Why are peacemakers blessed in the kingdom of God?
Peacemakers seek reconciliation and wholeness between God and people and so show themselves to be children of God.
Introduction: In a world of revenge and grudges we are called to be peacemakers.
When I was young there were martial arts movies on Saturday afternoon. These were not the high quality, well acted movies that we see today with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. These were mass produced Hong Kong movies, often set in ancient china and with plots designed to create fights scenes. Very often the emotion at the center of the movie was revenge. A bully was terrorizing a village. A martial arts trained hero was called to defend them. Thought highly skilled, the hero eschewed violence until it became clear there was no other way. The bad guys always paid.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly movies can tap into our “revenge emotions.” The audience, full of law abiding, mild mannered people, is quickly calling for death, waiting to see the bad guys “get theirs.” Revenge can move a plot along because revenge is a basic human emotions. It plays to our selfishness, our sense of justice our anger. It fuels too much of human interaction from local sports leagues to global politics. And yet, Jesus says in the beatitudes “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Transition: what does it mean to be a peacemaker and why is it so special to Jesus?
Peacemaking, like being meek and merciful, is interpersonal; we seek to live in peace with all people.
In the most obvious sense, to be a peace maker means to strive to live openly and without unresolved conflict with others. As a peace maker we try to resolve things, not hold grudges and not seek revenge. Of course it is impossible to be at peace with everyone because you cannot control other people. People harbor irrational hatred and hold onto conflict. People are not honest with themselves or with others so it can be hard to find real resolution. But as much as it is up to us, we do not want to be the cause of strife.
In a world where stirring up division and is helpful for raising money, where slandering others is a way of doing business and heightening prejudices a way of controlling people, we, as followers of Jesus, cannot play along.
As simple as it is to state this, it can be hard to live it out and ironically it can be even harder if you follow Christ. When you follow Christ he is your ultimate allegiance, your Savior, your God. And that can bother others. It means you can’t give them ultimate allegiance and it may make them feel judged. This comes as a distressing surprise to many, but it is not a new thing.
Look what it says in Matthew 10. In this passage Jesus himself is sending his disciples out to talk to others in the nearby villages and he warns them that many will not accept them.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves…
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known…
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
These verses remind us that Jesus is calling people to follow him and that decision can bother people. They don’t want to faced with that decision so they may take it out on you. But telling people about Jesus is also part of being a peacemaker. Jesus tells us that people will oppose his disciples as they bring his message and at the same time he tells us that he is the only one who can brings rest to souls.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We are peacemakers in helping others find peace with God
So this is the tension: We are called to be peacemakers. But it is hard to live at peace with others because one of our responsibilities is urging people to make their peace with God.
When Jesus was born he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which called him the Prince of Peace. Now he tells us that he will bring division even amidst family members. How can that be a good things? And how can we be peacemakers when we follow one who says he will bring division? Jesus has come to reconcile people to God and as his followers we are to share that message. Some will not want to hear about Jesus even though he means rest for their souls. Most people, when faced with opposition will respond in one of two ways. They will either capitulate or fight back. Neither of those are open to us as Christians. We cannot pretend we don’t believe because Jesus requires of us ultimate allegiance. And we cannot fight back, write people off or return hatred because we are peacemakers. We must continue to love the people in our lives, even those who oppose us.
Transition: But if making peace is so hard, why is it so important to Jesus? It is important to Jesus because it makes us like God himself.
We are peacemakers because God is a God of reconciliation.
We begin to understand how important peace making is when we remember that God made peace with us. We live most of our lives in rebellion against God. We worship our own comfort and obey our own desires. This works itself out as sin as we ignore God and hurt others. But God is not content to treat us as our sins deserve. He has come to us, in Jesus, the Son of God. He has taken our rejection, our violence and sin upon himself so that we might be forgiven and transformed. God did not stand far off. He came to us and made peace. Look what it says in Romans 5
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
We should remember that reconciliation and forgiveness is God’s way. And his reconciliation was messy business. God did not appease us because he requires our repentance. But he did not punish us but took the punishment on himself. When you begin to understand that, you will become a peace maker. The closer you are to God the more likely it is that he will call you to step out and seek peace with someone who might be in conflict with you. Again, we cannot control other people, we cannot make them repent or forgive. But we are called to initiate peace. This is even more urgent when we realize that God has not only brought peace between himself and individuals, he has brought peace between differing ethnic groups.
Look what it says in Ephesians 2.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
From the moment Jesus stepped out of the grave he began dismantling differences and bringing unity between ethnic groups. When he died for sin he died for all people. And in making himself the “way” to God he made the Law of Moses, which had been the “way” to God, obsolete. Once you could only be a child of God if you were born Jewish. But now we become children of God through Jesus thus making all people equal. This is what he means when he says “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those near.”
This radical equality leads to reconciliation. He has broken down the walls that hold us apart allowing us to relate to each other in love and reconcile our differences in a world that often accentuate them. What does that look like? One example is highlighted by the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide this April. This Christianity Today article explains how some Turkish Christian took the risky step of reconciliation at the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan, Armenia.
Conclusion: Giving ultimate allegiance cause us to love people enough to make peace.
This small act of reconciliation between Turkish Christians and Armenian Christian is a picture of the power of the gospel. But it was only possible because these Turks love Jesus more than they love the hatred that was passed on to them. If they had loved their families more than God they could not have risked asking for forgiveness. But because they gave Jesus first place, he worked in their hearts to bring reconciliation.
What miracle might God do through you if you step out in faith and make peace?