9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Jesus, upon seeing the crowd of people gathering, has walked up a hill with
his disciples and has now turned to teach them. He is filling them in on the
Kingdom of God, the rule of God. What is life like under God's rule? In His
kingdom, who are the blessed? In fact, what are the blessings that this King
is offering? Jesus is announcing this great news to His followers, who no doubt
have begun to wonder whether He is who they should follow and whether or not
they are blessed because often, it just doesn't seem like it.
Jesus now turns His attention to those who are the peacemakers. It will help
us to look first at the Jewish understanding of peace, or shalom. It is far
more than the absence of conflict. In the Old Testament, the word shalom has
a deep and complex meaning. It means well-being, materially and physically,
of an individual or a nation. It means harmony in relationships, between individuals
or nations. It is understood always to be a gift from God. Shalom is God's
blessing upon His people. It also carries the meaning of salvation, wholeness
and healing. It is the future hope of the people of Israel, the shalom of God
that will be full and complete in the day of the Lord."Expectation of
a final state of eternal peace is an element in OT eschatology which finds
constant expression in the prophets and other writings."(Kittel, Vol.
2, p. 405) In the New Testament the word peace also is multi-varied. It means
the "normal state of all things."(ibid., p. 412) The universe was
created to be in a state of peace. Sin is a twisted distortion and a destruction
of that peace which is the proper ending point or perfection of all things.
It is also the final hope of complete salvation, wholeness, for humans as in
the Old Testament. Peace is the well-being and prosperity of life that results
from fully reconciled, healed and harmonious relationships with God, others,
and all of creation.
What a wonderful, rich word this is! Peacemakers are those who long for and
strive to have well-being and reconciliation instead of anger, hate, brokenness,
and despair. A peacemaker is not satisfied with mere quiet, a forced end to
hostilities or the absence of conflict. A peacemaker longs to see fullness
of life and healing, an enjoyment of reconciled and right relationships. Those
who long for this kind of peace and seek to make it happen are blessed because
they are called the children of God. Why is this? Because in being peacemakers,
they are engaging in the very deepest activity that God does. God's work of
redemption is a work of making shalom. Peace is the state in which God created
all things to exist and flourish. And peace is the state for which God is redeeming
the world to know and enjoy.
Is Jesus a peacemaker? That is what His life, death, and resurrection were
all about--to make peace! Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah who is coming
will be called "'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.'"(Is. 9:6) His birth was announced to the shepherds
with the words, "'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among
men with whom he is pleased!'"(Luke 2:14) In Jesus' ministry He brings
about well-being or wholeness in all those whom He heals or releases from
demons. After Jesus heals and speaks to the woman with the issue of blood,
he tells her to "'go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'"(Mark
5:34) He calms the waves and wind with the words, "'Peace! Be still!'"(Mark
4:39) When Jesus is preparing His disciples for His imminent death, resurrection,
and ascension back to His Father, he says, "'Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not
your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.'"(John 14:27) The
peace Jesus brings involves our inner lives, relationships with each other
and with God, wholeness and salvation, even for all of the creation itself
But Jesus clearly shows us as well that peacemaking has a cost. It comes through
His leaving His Father's side, becoming one with us, dying and rising again
to destroy sin and evil that Jesus brings about the real, rich and wonderful
shalom of God. In Ephesians 2:13-16, Paul writes "But now in Christ
Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing
wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and
ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two
, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through
the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end." Notice here what
Paul is saying. Christ Jesus Himself is our peace, He doesn't just give us
peace. The peacemaking happens within Himself, within His very flesh. Jesus
couldn't make peace by remaining aloof, by standing above or beyond the situation.
There was a real suffering and overcoming involved, within His very being.
Salvation comes not just by Christ but in and with Christ himself.
Making peace costs. Look at the situation we now face with Iraq. Look at the
long conflict in Northern Ireland. You probably know people who are holding on
to hurts and grudges from years ago and therefore are experiencing broken relationships.
And we all know people who are anxious, fearful, or full of resentment and are
not experiencing a fullness, peace, or joy in the midst of their circumstances.
