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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Righteousness and Peace

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17).

Few things in life are more satisfying than being right. But what is it about being right that brings so much satisfaction? Maybe it's simply the boost to our ego or the fact that our self-image gets polished a little when we're right. We feel like we shine brighter among the crowd. Or, maybe it's more personal. Perhaps being right makes us feel good about having made a positive contribution to the lives of others. We may be unable to list all the reasons why being right makes us feel good. But we know there's a certain level of peace we experience when we're right. So, maybe that's the answer. We want to be right to experience the peace that comes with it.

The Bible has much to say about peace and its relationship to being right. The two Hebrew words often used to express both are shalom and tsadaq. The Greek equivalents are translated as eirene and dikaios, or in English as "peace" and "righteous." Let's take a closer look at the meaning of each of these words before looking at how the Bible relates them to one another. We'll start with shalom.

What is Shalom?

Shalom and its Greek equivalent, eirene, go well beyond our typical interpretation of the English word, peace. Shalom conveys the idea of physical and emotional wholeness and well-being, extending into a life of prosperity, success, and fulfillment. Shalom also describes the state of being that results from conquest or victory over one's enemies. Unlike a truce, which retains a degree of fear or uneasiness, shalom implies absolute victory without concern. Shalom also includes the pleasantness that comes from having a right relationship with others or the harmonious fellowship between parties.[1]

What is Tsadaq?

Unlike shalom, the Hebrew tsadaq finds much agreement with its English equivalent of righteous. Tsadaq is variously interpreted as accurate, fair, just, or vindicated. The Bible describes things such as scales and measures, governments, the law, people, and even God as tsadaq. [2] Being tsadaq is also a thing to be pursued as an ultimate goal in life (Dt. 16:20).

Before leaving our discussion regarding being righteous (tsadaq), let us say two additional things about the Bible's teachings. First, God's moral law, or the Ten Commandments, is presented as the perfect standard of righteousness.[3] All other moral laws or standards of conduct that cannot trace back to God's moral law are unrighteous.

Secondly, although the moral law provides a perfect standard of conduct, there are various levels and degrees of righteousness, such that an individual or their actions can be more righteous than another (Gen 38:26, Matthew 5:20). This sliding scale can be applied to communities, such as families, institutions, cities, or nations. Each can possess a degree of righteousness, from having none to being fully righteous. Consider the unrighteousness of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19) compared to the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven (Rev 21:10, 26-27).

What's the Biblical Relationship Between Righteousness and Peace?

The framework for biblical righteousness is found in God's moral law, or the Ten Commandments. However, as Christians, we understand that our position of righteousness isn't based on fulfilling the Law. Instead, it's based solely on God declaring us righteous as a gift when we place our faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9). That's not to say we don't grow in righteousness by increasing obedience to God's commandments. When we apply our faith to decisions in reverence to God's commands, we are doing what the Bible refers to as walking by faith and increasingly conforming our lives to the commands of God and our likeness to Christ's.

What can we say then about the relationship between peace and righteousness? Only that lasting peace, or shalom, is realized when God declares us righteous, which can only be experienced when we place our faith in Christ.


It really does feel good to be right. We all experience a little peace when someone tells us we are. There's a biblical precedent for those feelings. When God declares us righteous, a wave of peace comes over our souls. A desire for more peace should drive us to live by faith. It should also motivate us to dedicate ourselves to helping others experience it with us.

The whole process toward lasting peace starts with a personal desire to be righteous – to hunger and thirst for it. That hunger can only be satisfied by placing our faith in Christ. When that occurs, the experience of blessing and peace is given to us by the Father, who joins the Son in making Their home in us. God's continued work, both within and without, leads us toward greater righteousness and greater peace (Matthew 5:6, John 14:23).

[1] For a complete word study on shalom, see: For a briefer review of both shalom and eirene, see: and [2] When we refer to God's moral law, we separate it from the ceremonial and judicial laws applied to ancient Israel. [3] James 1:25; James 2:8, 10, 11, 12; Rom. 13:8, 9; Deut. 5:32; Deut. 10:4; Ex. 34:1

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