A close-up photo capturing a serene, stained-glass window depicting the peace sign within a Christian cross, symbolizing the harmonious message of love, unity, and tranquility in Christianity.

What Does The Peace Sign Mean In Christianity?

The peace sign, represented by a hand showing two fingers in a V shape, has become a universal symbol for peace. But what is the history and meaning behind this gesture in the context of Christianity?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The peace sign does not have any direct Biblical or historical Christian meaning. However, the general concept of peace is essential to Christian teachings, so modern Christians have adopted the peace sign to represent ideals like love, unity, and reconciliation.

In this comprehensive guide, we will trace the origins of the modern peace sign, analyze peace themes in the Bible and Christian theology, look at how prominent Christians have used the gesture, and discuss its current meaning and usage within Christianity today.

Origins and Creation of the Modern Peace Sign

The peace symbol combining semaphore signals for N and D

The iconic peace sign was originally designed in 1958 by British artist and designer Gerald Holtom. Combining the semaphore signals for the letters “N” (nuclear) and “D” (disarmament), it was created for use by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in protest of nuclear weapons.

According to the CND’s website (https://cnduk.org/about/item/435), Holtom originally considered using the Christian cross symbol. However, to make the symbol more inclusive for people of all faiths and backgrounds, he settled on the novel design combining the N and D shapes from semaphore code.

Adoption during the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The peace sign quickly became ubiquitous as the symbol of the CND during their famous peace marches and rallies against nuclear proliferation in the late 1950s. Displayed on banners, signs, and clothing, the symbol conveyed a clear visual message calling for “nuclear disarmament” and world peace.

According to peace historian Lawrence Wittner, the peace sign “immediately boosted the peace movement, both emotionally and organizationally, facilitating rallies, marches, and other anti-nuclear protests” (from his book Confronting the Bomb).

It gave the movement a bold, attention-grabbing icon to unite behind.

Spread to general peace movement in the 1960s

By the 1960s, the peace sign migrated from just representing “nuclear disarmament” specifically to symbolizing peace more broadly. As the Vietnam War escalated and the counterculture movement grew, the peace sign took on new resonance as a universal call for peace, love and harmony.

Wearing or displaying the peace sign signaled opposition to violence and war. According to a 1966 New York Times article, it conveyed “a bug, a germ spreading through the country, an infection that makes people want to carry it on badges and stickers” (https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1966/04/10/78745427.html?pageNumber=162).

The peace sign grew ubiquitous, displayed proudly by hippies, protesters, clergy, musicians, celebrities and politicians alike.

Now, over 60 years since its creation, the peace sign remains one of the most universally recognized symbols of peace, found today on posters, clothing and bumper stickers around the globe.

Peace Themes in the Bible and Christian Theology

Old Testament depicts peace as a gift from God

The concept of peace is found throughout the Old Testament, beginning with God’s creation of an ideal world of harmony and peace in Genesis. God is depicted as the source of true peace, often using the Hebrew word “shalom” which conveys wholeness, safety, and tranquility.

For example, Numbers 6:24-26 records the classic Priestly Blessing praying for God’s peace upon the Israelites. The prophets also promised that God would one day fill the earth with the peace of his kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-4).

However, the Old Testament realistically portrays humanity’s fallen state of conflict and war. To achieve peace, the people must faithfully follow God’s laws and guidance. But the Israelites repeatedly ignore God’s commandments, leading to divine judgement and exile.

Despite their failures, God promises to make a new covenant of peace with his people (Ezekiel 34:25-31). The Messiah is prophesied as the “Prince of Peace” who will reign justly and forever (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Jesus Christ as the ‘Prince of Peace’

The New Testament presents Jesus Christ as fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy as the long-awaited Messiah bringing God’s peace to earth (Luke 1:79, 2:14). Jesus’ birth is announced with the proclamation of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).

He teaches that those who follow him will know God’s gift of peace (John 14:27). The early church recognized Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” who reconciles humanity to God and each other (Ephesians 2:14-18).

However, Jesus also warned his followers they would face persecution and division in this world (Matthew 10:34-39). God’s kingdom of peace has begun spiritually through Christ, but will only be fully established when he returns.

So believers live in hopeful tension, promoting peace yet still facing injustice and conflict.

