Blessed are the Peacemakers…

We are desperate for peace these days. We’ve come off a three month quarantine in which every news report sent shockwaves of COVID terror down our spines, only to be thrust headfirst into protests and riots and atrocities. We look to our political leaders, and all they do is blame each other. We look to entertainment to try to take our mind off of the chaos, only to find the same violence and godlessness of the headlines in our music, television, and movies.

We long for peace, at least the illusion of peace. We usually think that peace is simply the absence of conflict, and we’re okay with kicking the can of our social/moral/political/cultural brokenness down the road, as long as things settle down for now, and no harm comes to me or the ones I know and love.

Genuine peace – what in the Old Testament is called “Shalom” – means a wholeness of being, to be complete. We don’t have peace because we are broken, as individuals, as a society, as the human race. Sin has left us marred, damaged, corrupted, broken, and ultimately without peace. We search and search for anything to make us whole – pleasure, power, etc. – but as we can see if we open our eyes, the things of this world cannot give us the peace we are longing for.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

We long for peace, and we remember that Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, describes the character of those who would follow after him. The Beatitudes, those signifiers of what it looks like to be truly blessed include things like being poor in spirit, mourning, humility, and yes, being peacemakers. These are not natural characteristics that we have to manifest in order to become followers of Christ, but are rather the “super-natural,” spiritual qualities that those who follow Christ will ultimately demonstrate because of the transforming work if the Holy Spirit in us.

So how do we make peace? Let me suggest two ways we don’t make genuine peace, then point us to how peace is actually made.

We do not make peace through aggression. I am grateful for our military, those who defend and keep the peace for our nation, serving at home and around the world. I appreciate those who have fought in War, putting themselves in harms way to defend our freedom and liberty. I honor those in law enforcement who keep our communities safe. But we must remember, these serve as keepers of the peace, they cannot make it. Peace cannot be achieved through the show of force. This is the deterrence of war, or even the enforcement of justice, but it is not peacemaking.

I’ve seen first hand where peace is imposed by military strength. When visiting 3rd world countries, you see UN Peacekeepers, or heavily armed state security, quelling violence through the presence of strength. But when the peacekeepers aren’t looking – there is murder, violence, and rioting. Peace is not made through fear, aggression, or threat of violence.

Neither is peace made through appeasement and compromise. “Go along to get along” has become the modus-operandi today. We would do anything to avoid conflict. We bend the rules to avoiding offending the rule-breakers, and then wonder why no one obeys the rules any more. We see someone caught in what we know to be a destructive series of choices, but we refuse to say anything because we don’t want to seem judgmental. We would rather watch someone die then tell them they they are killing themselves. Who am I to say anything?

Think of Neville Chamberlain, England’s prime minister during the rise of Hitler’s Germany. He went to Hitler and promised not to enter the war, declaring “peace in our time,” only to betray England’s allies and to later be betrayed and attacked themselves. Peace cannot be achieved through cowardice or moral-relativism.

If we want to be peacemakers, we must first consider how Christ secured peace for us. We are reminded throughout scripture that sin has created enmity between God and man, that there is a divide, a hostility between us that must be reconciled (Eph 2:1-5; Rom 1:18-25, 8:5-7; 1 John 2:15-17). And this is why Jesus came. God, in His love, sent Jesus His Son, to die in our place, to take the full weight of wrath and judgment, the penalty for our sins, upon Himself (Rom 5:8, 1 Peter 2:24, John 3:26). He died to take away the hostility between us and God, becoming the curse of our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (Gal 3:13, 2 cor 5:21). It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we have peace; peace with God and with one another.

If we are to become peacemakers, we first do so by proclaiming the peace that Christ has made. There is no other mediator between God and man, no other name given among man by which to be saved (Acts 4:12). There is no other peace, no other hope (Rom 5:1). If we are to be peacemakers, we must become heralds of the peace of Christ. We make peace by proclaiming the grace and mercy of God in Jesus to those who do not know Him, those who have not known His peace.

