Peacemaking is a costly business. While peacekeeping is the art of appeasement; giving in to simply calm the waters, or the art of the bully; forcing peace through strength. Peacemaking requires honest dialog, patience, self-sacrifice, and self-control. The events of the past few weeks and months have revealed that our world needs more peacemakers. The riots in Ferguson Missouri and Baltimore Maryland reveal the failures of peace through appeasement, welfare, and force. The regional conflicts in the Middle-east and Africa threaten to spread. The culture war in the USA has divided the Christian community in a battle between appeasement and moral absolutes. In the midst of all of these conflicts, division, hatred, and strife Jesus declares, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NASB95)
In a way, this seventh beatitude of Christ is the pinnacle. Peacemaking is impossible without the preceding six attributes of spiritual humility, brokenness over sin, gentleness, an overwhelming desire for righteousness, mercifulness, and purity of heart. Peace accomplished without these six attributes is closer to Pax Romana; a peace achieved through bullying strength like the ancient Romans. However, the peace of Christ is what real peacemaking is all about.
The first peace Jesus brought us was peace with God through His own sacrifice. Jesus seeks to reconcile all to Himself. Paul writes, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus), and 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. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” (Colossians 1:19–22, NASB95) Jesus crossed no-man’s-land, the unbridgeable gulf created by mankind’s rebellion and sin which separates mankind from God, in order to reconcile each one of us to God. Those following Jesus continue that work of reconciliation, using a variety means to draw others into the continuing story of God’s gracious gift of peace.
Peacemaking extends beyond the reconciliation of God and mankind. D.A. Carson observes, “Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide-and-conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible.”* An unfortunate observation, perhaps an inconvenient truth, is that while Christians thirst after peace with God there is often little hunger for real peace with each other. We’d rather draw sides, create boundaries, and wrestle with each other rather than engaging in truthful, loving, self-sacrificial peacemaking.
Peacemaking also extends into our families and the other relationships in our world. Peacekeepers simply want the noise to stop. For the screaming kids to find neutral corners. Peacemakers may separate to reduce the heat of a situation, like quenching a campfire by pulling the logs apart. But peacemakers will go the next step and explore why things got out of hand. Is someone having a bad day? Perhaps they are not feeling well? Is there a previously hidden event that cascaded into a blowup? Is there sin that needs to be uncovered? Peacemaking does not end when the fighting stops but when there is reconciliation and restoration of relationships.
The promise is that peacemakers will be called sons of God. There is no higher validation or commendation that can be given. Peacemakers, by following Jesus, have brought His reconciliation and peace into lives destroyed by sin, strife, conflict, and wars. They have willingly entered no-man’s-land, endured hardship and mistreatment with humility instead of indignation, in order be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world around them. The world may not recognize them. Their biographies may never be written. Their life’s work may never be turned into a documentary. Even the folks they have helped may never say thank you or recognize their sacrifice. But one day the voice of the only one that matters will declare, will validate and commend, that they were peacemakers who followed after Jesus and are worthy to be called sons and daughters of God.
Will you endure the cost that peacemaking requires?
*D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 135.