“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
We live in a world that is broken and full of injustice. In just these past few weeks, we have mourned over the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard and been saddened to the core by the murder of members of the Asian community in the USA. It seems every time we turn on our TVs or pick up our phones we are greeted by more news that breaks and shakes our world a little more. It’s hard not to feel angry and moved to seek justice. In fact, it’s quite a legitimate response. God desires the removal of evil from this world even more than we do. Leviticus 19:17 says “…Rebuke anyone who sins, don’t let him get away with it or you will be equally guilty”. So how does being a “peacemaker” work if we are to “not let them get away with it”.
First we need to establish what a peacemaker is. A peacemaker is someone who actively works to bring peace to conflicts and builds bridges of reconciliation between people and God. A peacemaker looks to resolve conflicts rather than aggravating or avoiding them. It’s more than just trying to keep dinnertime peaceful; it’s about working to reconcile relationships and mend hurts. But what if they ‘don’t deserve it’? Romans 12:10 says “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” Here we are directed to ‘honour’ others above ourselves. This is echoed in Jesus words later in Matthew which says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar “love your neighbour as much as yourself”(Matthew 22:37-39). Regardless of the injustices that have been caused, we are told to love our enemies, to actively seek ways to show kindness and graciousness to EVERYONE! What an incredibly difficult challenge.
At the time Jesus was teaching, the Jewish people were struggling under the rule of Rome. The Romans had desecrated the Jewish temples with pagan images; they were oppressing the Jewish people with high taxes; and were crucifying all those who opposed them. The Jews wanted Rome punished. To say that they were to rise above it all was absurd! Even to this day, the world has not known much peace. Society has become prideful and revengeful. One that jumps into action when the call to arms comes. And whilst it’s right to be moved into action when hurt and injustice is caused, the point is, what action are you taking? J. Cook in ‘Seven’ writes “when our longing for justice turns to violence and scorn, we no longer share God’s perspective. We move from being part of the solution to being part of the problem. We move towards wrath”. Wrath is dangerous because it isn’t concerned with restoration or reconciliation, but with revenge. It plays on our inability to forgive. However, the bible reminds us time and again that we have been reconciled with God through Christ’s sacrifice: Colossians 1:21 – 22 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now, he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” We did not deserve this reconciliation, yet we were gifted it. As followers of Christ, we are to emulate Jesus (who was, himself, called the Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6), which means we are to also extend peace to those we may feel don’t deserve it.
Much like mercy, being a peacemaker is not an easy task; it requires hard, selfless actions. It is one of those things that, for most of us, is a life-long practice, but as it commands in Psalm 34:14 “Keep turning your back on every sin and make “peace” your life motto. Practice being at peace with everyone.”. It is something that requires work and practice, and lots of both! Eleanor Roosevelt said “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it”. Jesus has never promised us an easy life, that is free of conflict or pain. At some point in our lives, we all will experience conflict or pain. How we respond to those challenges is the important thing. John 16:33 says “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. Christ has overcome all things, and because “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26), we too have the power (or strength under control!) to deal with whatever conflict we may find ourselves facing.
So, what about you? Are you a peace-maker or a peace-breaker? Do you enjoy arguing? Do you bring people together or pull them apart? It is always easier to create conflict than it is to promote peace, but Ephesians 4:29-31 very specifically tells us to stop: “Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing. Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who marks you to be present on that day when salvation from sin is complete. Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarrelling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives.” We are to be held accountable for how we react in all situations: how we react in traffic; how we communicate when there is hurt from a friend; how we respond when something happens that we don’t agree with. I have no doubt that we all struggle with keeping our desire for justice in check sometimes. But we must examine our hearts and think before we let fly with angry words (no matter how justified we may think they are). When being a peace-maker does not come easily, we can ask God to help us find solutions that bring peace and speak truth in a spirit of love and reconciliation. We must be quick to repent and quick to forgive. As Hebrews 12:14 says “In every relationship be swift to choose peace over competition and run swiftly towards holiness, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord”.
Jim Wallis said “Anyone can love peace, but Jesus didn’t say “blessed are the peace-lovers”. He said “peacemakers”. He is referring to a life vocation, not a hobby on the side lines of life”. So, I ask you again – are you a peacemaker or a peace-breaker? If the latter, what are you going to do to change?
Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”