We are peacemakers when we living in peace with one another, forgiving and being forgiven. There is not one of us who has not sinned against his brother or sister, not one of us who is above reproach. There are no classes or groups of people who have been so victimized as to be beyond rebuke, nor so saintlike that repentance is not necessary. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). If we are to be peacemakers, we must begin by confessing our sin to God, then confessing our sin to one another, knowing that Christ has broken down every wall of hostility that divides us, making peace through His blood. Christ is our peace with God, and our peace with one another. Seek forgiveness, and be willing to forgive, just as God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Finally, we remember that we become peacemakers through sacrifice. We are called, not to take up arms, but to take up our cross (Matt 16:24). We lay down our lives for the sake of following Christ, and in doing so, we find the peace we are longing for, and become peacemakers. We sacrifice, die to ourselves, not insisting on our rights or privileges, but caring for and seeing to the needs of those around us. These sacrifices are not meritorious, they do not bring about peace, but they do proclaim the peace that has been made in Jesus.

May we, through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, be known as peacemakers.

Finding Hope (Part 2)

A couple weeks ago I wrote here about finding hope in the midst of troubling times.  This is one of the great joys of the Christian faith, knowing and sharing with others the hope of God’s promises, and finding the comfort and strength of our living hope in Jesus Christ.  

After I read and posted that article, I realized that most of the scripture I quoted came from Paul’s letters.  Wanting to dig a little deeper, I turned to a Dictionary.  Now before you think that I’ve taken the quick-train to Nerdville, this is a rather particular Dictionary. It is the “Dictionary of Paul and His Letters,” edited by Gerald Hawthorne and Ralph Martin, published by Intervarsity Press.* The Dictionary provides in-depth articles that focus on key topics (like hope), individual theological themes (such as law or the resurrection), and greater theological topics (such as Christology and eschatology).  It is an excellent resource for pulling together all of Paul’s writings to see how particular ideas and themes are addressed by the apostle.

Below is an excerpt from the entry on Hope. I think this states, much more clearly and succinctly, what I was trying express before.


Hope in the OT

In the OT hope is closely related to the character of God. Those who hope in God, trust god and his promises. Because God is the hope of the righteous, they can expect good things from God and wait patiently forks help and deliverance. This patient hope is firmly anchored in the history and narrative of Scripture. The God who has fulfilled his promises to Israel in the past will continue to be faithful in the present and future. Hope that does not place its trust in God is false hope which God will eventually overthrow. 

Hope in God in the present is also a hope in God’s future eschatological intervention which will put an end to all earthly distress. This eschatological hope expressed itself as a conviction that all of history was in God’s hands and that God would fulfill his promise toe establish David’s throne forever. This aspect of Israel’s hope gave rise to the messianic expectation of the OT, apocalyptic literature and the idea of the resurrection of the dead. The messianic age was seen as a time when Israel’s hope in God’s promises would be fulfilled, the kingdom of God would be given to the saints and the hopes of the ungodly would be destroyed by God’s judgment.

The Ground of Hope:

Paul understands Christian hope as a fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel… Christian hope is directed to the same God who fulfilled his promise to Abraham and who raised Jesus from the dead. What God has done in Christ gives Christians a far greater reason to hope than Abraham had.  Christ is the faithful fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham; now even the Gentiles can be justified by faith and included in the promise.

Living in Hope:

Christians live in the time between the resurrection of Christ and the ultimate realization of the kingdom of God. They live in hope because God’s promises in Christ often stand in contradiction to the reality around them… The reality of Christian hope is based on two things: the reality of God’s victory over evil in the death and resurrection of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hope is the source of present strength for believers because it is grounded in what God has done in Christ, is experienced in the power of the Spirit and moves toward the glory that is to be revealed.

Hope for the Future

The future Christians anticipate is a consummation of activity that began in Christ’s death and resurrection and continues in the present experience of the Spirit. The object of Christian hope is the coming manifestation of Christ.  What is now the ground of Christian hope will then be fully manifested.


Don’t lose hope. Keep returning to the promises of God. See how they have been so wondrously confirmed in Jesus Christ our Lord, who is God’s “Yes” and “Amen.” Resting in God’s faithfulness, be filled with hope!

SDG

* “Hope.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, by Gerald F. Hawthorne et al., InterVarsity Press, 1993, pp. 415–417.