These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.

Matthew 5:9

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 (Romans 8).

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 our fears.

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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