, the order is produced by the personal energy of the Supreme Being. But in the physical world, the order is produced by His indirect energies, such as the principle of consequences - the law of cause and effect.
So what does this have to do with the sufferings of the physical world?
Let's start at the beginning of our fall.
First, we became self-centered, and then jealous of the Supreme Being, seeing Him be the center of attention and so on. We wanted to be in that position. So we were booted out of the spiritual realm, into the physical realm.
How were we transported to the physical realm? Did we get on a spaceship and fly here? Don't be ridiculous.
We simply took on a physical body, and got lost in it.
We might compare this to how a person might step into a car and begin driving the car. Once the person is in the car, they leave the garage and begin driving on the freeway. The car gives the person access to the freeway. In the same way, the physical body gives access to the physical world.
And just as a car driver must obey the rules of the freeway - the driver of the physical body must observe the rules of the physical world.
For example, if a car were to slam on the breaks in the middle of the lane while driving on the freeway they would certainly be smashed into by the car behind them. And for this reason, there are minimum and maximum speeds posted. This and other rules - such as staying in the correct lane - is required in order to keep order on the freeway - keeping the freeway from becoming chaotic.
Now if our car had such an accident on the freeway - caused by someone running into the car after we slammed on the brakes on the freeway - would we blame the person who put the speed signs on the freeway? Doing so would be idiotic. The accident would be our fault. We broke the rules and stopped in the middle of the lane on the freeway. Getting hit was simply the consequence of that.
In the same way, as mentioned, there is a consequence (good and bad) to every self-centered activity within the physical world. Whatever activity is performed creates a consequence. And everything that we decide to do during a conscious human lifetime - creates consequences that will affect not only this life but future lifetimes.
As such, every physical body is experiencing the results of previous activities. This takes place on an individual level, a society level, and a cultural level. Group activities affect each of the individuals in that group depending upon their level of participation or responsibility in the group or society.
Thus every victim of every crime or otherwise painful experience is receiving precisely the reaction of a previous activity they had in the past. For example, a person who has difficulty breathing during much of their life due to a lung infection may be suffering because they suffocated a person or animal in a previous life. And a person who is raped in this lifetime likely raped someone in their previous lifetime. And so on.
In other words, there is no such thing as an "innocent victim" within the physical world.
The body is not me
The other and most important principle to understand about the physical world is that these physical bodies are not us. They are an illusion of identity. They do exist, but the body is not me - it is an illusion of me.
This might be compared to a dream. When we are dreaming we are actually sleeping and actually having a dream. So the dream is really happening within our mind. But are the events taking place in that dream happening to me? No. They are happening to my dream-identity. They are happening to this person I am identifying within the dream.
Therefore, I may get slugged in my dream, or I may fall off a cliff in my dream. But did my waking physical body fall off the cliff? No. Only that dream-state body fell.
Did we experience suffering while we got hurt or fell off the cliff? Yes. Why? Because during the dream we were identifying with our dream-state identity. We thought it was me.
But it wasn't me. We know this when we wake up and think back - "whew, I'm glad that was only a dream!"
In the same way, what is taking place to this physical body is like a dream in that it is not happening to me. It is happening to a virtual me - a facsimile. A surrogate.
In fact, there was a movie called "The Surrogates," starring Bruce Willis. In this movie, the robot technology was so advanced that people could lie in their beds attached to a machine that allowed a surrogate of themselves - a robot that looked like a real person - to go out in public and deal with all the problems. Outside, surrogates could get crushed or knocked off but the person running the robot from their bedroom would not be hurt. They would just order up a new robot.
This is very similar to our situation. In our situation, we are running these physical bodies but we are not these physical bodies. The only difference between the movie and our situation is that God has programmed things so that while we are running our surrogates we forget our real identities. Our real identities are blocked from our consciousness, and we identify ourselves as these bodies.
In other words, we get sucked in. This can again be compared to a dream. While we are dreaming, we completely forget who our bodies are in the physical world. A man might be a janitor in the physical world but be dreaming he is a sea captain undergoing a mutiny and being thrown overboard to the sharks. During the dream, he completely forgets his identity as a janitor.
We get lost within our dreams.
This is precisely what happens to us in the physical world. We have become lost in this landscape of the physical world. We have completely forgotten our real identities - our spiritual identities - as we've gotten sucked into the illusion of our temporary identities.
And how do we know these physical identities are temporary? We can simply look back and forward at our physical lifetime. If we are an adult, for example, we can look back at our high school days when we were a big sports star (or whatever). We are no longer that sports star. Perhaps our body is now overweight - or just old and wrinkled - now. Our body looks nothing like it did, and that role we played - the high school sports star or whatever - is now gone. It was temporary. The role no longer exists.
And soon this body will die and be buried and all of the roles in life we played will be wiped out forever.
So we can understand that the sufferings of the physical world are only taking place for these temporary bodies - our surrogates. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles we drive for awhile so we could experience the physical world.
Why? So we could act out our self-centeredness.
And so that we can - at the same time - learn.
Yes, the physical world is a teaching experience. It is like a computer program designed to teach children. Have we ever seen these? Now kids can go to school and learn their courses by opening up a certain program that manages their learning process.
