Peace is never easy to achieve in our troubled world. Indeed, peace is increasingly in short supply in the secularized, divided democracies of the West. Angry mobs constantly make their presence felt on the city streets.

So what does Jesus mean when he says in his seventh Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons and daughters of God” (Matthew 5:9)?

We need to remember that the Beatitudes or Eight Blessings are not features of eight different types of people. Peace-making is one characteristic of God’s people. Following the flow of his words, Jesus says that those who, instead of feeling proud of themselves, understand the brokenness of their relationship with God; who grieve over their own sin and over a world that turns its back on God; who, instead of following the power play and plotting of the world to achieve kingdom ends, walk the tougher path of humility and service; who hunger for truth and righteousness; who show mercy to the helpless, pursue purity, and work for peace.

Jesus’ Beatitudes search our character – what our hearts are like. They reveal that none of us lives up to God’s expectations. None of us is a worthy beneficiary of the kingdom of heaven through our efforts. Rather, taken in context, the Beatitudes reveal his expectations of his followers.

Jesus is the greatest peacemaker ever. He alone can make peace between us and God and teach us to make peace with one another. Through his death and resurrection, he uniquely holds out the removal of the stain of sin that has broken our relationship with God. He has given new meaning to the ancient Jewish greeting: Shalom. At the heart of the good news of Christianity is the making of peace.

In Romans 5:1 Paul the Apostle writes: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,… This peace includes well-being and wholeness. Indeed, when we find peace with God, we will want to work at living at peace with family, with God’s people, at work and in the community.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”. Jesus is not referring to people who yearn for peace, but to his people who work at peace. For with this Beatitude he is not only speaking about gospel peace-making. He also has in mind that his followers are to be peacemakers in the broadest sense. God’s people should be at the forefront of living selfless lives and treating others with respect, seeking solutions to ease tensions, reduce conflict, and helping angry and conflicted people understand one another.

None of this is easy, especially when we personally have been hurt. It’s not always easy to forgive, to be reconciled, to make peace. It’s easy for us to forget the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. And in Ephesians 4:26 the Apostle Paul enjoins us: Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,…

Now forgiving doesn’t mean that wrong goes unpunished. In early February in Sydney this year three children from a family and their cousin were walking to a local shop to buy ice-creams. As they walked, a car careered off the road into them. All four died. In the midst of their deep grief the parents of the three children publicly forgave the driver who has now pleaded guilty before the courts.

Peace is not the same as appeasement. Nor does making peace mean that we shouldn’t take steps to ensure that a wrong doesn’t recur. To be a peacemaker means doing everything we can under God, and without compromise, to bring about harmony.

Jesus says that when we think and behave like this, we will be called the sons and daughters of God. For to be a peacemaker is to be like God. If they are honest, people around us will see this. Consider what happens when God’s people disagree. Those who keep calm and listen to both sides with fairness and courtesy, and who work at finding a solution that is consistent with God’s Word, are usually respected. The truth is that all of us who call ourselves God’s people should behave like this. It is how Jesus behaved. Peace-making is one of the qualities of his people.

Through the Beatitudes Jesus tells us that the moral integrity of our lives matters. We can’t earn our salvation, but if we constantly follow the desires of our hearts and we are not being changed by Jesus’ teaching, we must ask whether we are truly God’s people.

And there is another facet to peaceful living that we overlook. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul says: …I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the truth.

Prayer for leaders is so important. We forget that through our prayers we can influence national and international affairs, praying that leaders will bring about conditions of peace and security for everyone. Significantly, these conditions provide a better context for promoting God’s gospel.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons and daughters of God”.

© John G. Mason – October 28, 2020

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