1160 West Georgia Street Vancouver, BC, V6E 3H7
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
The Beatitudes – “Blessed Are the Peacemakers, for They Will Be Called Children of God.”
– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Jesus begins His teaching by declaring a certain kind of person is favored. We call these pronouncements “Beatitudes,” from the Latin word for happiness or blessedness. You and I are blessed if we have peace with God and if the peace of God flows through us to others.
CHILDREN OF GOD RESEMBLE THEIR HEAVENLY FATHER
This is what sets followers of Christ apart: we resemble God our Father. Jesus is not telling us how to become children of God, but how children of God will pursue peace just like their Father in Heaven. This is what Jesus teaches in John 1:12: “all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We become children of God by the grace of God as a gift to all who receive and believe in the Son of God. This means that we do not work ourselves into the family of God. We do not, and cannot, earn our way into God’s good books, but we must trust in the Savior Jesus in order to have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life – the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Salvation is not the will of man, but of God. It is by grace and through faith in Christ that we become heirs with Christ the Prince of Peace (Romans 8:17).
The God of Christians is a “God of peace” and a peacemaker (Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:20), and where His dwelling in Heaven it is a world of peace (Luke 19:38). As the Scripture confirms: “…for God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross…” (Col. 1:19-20). Therefore, if we say we are followers of Christ and we want to become more like Him, then we too must be about our Master’s business in making peace.
As we learn about our new identity in Christ and obey his teachings to become peacemakers, we will begin to create and cultivate a community of Shalom, which literally means “peace” in Hebrew. In the English language, we mainly understand and define peace as the absence of war, conflict, hostility and suffering. However, in the biblical view, Shalom is also understood as “flourishing”. In a Christian community people of all nations, backgrounds, struggles and socioeconomic levels should experience flourishing.
Ultimately, this kind of divine Shalom or flourishing will affect our relationship with God, self, others and the rest of creation. The reason why God would send the nation of Israel into exile was not just a result of idolatry. Worshiping false gods led the people of God to live unjustly and disobey His commands to glorify His name through caring for one another, the poor and the oppressed. The book of Isaiah is very clear about how God felt about His people neglecting the weak, hungry, homeless and poor (Isai. 1:10-13, 16b-17; 58:1-3, 5-10). Their refusal to obey and accept God’s mission to set the oppressed marginalized free and seek reconciliation was a refusal to embrace God’s Shalom for the whole community. We understand therefore, “…reconciliation does not take place when groups of people merely decide to be friendly with one another, but when they form part of the same community, learning to submit their identity (Col. 3:11) and forgo their ambitions for the sake of common goal…”(Kirk, 35). Our church community needs to work for the common good of our city by showing radical hospitality, love and compassion.
WHAT ABOUT MY ENEMIES?
As we continue reading to the end of chapter 5 in Matthew’s Gospel, we come to Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies in verses 43-48:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
How can the world recognize you as a child of God? By how often you attend church or by how many bible verses you post on social media? Yes, attending church is crucial to our discipleship and obedience to the Word (Heb. 10:25), and posting Bible verses is one way to spread God’s truth. However, according to Jesus in this passage we are called children of God not because we attend church weekly or post random bible verses on Facebook and Instagram. The evidence of our rebirth and conversion is that we love our enemies and make peace! One of the most powerful ways to shine God’s light in a dark world as a born again human being is to actively, and intentionally, take every opportunity to love and care for our enemies. In verse 9, to be called children of God we must be peacemakers and here in verse 45 to be children of God we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Those who are of God, love what God loves. God loves His children and Jesus directs Christians to do the same, to love not only those who love us but also to love our worst enemies. God is delighted when His children obey and live according to His will as revealed in His commandments. Believers do not see God’s commandments as heavy and vexatious (1 John 5:3). We are a new creation in Christ and therefore we love to follow our master’s decrees. However, we also recognize that loving others or loving what God loves is not an easy task and it requires our daily surrender and dependence upon God. We need the power of God’s Spirit working within us and our daily intentional meditation and application of His Word.
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR PEACEMAKING
Jesus gives us some clues in His teachings on how we should be making peace. Any loving actions and words that help overcome enmity between us and others is a good start. And to be more specific, we are to pray for those who persecute us (vs. 44). In order to pray for God to bless our enemies we (super)naturally need to walk in forgiveness and not hold on to any offenses. As Paul tells us we are to, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Jesus also teaches us in verse 47 that if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? This means that we should not nourish the hostility and enmity by ignoring and avoiding the person whom we have a fallout with. We don’t cross the street to avoid greeting them or attend a different church service so we don’t have to say hello. The spirit of peacemaking is to make bridges and make every effort to remove animosity and bad blood.
We are to pray earnestly and take every practical step to make peace even if it’s as simple as saying hello. As children of God we are ministers and messengers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21). You and I “do not fight against flesh and blood, but we fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Our weapons are not of this world. As children of the Most High we do not hate but love our enemies and do not repay anyone evil for evil. But we are attentive and careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. This way they will see our good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Rom. 12:17: Matt. 5:16).
WHAT IF PEACEMAKING DOES NOT WORK?
Apostle Paul is also realistic and aware that peacemaking does not always work and therefore he writes in Romans 12:18 that, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” There will be times where you need to stand for the truth and you will offend people and your relationships might fracture. Christians are never called to sacrifice truth for unity and oneness. We do not water down the Gospel and avoid living out certain biblical truths to avoid causing offense and conflict.
In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 10:34:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Jesus commands His disciples to love and pursue peace by the power of the Spirit. We are to pray and love our enemies. But we are not to be ashamed of Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Luke 9:26). He always comes first and nothing can take His place or replace His Gospel. Christians swear allegiance to Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. For example, when my mother, sister and I converted to Christianity from Islam, we were disowned by many of our family members from Iran who are still Muslims. We are perceived as apostates, blasphemous and heretical traitors whom by the classical Islamic jurisprudence deserve the death penalty if we refuse to repent of apostasy from Islam. When Jesus entered into our lives we received peace with God and the peace of God, but He also entered with a sword making people in our own household our enemies. If your message of truth and love elicits hostility in some, then it is not your fault and you are deemed as not guilty. This is actually something Jesus promised His disciples when He said “…this is my command to you: love one another. If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world…” (John 15:17-19).
And as we look at the very next Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” That is to say, do not compromise your righteousness in order to appease people and make peace with your persecutors. And as James 3:17 says, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving” First pure, then peace-loving. Purity and righteousness cannot be compromised for peacemaking.
Blessed are you when you love and pursue peace by praying, loving sacrificially, and greeting your enemies because you will be called children of God.
Kirk, J. Andrew. What is Mission. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.