“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Peace. It seems to be in short supply. The world needs it, and we need it individually. We need it physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We ask the God of peace to allow His Spirit to cover our lands and ourselves with the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
But how often do we ask Him to make us messengers of peace? To make us the instruments through which peace may blanket our needy world?
Long understood to be a call to the highest ethical standards, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s presentation of what it means to follow Him and live a life modelled after His (Matthew 5-7). It presents a disciplined and deliberate path that seeks to live out and up to the ideals of the kingdom of God.
The Sermon on the Mount opens with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). The Beatitudes are a series of statements about who will be blessed (by God): the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted because of righteousness, and those who are insulted, persecuted, and evilly slandered for the name of Jesus.
Let’s be honest: the blessing sounds great, especially when we consider the fact that “blessing” can be translated in a variety of ways, including “happy” and “fortunate.” Who doesn’t want happiness or to count themselves as fortunate?
But only about half of the categories really sound appealing. We don’t really want to be poor in spirit, mourn, or be persecuted or lied about. Even meekness is a hard one to embrace. This is a far cry from an aspirational list, at least in its totality.
The Beatitudes provide comfort when we find ourselves in one of the less-than-desirable life situations listed by reminding us that God blesses those marred by the stain of our sin-plagued world. They also encourage us to embrace character traits that mark those pursuing the kingdom of God.
While each Beatitude deserves its own exploration, let’s come back to “peacemakers.”
In Greek, as in English, “peacemaker” combines two words: eiréné, the Greek word for peace, and poieó, which means to do or make. While “peacemaker” is an active word on its own, peace-doing helps us zero in on the meaning of this idea.
“Blessed are those who do peace.”
This is no passive exercise in biting our tongue or using a gentle word to turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). This isn’t even really Romans 12:18, which exhorts, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you (us), live at peace with everyone.” Those verses call us to keep the peace, not letting our own impulses and urges (or even convictions) propel us into conflict.
Instead, the blessed peace-doer actively engages in conflict, not to win, but to resolve and restore. For the doer of peace, the vote, the argument, the policy, the issue, the tension is not an argument to be won, a point to be proven, or a moral position to enforce. The peace-doer seeks shalom — the balance, harmony, and flourishing of all involved. The list of conflicts that need peace in every area of life is exhaustive and exhausting. There are myriad opportunities to be a peace-doer.
Doing peace calls us to wade into conflict but to leave our weapons at home. It calls us to care for those affected by the raging wars, combatants and non-combatants alike — the opponents on both sides and the “civilians” who suffer the inevitable collateral damage.
To do this, we must see people as God sees them. We do not see enemies. We do not see agendas. We do not see the narrow problem they represent, the cause they are fighting for. We see lost sheep whom the Shepherd is seeking and calling.
The task of peace-doing stretches between the physical and spiritual realms, as those who seek peace between men also seek to bring men to peace with God (2Corinthians 5:16-21).
But there is a second part of today’s Beatitude!
Those who do peace are happy because they will be called children of God. David Turner and Darrell Bock explain:
Those who would be called God’s children will bear a filial likeness to their heavenly Father who treats enemies well (Matt. 5:43–48). The experience of peace with God enables Jesus’ disciples to seek the cessation of their hostilities with people. While the gospel itself may offend some people and lead to hostility (Matt. 10:34), Jesus’ disciples actively seek harmonious relationships with others. In this age of individual, ethnic, and national aggression, Jesus’ reminder that peacemakers, not warmongers, have God’s approval, is sorely needed. Ultimately, peacemakers will be recognized as members of God’s family.1
For the follower of Jesus, being recognized as a true child of God is the ultimate blessing. Our happiness is secured when we find that we bear a likeness to our Father in heaven that is seen by those around us and makes an active difference in the world.
The world needs peace. Perhaps you yourself need peace. The Beatitudes do not call us with imperative language to be peacemakers. Rather, they entice us with the lure of a blessed life to seek shalom because through that pursuit, we will be recognized as belonging to our Father in heaven. Happy indeed.
Do you do peace?