Yes, this physical world manages our learning process. But in order to truly learn some of these lessons, we must become lost in them. We must identify with the situation to truly learn from it. We must truly experience those consequences in order to learn from them.
Just imagine if we didn't get lost in the physical world.
Again we could compare it with a dream. Say the janitor was dreaming of being a sea captain but realized that this was just a dream and really he is a janitor. He wouldn't get involved in the sea captain situation. He would chuckle as the dreamscape presented the big ship and the mutiny at sea. He would not be afraid of being thrown overboard and get eaten by sharks because he knew he'd just wake up and he'd be fine.
But by realizing that he was a janitor and not the sea captain, he also won't be able to learn the lessons needed to learn in that situation. Maybe in the dream he treated the crew badly and that was his lesson - that's what you get when you treat others badly.
As stated previously, the consequence programming of the physical world teaches us. You see, part of God's programming of the physical world is that as we get lost in these identities, the consequences they receive allow us to learn and grow. Our consciousness becomes more evolved. We become wiser (hopefully).
But now let's look at the situation from the perspective of Jesus' statement - about peace in the context of his students giving his teachings to those who are ready to be woken up.
Again let's say that the janitor dreaming about being thrown overboard has already learned those lessons, and actually does remember that he is a janitor and is not actually being thrown overboard and this is only a dream. What will happen?
He will not be anxious about being thrown overboard in his dream. He will remain at peaceful while he is being thrown overboard because he knows that he is not the sea captain, and he is not really being thrown overboard - only his dream-state identity is. He knows that he will wake up soon and his dream will evaporate, and thus is not scared or anxious because he is aware.
This is the kind of "peace" that Jesus is discussing but in a spiritual context. It is the peace of his students understanding their real identities and their real purpose in life. They might be physically walking into a house that might have different kinds of suffering - maybe some people are sick or hungry; or sad because someone died.
Bringing peace into the house
But Jesus' students can bring "peace" into that house. How? By bringing into the house the teachings of Jesus, and their service relationship with the Supreme Being and the Supreme Being's representative.
They can enter the house and see the house and its inhabitants for what they really are: Created by the Supreme Being and belonging to the Supreme Being.
And they can see their role as being related to the Supreme Being. They can understand that their happiness is tied to pleasing the Supreme Being. They can see their role as being the devoted servant of the Supreme Being.
As such, the words that come from their mouths will reflect this consciousness - and those words, coming with praise of the Supreme Being - will serve to bring "peace" upon that house and those within the house. Why?
Because those students who bring that consciousness into the house can change the consciousness of those who hear them.
And what is that consciousness? It is knowing our real identity in relationship with the Supreme Being. We are God's loving servants. We are His playmates. We are His. We belong to Him. Whatever situation we are in at the moment is related to our relationship with Him. He is teaching us, guiding us. Everything is within His control. (We might have choices, but He is still in control.)
This consciousness serves to wake us up from this bad dream of false identification with the physical world. This effort to wake people up to our real identity is summed up in a teaching that John the Baptist taught, Jesus taught and Jesus told his students to teach:
"The kingdom of God [or Heaven] is near." (Luke 12:31, Matt. 3:2, Matt. 4:17, Matt. 10:7)
By realizing the consciousness above - just as the janitor who realizes he isn't being thrown to the sharks - we can realize that all of the suffering we are experiencing - and going on around us - is not happening to us. It is happening to our surrogate.
And we are only suffering because we are identifying with this surrogate.
Now Jesus says further - "If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you."
What is "promoting peace"? It is most certainly, someone who is desiring to be woken up, or someone who is already seeing themselves as a servant of God - or at least someone who is seeking to achieve perfection in their relationship with God. This person is "promoting peace" because they are wanting to be woken up - and possibly want to wake others up from this bad dream we are having - this illusion that we are these physical bodies and we are stuck in hell.
Thus we can state that part of the meaning of the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē) being translated to "peace" is wisdom. Spiritual knowledge.
Note then Jesus states that such a person - one "promoting peace" will receive the "peace" brought by Jesus' student - "If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them" - they will be able to receive the teachings of Jesus - the wisdom - through Jesus' student. They will be receptive to that wisdom, and thus their knowledge of the spiritual realm will increase - bringing them additional "peace" - wisdom, spiritual knowledge.
But if a person is not ready to receive that wisdom - or "peace" - then Jesus is saying, "if not, it will return to you." In other words, the wisdom will remain with Jesus' student. It won't be leaving them. They will come away with more of it in fact.
But even if the person in the house received the wisdom it is not as if Jesus' student would lose it in the house somewhere - or the person would take it away from them. No, this "peace" is not like a physical object, that has physical limitations. It is a well-spring of eternal life, as Jesus indicated later to his students:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27)Here we see again Jesus is speaking of giving and leaving with his disciples, his "peace." That is, the understanding of their relationship with the Supreme Being and their actual identity as one of His loving servants.
This spiritual identity is tied to a particular type of relationship with the Supreme Being. This is clarified by Jesus' most important instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)