Jesus says “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
The commendation of peacemakers – It is one thing to keep the peace and it is quite another to make peace. In the one case it already exists, in the other, we are calling it into existence since it is lacking. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. That is a huge challenge. Jesus gives us the power! We are to seek peace. We are to pursue peace. We are not to let up until we achieve it. Jesus challenges us to be tenacious.
How is peace made? Where does it come from? Consider this from Paul in Colossians (1:20). “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.”
Peace is reconciliation with God. Without Jesus, we are enemies of God. James (4:4) warns us: “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Through the blood of Jesus, we achieve peace. We make peace by doing the hard work of helping others become followers of Jesus.
This is at odds with the idea keeping the peace. When we are a peacemaker, we will be at odds with people. Many will hate us. Some will try to kill us and may succeed. This is huge in the upside down and radical world Jesus lays out in His Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7)
Am I ready to be called a “son of God”? If I am a peacemaker, that is the promise of Jesus as to who I am. So there we go!
Matthew 5:9 (NASB) — 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Proverbs 12:20 (NASB) — 20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy.
Romans 14:19 (NASB) — 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
The importance of pursuing peace – I can’t make peace if I don’t have peace myself. That is the first task, find peace in Jesus. Then, I can make peace by proclaiming His word and carrying on with His deeds. Jesus calls me to be a peacemaker. It is not optional. This isn’t about picking off one or two things off the menu.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 (NASB) — 4 If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position because composure allays great offenses.
Romans 12:18 (NASB) — 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Titus 1:6 (NASB) — 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
Hebrews 12:14 (NASB) — 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
James 3:17 (NASB) — 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Examples of peacemakers – Who can we look to show us the way?
John 14:27 (NASB) “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” ~ Jesus
Genesis 13:8–9 (NASB) — 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”
The sequence of thought from the purity of heart in the previous prescription for happiness (aka beatitude), to peacemaking, seems very natural. One of the most frequent causes of conflict is the secret planning of something illicit or detrimental to someone, while openness and sincerity are essential to all true reconciliation. The purity of heart leads directly to the ability to be a peacemaker.
Every follower of Jesus, according to this happiness prescription, is meant to be a peacemaker both in the community and in the church.True, Jesus was to say later that he had ‘not come to bring peace, but a sword’, for he had come ‘to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’, so that a man’s enemies would be ‘those of his own household’. What he meant by this was that conflict would be the inevitable result of his coming, even in one’s own family, and that, if we are to be worthy of him, we must love him best and put him first, above even our nearest and dearest relatives. It is clear beyond question throughout the teaching of Jesus and his apostles that we should never ourselves seek conflict or be responsible for it. On the contrary, we are called to peace, we are active to ‘pursue’ peace, we are to ‘strive for peace with all men’, and so far as it depends on us, we are to ‘live peaceably with all’.
Now peacemaking is a big goal given to us by Jesus. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. Indeed, the very same verb which is used in this happiness prescription is applied by the apostle Paul to what God has done through Christ. Through Christ God was pleased ‘to reconcile to himself all things, … making peace by the blood of his cross’. And Christ’s purpose was to ‘create in himself one new man in place of the two (i.e. Jew and Gentile), so making peace’. It is hardly surprising that the benefit which attaches to peacemakers is that ‘they shall be called sons of God’. For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with his love, as Jesus is soon to make explicit. It is the devil who is a troublemaker; it is God who loves reconciliation and who now through his children, as formerly through his only begotten Son, is bent on making peace.
The words ‘peace’ and ‘appeasement’ are not synonyms. For the peace of God is not peace at any price. He made peace with us at immense cost, even at the price of the life-blood of his only Son. We too—though in our lesser ways—will find peacemaking a costly enterprise. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has made us familiar with the concept of ‘cheap grace’; there is such a thing as ‘cheap peace’ also.
To proclaim ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace, is the work of the false prophet, not the witness of a follower of Jesus. Many examples could be given of peace through pain. When we are ourselves involved in a quarrel, there will be either the pain of apologizing to the person we have injured or the pain of rebuking the person who has injured us. Sometimes there is the nagging pain of having to refuse to forgive the guilty party until he repents. Of course, a cheap peace can be bought by cheap forgiveness. But true peace and true forgiveness are costly treasures.
God forgives us only when we repent. Jesus told us to do the same: ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’ How can we forgive an injury when it is neither admitted nor regretted?
Or again, we may not be personally involved in a dispute, but may find ourselves struggling to reconcile to each other two people or groups who are estranged and at variance with each other. In this case, there will be the pain of listening, of ridding ourselves of prejudice, of striving sympathetically to understand both the opposing points of view, and of risking misunderstanding, ingratitude or failure.
Other examples of peacemaking are the work of reunion and the work of evangelism, that is, seeking, on the one hand, to unite churches and on the other to bring sinners to the Messiah. In both these, true reconciliation can be degraded into cheap peace. The visible unity of the church is a proper quest of a follower of Jesus, but only if unity is not sought at the expense of the goals Jesus has in mind for us.
Jesus prayed for the oneness of his people. He also prayed that they might be kept from evil and in truth. We have no mandate from the Messiah to seek unity without purity, purity of both belief and conduct. If there is such a thing as ‘cheap reunion’, there is ‘cheap evangelism’ also, namely the proclamation of the good news without the cost of discipleship, the demand for faith without repentance. These are forbidden shortcuts. They turn the evangelist into a fraud. They cheapen the good news of Jesus and damage the cause of the Messiah.