Blessed are The Peacemakers
Two millennia ago angels sang “peace and goodwill to all” at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14). But the world hasn’t got any better. Indeed, while peace is something we all long for, it is one thing the world does not have.
The reality is that everywhere there are tensions, injustices, and conflicts. It is estimated that more people were killed in the twentieth century in war than the total number in previous centuries. And now the twenty-first century doesn’t seem to be any better. Almost daily we learn of the most appalling atrocities being perpetrated in the Middle East and in other places. ‘Where then,’ we ask, ‘is the evidence of the fulfilment of the angels’ words?’
Before we charge the angels with false advertising, we need to remember the full text of their song: “Glory to God in the highest, peace towards all on whom God’s favor rests.” It is quite clear from this that the specific beneficiaries of the angels’ promise are the people of God.
An important question for us to ask then is this, ‘What was the point of Jesus’ life?’ The night he was born the angels spoke of him being Savior and the Christ: a title meaning ‘king’. Was this prediction just another false hope? After all parents love to think that their babies are full of promise. In the United States many parents dream of their child being President one day!
So what kind of person did Jesus turn out to be? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell us that in his adult life Jesus displayed the kind of authority we would expect God’s king to possess. He healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed. He overcame the powers of evil. He offered forgiveness of sins and even raised the dead to life. No matter what was thrown at him he showed he was in control. But there was more.
Jesus knew that what men and women needed most was not a lawmaker or a social worker. We needed someone to deal with our deepest problem – our broken relationships, with God and with one another. He knew the only remedy for this was a cross where a sacrifice to address this brokenness would be made once and for all. It is the divine, costly work of Jesus’ death that enables the healing of our broken relationship with God, and with one another, making peace. No wonder the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, ‘shalom’, ‘peace’.
When we consider these things we feel the impact of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” Peacemakers have first found peace with God through Jesus Christ. They are God’s sons and daughters.
Jesus now teaches us to make peace with those around us. He is anticipating that his people will be involved in the work of peace-making by telling others of God’s good news. He is also expecting his followers to be peacemakers in the sense that they are to be at the forefront of seeking solutions to ease tensions and reduce conflict, working so that people understand one another – within the church and in the wider community.
This task isn’t always easy, especially when we’ve been hurt by others. It’s often hard to forgive, to be reconciled, and make peace. When we are in the midst of injury and conflict, it’s easy to forget that ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ (Proverbs 15:1), and that we should not let ‘the sun to go down on our anger’ (Ephesians 4:26).
Furthermore, to forgive does not necessarily mean being reconciled. If someone has wronged us they need to repent and ask our forgiveness. To be a peacemaker means that we do everything we can to bring about harmony. Usually a cost is involved. It also means we don’t bear grudges or nurse our anger.
And, there is something else: peace-making does not mean church unity at any price. Jesus himself said: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
GRACE AND PEACE
Making peace amongst God’s people requires us to understand God through his Word and, by God’s grace, to put this understanding into practice. As Paul the Apostle says in his Letter to the Colossians, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15).