Peace prescribed as central virtue for Christians

Peace and reconciliation are prescribed as central virtues for Christians throughout the New Testament. Jesus teaches his followers to be merciful peacemakers who seek reconciliation with others (Matthew 5:9).

Christians are to “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11), overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Wisdom from above is described as “peaceable” (James 3:17).

Paul frequently admonishes churches to live at peace with each other in the Spirit’s bond of unity (Ephesians 4:3, Colossians 3:15). Pastors are to gently lead with peaceful wisdom (1 Timothy 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18). Overall, the Bible depicts peace as a defining mark of godly religion in contrast with worldly conflicts.

Prominent Christians Using the Peace Sign

Pope Paul VI at United Nations

In 1965, Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit the United Nations. During his speech to the UN General Assembly, he famously flashed the peace sign while declaring “No more war, war never again!” This iconic moment demonstrated the Catholic Church’s support for world peace and nonviolence.

Pope Paul urged the nations of the world to settle disputes through diplomacy rather than armed conflict. He boldly stated that “You must now give the world veracious evidence that you are sincerely and firmly resolved to banish war once and for all from the catalogue of state means.”

Saint Teresa of Calcutta with the poor

Mother Teresa, later canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, spent her life serving the poorest of the poor. She became a globally recognized symbol of compassion and peace through her selfless work.

There are many photos of Mother Teresa flashing the peace sign — from visits to AIDS clinics to shelters for the homeless. For her, the peace sign reflected a spirit of love and goodwill towards those suffering in the world.

She brought comfort and dignity to “the least among us” in the slums of India and beyond.

Desmond Tutu and South African anti-apartheid clerics

Archbishop Desmond Tutu campaigned tirelessly to end apartheid in South Africa with a message of racial equality, justice and reconciliation. He led peaceful protests and marches while advocating for sanctions against the apartheid regime.

In 1986, Tutu and other Anglican bishops launched the Kairos Document, a theological call to action against injustice. An iconic photo shows Desmond Tutu and fellow anti-apartheid clerics flashing the peace sign in front of a cross.

Their use of the gesture highlighted that establishing peace in South Africa aligned with Christian principles.

Current Meaning and Usage of Peace Sign in Christianity

Call to embody ideals like love, unity and reconciliation

The peace sign is often used by Christians as a reminder to live out Jesus’ call to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Many believe it represents ideals like love, unity, compassion, and reconciliation that Jesus embodied and taught his followers to practice.

When flashed during worship services, Christian conferences, or by believers going about their daily lives, it can signify an aspiration to build bridges across divisions and bring people together in the way Jesus did.

Reminder to pray and work for peace in the world

In addition to personal meaning, Christians may use the peace sign to symbolize a commitment to pray and advocate for peace in society. This could include calling for nonviolent solutions to conflict, fighting injustice and oppression, caring for refugees and immigrants, protecting human rights, eliminating poverty, and other social justice causes.

Displaying the peace sign is a way for believers to visually reinforce their support for peacemaking efforts locally and globally.

Many Christian organizations focused on promoting peace, like Pax Christi International, have adopted the peace sign in their branding and materials. This highlights their faith-based motivation to bring reconciliation and healing to a hurting world.

Ecumenical gesture connecting Christians across traditions

Exchanging the peace sign between Christians can represent unity and connection beyond denominational lines. It signals an openness to fellowship with believers from diverse church backgrounds who may worship or theologize differently.

In this way, it can be an ecumenical gesture to remind Christians that what unites them in Christ is greater than what divides them.

Some church bodies, like the Community of Christ, officially incorporated the peace sign into their materials and architecture in the 1960s as an overt symbol of their commitment to peacemaking and Christian unity.

Today, members continue to exchange the peace sign with each other during services and in everyday life.

So while the peace sign has taken on a variety of both religious and secular meanings over time, it continues to be used by many Christians as a concise way to express their faith-based passion for embodying peace, seeking justice, and bridging divisions between people.


While the V-shaped peace sign gesture does not have direct Biblical Christian origins, it has become a widely recognized emblem representing key values at the heart of the Christian faith. When Christians raise two fingers today, they tap into a long and complex history of working to manifest spiritual ideals of peace, love, unity, and reconciliation in the real world.

The peace sign continues to connect Christians from many different denominations and reminds them of their shared goal to pray and labor for both inner and global peace.

Similar Posts