We can often find ourselves out of peace. To make peace requires a willingness
to die to our expectations and resentments, our anxieties and our precious plans
that we believe will make us happy. It is very hard to convince others, let alone
ourselves that we should give up what we so desperately are holding onto. We
fear what might happen to us is we forgive those who have hurt us or let go of
In John 5 Jesus meets a man who has been ill for 38 years. He has been spending
that time lying near a pool, waiting for the angels to come down and disturb
the water. It was believed that the first one into the pool after such a disturbance
would be healed. Upon seeing the man, Jesus asks him what at first seems like
a very strange question. He asks, "Do you want to be healed?" Why
does Jesus ask him that? Of course he wants to be healed, doesn't he? Don't
we all want to be healed? But interestingly enough the man doesn't say "Yes!" Instead
he explains why he has not been healed. Jesus sees that the real issue with
this man is whether he wants healing or he gets something out of being sick
that he isn't ready to let go of. Jesus asks all of us this question. Do we
want to be healed? Do we want to live in Christ's peace? Sometimes the answer
is no. We don't want to die to being in charge of our own lives and relationships.
We like the freedom to do what we want. We don't always trust that God has
something better for us than what we are holding onto.
Jesus knew that the world would not welcome the inbreaking of peace with open
arms. He knew there would be resistance to the wholeness and salvation He was
bringing us. This is why He says surprisingly in Matthew 10: 34 "'Do not
think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace
but a sword.'" Breaking in with the shalom of God is not itself a peaceful
process. This is because of how deeply sinful humanity can resist the goodness
and peace of God.
So making peace is very difficult and never without cost. In fact, we are
incapable ourselves of making peace. The deep healing and conversion required
for fullness and well-being to replace our brokenness and pain is more than
we could ever do for others--we need that kind of healing ourselves! These
people that Jesus calls peacemakers are those who love and long for the peace
of God to spread throughout the earth. They live to see the day when the heavenly
Father's shalom is filling up the whole universe. They know that peace can
only come from God and they look to God to bring it about. So their peacemaking
efforts are really ways that they participate and get involved in what God
is always doing. And all their doing, they do out of hope and trust in His
ability to use their finite and imperfect efforts. Peacemaking occurs whenever
there is a turning over of hate, resentment and fear to have it replaced with
wholeness and joy. We can see peace in our own lives and in the lives of others
when God's good and living presence is taken more seriously than our own ideas
of what gives us life and identity. It goes beyond holding certain beliefs
about God to living as if He is a living reality in our lives and are actively
seeking to make room to receive His great love for us, His shalom.
God does not merely declare peace or command that we be more peaceful. In
Christ Himself, God makes peace--a solid, living new reality. In Christ's life,
death, and resurrection then, all of reality changed, everything was put on
a new foundation. Paul states in Colossians 1:19&20, "For in him all
the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself
all things, making peace by the blood of his cross." We are encouraged
by Paul later (3:15) in this same letter to "let the peace of Christ rule
in your hearts..." In his letter to the Philippians Paul assures his readers
that as they thankfully hand everything over to God in prayer, "the peace
of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus."(4:7)
God's peace is a reality and always available to us. We don't grit our teeth
and try to force ourselves to be peaceful. We are not trying to create peace.
God has already done that in Christ. We are living to make more and more room
for it here in our lives and praying for it in the lives of others and for
our whole earth. It is not obvious that peace really exists when we look at
the world and our current situation. But then that has always been true. We
could never look at human history to find the truth of the peace of God. As
sinful humans we continue to resist the inbreaking of God's peace. To see the
triumph of God's peace and to trust in its ultimate rule one must look at Jesus
Himself, who took on, in His flesh, the task of making peace. He brings life
and healing out of death. That is who He is, not just what He does. As we have
Christ in the center of our lives and allow him to be the sole source of life
for us, we enter into the peace that He brings, the peace that He is. In receiving
Him daily we receive His blessing of peace which one day will fill the whole
earth. We can count on that! May all of us grow in our ability to live in the
richness and fullness of God, our Peace.
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