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.

Peace in the Church

“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
(Matthew 5:9)

I was taught long ago that “If two people agree on everything all the time, one of them is unnecessary.”  One should expect to face conflict or difficulty in every relationship.  Best friends, spouses, teammates, colleagues; no matter how much you love and care for one another, there will come a time when you don’t see eye-to-eye, when you struggle to get along, and when it may seem easier to just give up and walk away than to stay and work things out.

The same goes for the church.  We are, by definition, a community of the redeemed; each of us are sinners who have been saved by grace and called to new life in Jesus Christ.  We are striving for the Promised Land, each of us called to encourage, exhort, teach, and pray for one another along this pilgrimage.

There are times when the Church is a thing of beauty, a glimpse into the splendor of the coming Kingdom of God.

Then there are times when it is not.  There are times when the Church looks like the triage center of a battlefield hospital, where those wounded by sin and pierced by death come for healing and life, and that healing takes time.  There are times when the old wound is aggravated, when we forget that the guy we’re arguing with is our brother in Christ, and we forget who we have been called to be.

Friends, there is no perfect Church.  There never has been.  Every church that’s mentioned in the Bible had its faults.  Even the Church in Ephesus, of whom Paul writes such glowing praise, in the book of Revelation is chastised for having “lost its first love.”  The Church in all its glory, is still just a foretaste of the coming reality of Heaven; like an appetizer, always leaving us wanting for just a bit more.

We need to remember that every member, and every leader, of the church is a sinner redeemed by Christ.  None of us has reached our destination.  None is above reproach.  We are all still limping between the “works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

Works of the Flesh

Fruit of the Spirit
Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Sensuality, Idolatry, Sorcery, Enmity, Strife, Jealousy, Fits of Anger, Rivalries, Dissensions, Envy, Drunkenness, Orgies

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control

As a Church living in the power of the Spirit, peace, not warfare should characterize our relationships.

“We have been called by God to let Christ’s peace rule in our lives as we relate to one another since we are “one body” in Christ.  Each member, then, is responsible for the peace and unity of the local church.  Each individual makes a difference as to the outcome of any conflict in the church.  Imagine what it would be like to be part of a church in which every member thinks of himself as one of God’s own “peace corps.”  Each member would face conflict by thinking and acting as a peacemaker.  Each would work for a just and righteous peace rather than competing against one another to win a fight or to beat down the opposing party.  Every church in the New Testament struggled with maintaining unity and harmony.  It is no different today.  Without constant peacemaking efforts, all churches will eventually break apart or live in perpetual warfare.”*

*(Adapted from Alexander Strauch, If You Bite and Devour One Another, Lewis and Roth Pub, 2011.)

Where do you stand as a peacemaker in your Church?  Do you see those who differ with you as opponents and obstacles to overcome, or as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ?  Do you begin by giving others around you the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they have the best of intentions at heart, or has sin so jaded your heart that you automatically assume that everyone is out to get you?  Do you freely extend the forgiveness that God has given to you to those around you, or has forgiveness and grace become a commodity to be rationed to only the deserving?

Friends, may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ reign and rule in your hearts and in His Church today!