Peace be With You. And also with you. Passing of the Peace is a time in worship when all, including the pastor, exchange signs and words of peace and reconciliation with one another. Some call it a time of greeting, but Passing of the Peace is much more than a handshake and a smile.
Passing of the peace is a tradition rooted in Scripture that embodies our identity as peacemakers (Matt. 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:20) and trains ours hearts, hands, and tongues in the ways of peace.
From the beginning Christians have exercised this practice. “Peace be with you” is a greeting Jesus himself used with his disciples (Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 26). The apostle Paul opened each of his letters with the words “Grace and peace be with you” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2).
Today in many congregations we may pass the peace during a mutual greeting, after words of assurance, prior to celebrating the Lord’s Supper, or at the conclusion of a worship service. At these times we leave the comfort of our seat, turn to our neighbors, grasp their hands, and speak the words, “The peace of the Lord be with you” and receive the words in turn, “And also with you.”
The gesture is simple, but the meaning is profound. When we extend our hand to another, we identify with Jesus, who extended his life to the point of death to make peace with humanity (Col. 1:20-21). What’s more, in the midst of divisions we symbolize our unity through handshakes and hugs (Eph. 2:14-21). Likewise, when we regularly pass the peace we practice God’s call to make every effort to maintain the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
Learn more about this greeting, watch this episode of “Chuck Knows Church.”