“Happy [blessed] are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
The commendation of peacemakers – It is one thing to keep the peace and it is quite another to make peace. In the one case it already exists, in the other we are calling it into existence since it is lacking. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. That is a huge challenge. Jesus gives us the power! We are to seek peace. We are to pursue peace. We are not to let up until we achieve it. Jesus challenges us to be tenacious.
How is peace made? Where does it come from? Consider this from Paul in Colossians (1:20). “Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”
Peace is reconciliation with God. Without Jesus, we are enemies of God. James (4:4) warns us: “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Through the blood of Jesus, we achieve peace. We make peace by doing the hard work of helping others become followers of Jesus.
This is at odds with the idea keeping peace. When we are a peacemaker, we will be at odds with people. Many will hate us. Some will try to kill us and may succeed. This is huge in the upside down and radical world Jesus lays out in His Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7)
Am I ready to be called a “son of God”? If I am a peacemaker, that is the promise of Jesus as to who I am. So there we go!
- Matthew 5:9 (NASB) — 9 “Happy [blessed] are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- Proverbs 12:20 (NASB) — 20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy.
- Romans 14:19 (NASB) — 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
The importance of pursuing peace – I can’t make peace if I don’t have peace myself. That is the first task, find peace in Jesus. Then, I can make peace by proclaiming His word and carrying on with His deeds. Jesus calls on me to be a peacemaker. It is not optional. This isn’t about picking off one or two things off the menu.
- Ecclesiastes 10:4 (NASB) — 4 If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.
- Romans 12:18 (NASB) — 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
- Titus 1:6 (NASB) — 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
- Hebrews 12:14 (NASB) — 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
- James 3:17 (NASB) — 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Examples of peacemakers – Who can we look to show us the way?
- John 14:27 (NASB) “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” ~ Jesus
- Genesis 13:8–9 (NASB) — 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”
- Esther 10:3 (NASB) — 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.
- Isaiah 53:5 (NASB) — 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
- 1 Samuel 25:14–31 (NASB) — 14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. 15 “Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. 16 “They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. 17 “Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” 18 Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 She said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 It came about as she was riding on her donkey and coming down by the hidden part of the mountain, that behold, David and his men were coming down toward her; so she met them. 21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. 22 “May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.” 23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. 25 “Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. 26 “Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, since the Lord has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. 27 “Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. 28 “Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you all your days. 29 “Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 “And when the Lord does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, 31 this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the Lord deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
The sequence of thought from purity of heart in the previous prescription for happiness (aka beatitude), to peacemaking seems very natural. One of the most frequent causes of conflict is the secret planning of something illicit or detrimental to someone, while openness and sincerity are essential to all true reconciliation. Purity of heart leads directly to the ability to be a peacemaker.
Every follower of Jesus, according to this happiness prescription, is meant to be a peacemaker both in the community and in the church. True, Jesus was to say later that he had ‘not come to bring peace, but a sword’, for he had come ‘to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’, so that a man’s enemies would be ‘those of his own household’. What he meant by this was that conflict would be the inevitable result of his coming, even in one’s own family, and that, if we are to be worthy of him, we must love him best and put him first, above even our nearest and dearest relatives. It is clear beyond question throughout the teaching of Jesus and his apostles that we should never ourselves seek conflict or be responsible for it. On the contrary, we are called to peace, we are actively to ‘pursue’ peace, we are to ‘strive for peace with all men’, and so far as it depends on us, we are to ‘live peaceably with all’.
Now peacemaking is a big goal given to us from Jesus. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. Indeed, the very same verb which is used in this happiness prescription is applied by the apostle Paul to what God has done through Christ. Through Christ God was pleased ‘to reconcile to himself all things, … making peace by the blood of his cross’. And Christ’s purpose was to ‘create in himself one new man in place of the two (i.e. Jew and Gentile), so making peace’. It is hardly surprising that the benefit which attaches to peacemakers is that ‘they shall be called sons of God’. For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with his love, as Jesus is soon to make explicit. It is the devil who is a troublemaker; it is God who loves reconciliation and who now through his children, as formerly through his only begotten Son, is bent on making peace.
The words ‘peace’ and ‘appeasement’ are not synonyms. For the peace of God is not peace at any price. He made peace with us at immense cost, even at the price of the life-blood of his only Son. We too—though in our lesser ways—will find peacemaking a costly enterprise. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has made us familiar with the concept of ‘cheap grace’; there is such a thing as ‘cheap peace’ also.
To proclaim ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace, is the work of the false prophet, not the witness of a follower of Jesus. Many examples could be given of peace through pain. When we are ourselves involved in a quarrel, there will be either the pain of apologizing to the person we have injured or the pain of rebuking the person who has injured us. Sometimes there is the nagging pain of having to refuse to forgive the guilty party until he repents. Of course a cheap peace can be bought by cheap forgiveness. But true peace and true forgiveness are costly treasures.
God forgives us only when we repent. Jesus told us to do the same: ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’ How can we forgive an injury when it is neither admitted nor regretted?
Or again, we may not be personally involved in a dispute, but may find ourselves struggling to reconcile to each other two people or groups who are estranged and at variance with each other. In this case there will be the pain of listening, of ridding ourselves of prejudice, of striving sympathetically to understand both the opposing points of view, and of risking misunderstanding, ingratitude or failure.
Other examples of peacemaking are the work of reunion and the work of evangelism, that is, seeking on the one hand to unite churches and on the other to bring sinners to the Messiah. In both these, true reconciliation can be degraded into cheap peace. The visible unity of the church is a proper quest of a follower of Jesus, but only if unity is not sought at the expense of the goals Jesus has in mind for us.
Jesus prayed for the oneness of his people. He also prayed that they might be kept from evil and in truth. We have no mandate from the Messiah to seek unity without purity, purity of both belief and conduct. If there is such a thing as ‘cheap reunion’, there is ‘cheap evangelism’ also, namely the proclamation of the good news without the cost of discipleship, the demand for faith without repentance. These are forbidden short cuts. They turn the evangelist into a fraud. They cheapen the good news of Jesus and damage the cause of the Messiah.