Matthew 5:1-12 — Being a Peacemaker — It’s More Radical a Concept Than You Think It Is!

Posted: September 28, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes

Have you ever just resigned yourself to the fact that this is my lot in life and nothing is going to change? You are stuck in a dead end job with an oppressive boss. You are stuck in a bad marriage. You are stuck in a violent relationship. You are poor and see no way out. You are in debt up to your eyeballs and see no way to change it. You live your life from paycheck to paycheck and can’t end the cycle. Sometimes, too, we can change but we fear it and do not make the changes we need to make. Often, that’s how people perceive Christianity. They view us as not being radical but rather as those who simply accept things the way they are and as people who do nothing to change the world.

One of the raps against Christianity is that it teaches us to simply keep our head down, accept what is handed to us and just pray that things get better. We are to just be happy no matter the circumstance. We are not to take matters into our own hands and try to make things better. We are not to be violent. We are to be docile and just pray, pray, pray. So, from the outside, we are seen as supporters of things as the way they are. We are head in the clouds kind of folk. We are just waiting for heaven and ignore the ugliness of this world. Often we are perceived as arrogant because we think we are better than this world and simply stand in our ivory towers and condemn what is going on below us on the ground. We support the status quo. We are not world changers.

When Jesus says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” many people have misinterpreted this, according to human standards, to mean that Jesus was saying that we should just accept the way things are in this world and make the best of it. They see this statement as meaning that Christians should not focus on the here and now but rather on the afterlife that we have waiting for us in Heaven. When I opened this study of the Beatitudes, remember, we said that many have viewed that the Beatitudes are a creation to support the status quo. I also stated that actually the reverse is true. That the Beatitudes are a call to action to all those who believe in Christ and follow and fashion their lives after him. This Beatitude is no different.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” The first thing that strikes me here is the choice of word when Jesus is saying who is or will be blessed. Here, he uses the word, “peacemaker” rather than, say, “peacekeepers”. A peacemaker to me is completely different than a peacekeeper. A peacekeeper, in my mind, supports the status quo and only wants to keep things the way that they are, which what most detractors to the Christian faith think this Beatitude is about. However, that could not be further from the truth. Jesus, the Son of God, chose every word he spoke carefully. A peacemaker is someone who makes peace. To make something means that you have to take an active role in creating something with the resources that you have available. That means that we have to use our talents to create something completely new from the things that were before. The result being something better than the ingredients were individually. Thus, a peacemaker is a person who takes an active role in creating the state of peace.

Then what is the peace that Jesus makes reference to here? As we have seen before in this study of Matthew 5 that what we humans see is not always what Jesus sees or at least we may not see in same depth and breadth as Jesus does. Thus, we need to understand the concept of peace in Jesus’ view. The peace that Jesus speaks of here must be looked at from two perspectives. First, we must look at it from the inner person of the peacemaker and then what he does outwardly.

A peacemaker, from the Christian perspective, is a person who is fully surrendered to God, as God brings peace to our soul. As the authors, Stassen and Gushee, state in their book, Kingdom Ethics, state that “We abandon the effort to get our needs met through the destruction of enemies. God comes to us in Christ to make peace with us; and we participate in God’s grace as we go to our enemies to make peace.” Thus, a peacemaker is a person that inwardly knows of his own value to God and as such is not an insecure person who is only looking out to get his own needs meet and damn all others. We no longer have the need to lord our victories, our superiority over others. We no longer need to have conflict with others to establish a pecking order in the world. We are satisfied and at peace regardless of circumstances. However, this does not mean that we sit still and do nothing because of our contentment but we do not become seduced by wanting what we do not have, by falling prey to making things of this world our gods. Once we have received Christ into our heart, we have true peace of the soul for the first time.

