Becoming Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Today we are into the second week of exploring some of the basic aspects of the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically, the Beatitudes. These are found in Matthew 5:1-12. As we examine the Beatitudes, we can feel how our life needs to change as we listen to the authentic blessing words of Jesus. Through the movement of the Spirit, we begin to sense that we should pay attention to these very straight forward expressions of what it means to follow Christ – our Risen Savior. The Beatitudes push us to listen to the cries of the suffering world that we live in. They are especially powerful to us as our country is rocking with racial divides over the injustice that the Black community is experiencing.

It is on this Labor Day Sunday that I again remember the scene that really touched my heart and soul –a very poignant scene in the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington DC. A loving family holding and nurturing a severally wounded young Marine who had survived a roadside bomb – and was in a vegetated state. His head in a white helmet. His parents – sitting by – looking – grief was so deep that they had almost become stoic with the pain of their injured son. In an instant life – hope—opportunity was totality and forever changed. This was the result of war. And war continues.

But we clearly know that war is only one way that changes our life — accidents – cancer – violence – addictions – power – narcissism — selfishness –racism – human evil – all contribute to dramatically and permanently change our lives.

As a Christian – the reality is that we struggle with understanding and then living the life that Jesus calls us to — we seem to constantly be pulled down into trouble and difficult situations — we may call this the work of Satan – or the Evil One – or the fact that we are human and our inclinations are always towards ourself.

On this Labor Day Sunday — we are going to explore the impact of one of the most important messages from Jesus. This is a message – a directive that, when we live by the words that Jesus wants us to do, that our life will be substantially changed for the better.

Peacemaking is not just for the younger generation. We are never too old to learn the virtues of peacemaking!

Before we start, I found an important comment from Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California. Our natural tendency is to hate our enemies or at least to avoid them at all cost. But if you run from conflict, you are going to be miserable most of your life. Jesus calls us to a higher standard. He calls us to be peacemakers — not peacekeepers. There is a huge difference. Peacekeepers avoid conflict and pretend it doesn’t exist. But peacemakers resolve conflict and reconcile relationships. The Bible promises this: “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness” (James 3:18 TLB).

This morning’s Scripture –“Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will become children of God.” This comes from the Beatitudes which we find in the 5th chapter of Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount. The reason we receive God’s blessings is so that we can be a blessing. So, how we can be God’s blessing through being a peacemaker?

“Blessed are the peacemakers…” I wonder what questions, comments, arguments, and rationalizations went through the minds of Jesus’ disciples as they heard these words from the Sermon on the Mount. Remember that at the time their country was under the boot of the hated Romans. One of them, Simon was a member of the Zealot party – the “freedom fighters” of the day who believed that liberation and peace would only come through war. Another, Matthew the tax collector, even though he inwardly despised the Romans, had adopted the philosophy “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and had made his living at his own people’s expense. Peter used to carry a sword under his garments and was quick to use it when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peacemaking didn’t seem to sit well with the early disciples.

Let’s look at what peacemaking is all about — and in the process we will clearly see what it isn’t, and we will be able to search ourselves to see where we fit.

Peacemakers build bridges and break down walls. Peacemakers are never passive in their efforts to reach out to those from whom they have been alienated. Peacemakers recognize that in Jesus, God acted first to break down the dividing wall of sin that separated us from God and consequently separates people from one another. Peacemakers take the initiative to restore broken relationships. They do not wait for the others to apologize first or express interest in resolving a dispute. They are careful that their words, their actions, and their attitude never convey any sense of self-righteousness or spiritual superiority – suggesting to their adversaries that if only they would “come up here, to the moral high ground” that the tensions and misunderstandings might be resolved.

No, Rather, peacemakers are found down in the muck, on their knees. They acknowledge their genuine sorrow over the disagreement; demonstrate their willingness to listen, and their true desire to see the relationship healed. Peacemakers pray for, bless, and do deeds of kindness to those who have been their opponents.

Peacemakers promote unity. Peacemakers no longer talk in terms of “us” and “them”, but of one new creation. All the distinctions we used in the past to justify and underscore our differences and provide as substantive and legitimate reasons for our separation and distance have been made of no consequence by the Cross. Peacemakers work to hasten the day when the prayer of Jesus in John 17, that we “may all be one”, even as He and the Father are one – one in shared life, purpose, will, and motivation – will be fulfilled here on earth and that we will reflect the image and likeness of the Son in much the same way that He is the full visible manifestation of the Father’s glory.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV).

Peace is a positive attribute. It is actually a matter of the right kind of relationships. Constant goodwill results when individuals are at peace with one another. To be at peace with others we must not insist that they meet us halfway. Peacemakers reach out, take the initiative. Their concern is not who is to blame but rather how reconciliation and peace can be attained.

Peacemakers are not faultfinders; they are healers. Let me give you an example. You see a good friend taking a direction with their lives that you can see is leading them into trouble – they are becoming workaholics, or alcoholics. And so you want to shake them to their senses, but every time you broach the subject it causes an argument and you’d rather just be at peace with your friend. So, after a while you just let it go. You avoid the issue and talk about more agreeable subjects.

Reality is that if you try to be a true peace-maker, as the Word of God calls us to be, there will be times when you will be misunderstood and misrepresented, but God says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Why will they be called “children of God”? Because when you are truly working for real peace you bear God’s likeness. But there is no greater honor in all the world than when people can say, “Isn’t she or he like his heavenly Father. Isn’t she or he like Jesus?”!