We have covered the first 6 during the summer and today we are covering the 7th, and next week we’ll be wrapping up the series with the 8th beatitude and then making a transition to another series called “Finding God in Culture” starting on September 12 looking at movies, TV, and music and connections to our 3 Core Values.
Today we are taking a look at Matthew 5:9 which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” Or in another translation “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” So today we are going to talk about what peace means, what it looks like to be a peacemaker, and how this beatitude is a radical, upside down kingdom of God value just like the other 7 beatitudes.
Let’s look at the word peace. It shows up all over the place in our world, but do we truly know what it means? We hear it when the politicians decry the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we hear people talk about peace on earth, and of course all the contestants in the Miss USA pageant say they want world peace. But I don’t believe we quite have a true understanding of peace and how to obtain it, in our own lives and in the world around us. The word peace is found all throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word peace is translated Shalom in over 250 occurrences and means “the absence of agitation and discord; rest, harmony, and wholeness. It includes as well the ideas of good health and prosperity as well as having both a temporal part to it and an eternal part. But shalom isn’t the only word translated as peace in Scripture. The other word is the Greek word eirene and refers to inner calm, a sense of perfect well being, but expands to include harmonious relations between God and people, people and people, nations and families. It is the word used to designate the role of emperors and ambassadors sent out to facilitate peace where there is conflict. We get the sense, both in the O.T. and the N.T. that this word peace means more than just absence of strife. It is personal and social well being in the widest sense of the world and is very holistic in that it deals with everything. All of our relationships, situations, the creation itself, and God. It is about more than just pacifism, and being against war (which by the way we are still pacifist and believe that war is wrong). So the central meaning behind peace is the idea of reconciliation. Reconciliation between God and us. Reconciliation between people. Reconciliation between nations and countries. As disciples of Jesus, we should be all about the work of reconciliation and we should bring into all our relationships a quality which makes for harmony and blessing.
But before we become peacemakers in our world we have to realize something. We need to realize that ultimately all the talk of peace in the world is utterly futile without Jesus. Ultimately, all peacemaking begins and ends with Jesus Christ whose very purpose was to reconcile God and humanity. But shalom is not merely the absence of war and conflict; it is the presence and the promise of truth with a Capital T. So let me ask this, before we get to talking about peace in the world, and the conflicts that exist around the world, and in the relationships that are all around us, what about you? Are you at peace with God? I don’t believe you can truly be a peacemaker in the wider world, working for reconciliation in all facets of life, until you are at peace, and reconciled to the author, sustainer, and the prince of peace, Jesus himself.
So if peace is personal and social, internal and external, and all about reconciliation, and is done from a person who has been and continues to be reconciled to God through Jesus, then what is the work of a peacemaker? Just like there are many facets to the word peace, there are many different facets to being a peacemaker. The work of peace has to do with sharing with others about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and how you have been reconciled and brought to peace through Jesus. The work of peace means we work at breaking down walls that exist between individuals, groups of people, and yes even countries. The work of making peace also means that it is about the task of reconciliation between groups, people at odds, and making people aware that God is reconciling himself to us. It is about those who seek peace by loving their enemies by doing what God himself does, and by definition are children of God, in that when they work for peace they look like God. It’s about disciples of Jesus being about the ministry of reconciliation found in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” So peacemaking is about evangelism and sharing about the reconciliation that is possible through Jesus.
To be a peacemaker also means that we are the bringers of peace to a wounded world, to invite others into the presence of the Lord, to open the circle and extend a hand of invitation into the community and to become a peacemaker themselves. So being a peacemaker is also about things like working against racism, working against injustice in all areas of life, and being on the forefront of justice issues in the wider world.
One of those justice issues that we definitely need to address more from the church’s standpoint is the area of war. My question to each of us is how did we get to this place where so many in the church don’t question our countries involvement in war. Now we all may have different opinions when it comes to war, but let’s talk a little bit about peace, the just war theory, and being a peacemaker.
Somehow this idea of being a pacifist in the church has become almost a rare thing, but in the early church most if not all followers of Jesus were peacemakers in a very real way. In fact here is a quote from an early Church father Tatian, “
“I do not wish to be a ruler. I do not strive for wealth. I refuse offices of military command. I despise death.” The early Church Fathers believed that following God was antithetical to working for the empire and fighting their battles. They believed in working for and “fighting” for peace. And so for us sitting here today 2,000 years later in a world that hasn’t become more peaceful, and the heroes in the news and movies are not the peacemakers, the church needs to be more active in the role of living this beatitude out more fully, not just in standing up against the violence, death, and destruction of countries, people, and infrastructure from war, but from the violence, death, and destruction that happens when people aren’t reconciled to God, to each other, and to the whole of creation.
I want to close with an illustration that shows just how far from God’s ideal of peacemaking we have come. In the beatitude that we looked at to be a peacemaker means all the things we talked about (reconciliation, standing up against violence, hatred, evangelism, mission, social justice, love, and peace). But in the early west a peacemaker was a type of pistol. When you watch the early western’s you see most people having a colt peacemaker. In 68 years Colt made over 357,000 peacemakers. What does this say when a weapon of death, destruction, and violence is called a peacemaker? Apparently in our world the only way to make peace is through violence. This idea of the myth of redemptive violence. Jesus is the true peacemaker and brings peace not by bringing violence on others, but by having violence done to him.
So as we transition into our discussion time, I want to say that this idea of peacemaking can be an area of contention and I want to reiterate that when we share and when we agree and when we disagree we need to do it from a place of respect and love for each other. Together we’ll talk about the word peace, what it looks like for you and me to be peacemakers, and also talk about pacifism and working for peace in the wider world.
Here are the questions that we discussed during our time of discussion....
- What thoughts, comments, ideas, disagreements, etc…. do you have regarding today’s beatitude?
- How did the discussion about the word “peace” challenge you, change your understanding, confirm your thoughts, etc….?
- What are your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc.. about pacifism? What are your beliefs, thoughts, ideas, etc.. about Christ Followers participating in war?
- What does it mean and what does it look like for you and I, and Veritas to be about the work of peace?
So what are your thoughts, comments, etc... about being a peacemaker in our world. A world that often says, "Blessed are the violent." Send me a message on this website or make a comment on the blog.