Now, what does a peacemaker do outwardly, in Jesus’ eyes, that makes him become capable of being called a son of God? A peacemaker, in Jesus’ eyes, is a person, as we discussed, coming from a place of inner satisfaction where the person does not have any hidden agendas. Therefore, a Godly peacemaker is a person that goes and makes peace. He is a person that sees a problem and tries to resolve in a manner that maintains everyone’s dignity as children of our Heavenly Father. So, to me, peacemakers in this sense are more than just those who go and mediate peace between warring parties. In his book, “Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding”, Robert A. Guelich says, “THE PEACE intended is not merely that of political and economic stability, as in the Greco-Roman world, but peace in the Old Testament inclusive sense of wholeness, all that constitutes well-being. … The “peacemakers,” therefore, are not simply those who bring peace between two conflicting parties, but those actively at work making peace, bringing about wholeness and well-being among the alienated”. Thus, a Christ-following peacemaker is one who may well broker peace between warring parties but is also a person that looks at each of the people he comes in contact with as an opportunity to bring peace. Peacemakers look to help others find peace, wholeness, and completeness. And, as you and I know, peace, wholeness, completeness can only be found when we lose our life and hand it over to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In his book, Counter Culture, David Platt tells us that we should seek to end that which prevents each and every person from experiencing the glory of God. There are so many social ills out there that oppress and ensnare people that prevent them from experiencing the glory of God. We should be offended as Christ followers when people groups are oppressed by desperate poverty, lack of education, and corrupt governments. We should tirelessly work to free them from human oppression so that they can experience the glory of God in their lives. We should seek justice against those who enslave others in sex trafficking and any other form of modern slavery. We should work tirelessly to set these people free and teach them new ways of living that places value on their lives. We should be heartbroken over cultural and institutional racism that oppresses people groups just because of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. When man oppresses man he is waging war against God. When we twist the Bible to support our sinful lifestyles we are waging war against God. It is our job as Christ followers to be active. We are called to carry the gospel message that we are created in God’s image and that each person is valuable in the sight of God. We are to carry the message that man has distorted the image of God when we practice behaviors that are against God’s Word ourselves and force others to accept it. We distort God’s image in each of us when we quietly accept social injustice. We are compelled to be world changers. We must work tirelessly to share the gospel in loving and compassionate ways that brings people to the understanding that God loves them, God values them, God sent His Son to redeem them, that God hates injustice, that God wants to shine His glory upon them. David Platt tells us that Christianity is anything but docile. We make peace. We create it. We work for it. Christianity works to see God’s full glory to be experienced by every man, woman, daughter and son. Being a Christ follower is a call to action. Being a Christ follower is not some quiet intellectual exercise where you become more and more like Christ through transcendental thought! We are a team of believers who care like Jesus cared. Jesus was out in the world healing daily. He was out in the world changing it so that each person He came in contact with could experience the glory of God. He was out in the world challenging those had distorted God’s Word to their own advantage so that they would one day see that God’s glory is shown through obeying His Word. Jesus met the challenges of His day head on. He did not withdraw. He was not some guru on a mountaintop withdrawn from the world. He did not sit inside the synagogues. He was a world changer. His disciples, that’s us! We should do no less. He calls us to make peace. He calls us to change to the world. Making means creating something that was not there before. Making is sometimes risky, painful, and even deadly. By no means is this Christianity a sit on the sidelines belief system. Jesus calls us to get off the couch and bring about the full extent of God’s glory here on earth!

Again, those with surface Bible knowledge, have long said the Beatitudes are about keeping the status quo or at the very least just accepting what life throws at you without complaint. As I said at the beginning of this study, when you dive into the Beatitudes, you will find that supporting the status quo is the opposite of what Jesus meant. The Beatitudes are about inward personal change and outward personal action. In this latest Beatitude, “blessed are the peacemakers”, it does not support making peace with the way things are in life and our station in it. In contrast, Jesus is saying that we must first find inner peace that comes only through our submission to Him as the Lord over our lives. Once we have given our life totally to the Lord, we become as, Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!”

Paul again is not saying that we are to accept our lot and life and swallow it. What Paul is saying (which echoes what Jesus said in this Beatitude) is that since I have given my life to the hands of Jesus, it really does not matter what or how I find myself in this world. I don’t need any of the trapping of this world. When we have sold out to Jesus, we become more interested in the plight of others rather than our own selfish needs. When we get to that place of contentment through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can shed those selfish needs, our personal agenda, and truly for the first time care about what happens to other people (without the “what’s in it for me?” factor). Only then can we become true peacemakers. Then, we take action in the interest of others, to make peace in their lives. To make peace is to create to change, to take ingredients and make something new. To make peace is to an agent that creates something new that was not there before. Not quiet. Not docile. Not accepting the status quo. Change agents. That’s what we are to be. Now.

Go and make peace!

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