“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own” Proverbs 26:17.
And isn’t that the way of it? With the best intentions in the world, as a Christian pastor, I periodically blunder into situations “where angels fear to tread,” take a firm hold of that stray dog’s ears (metaphorically speaking) and reap the ferocious consequences. I just did it again and am sitting here, nursing my wounds.
And yet we’re summoned to be “peacemakers” (Matt 5:9).
The meaning is not obvious, is it? – especially in a world where certain kinds of nuclear devices are called “peacemakers”!
The Greek word for “peace” eirene evokes the tranquillity of, say, a boat on calm waters, or the sense of musical harmony or the idea of an absence of strife. The English word “peace” comes to us from the Latin pax from which we derive “pact.” A pact is a treaty between two parties. The Hebrew equivalent is the familiar word shalom. That means all of the above and more. It is, to this very day, the common word of Jewish greeting. It is not simply the absence of strife but the presence of goodness. I wish for you not only the absence of all that may trouble and harm, but also the presence of all that makes for your good. Shalom!
“Peace” is not the same as having a truce. A “truce” is a suspension of fighting by the agreement of opposing forces. The hostility still exists; the hatred is still present. When there is peace, the issues have been dealt with; the hostilities cease; the war is over. Quite often we confuse the two. We evade the issues that irritate. We sweep them under the carpet and call it peace. But ignoring reality is not peace. True peace never evades the issues but rather deals with them, building bridges and moving through the pain until harmony is established.
Sometimes we seek peace at the expense of truth. We may say “Peace at any price.” Of course, we desire to avoid needless contention and yet there are times when standing for the truth will stir up trouble and it just can’t be helped. Sometimes the way to lasting peace includes addressing issues which are painful to work through. Truth and righteousness are just as important as peace, and these factors cannot be compromised.
Jesus said that sometimes following him would place a “sword” between loved ones (Matthew 10:34). And Paul implies that not all strife can be avoided when one is following Christ (Romans 12:18), although we are to do all that we can to live at peace with everyone.
Some stress peace as the very core of the gospel, the essential thing. Clearly, it is vital, but remember that it is a fruit of the Gospel – a result of experiencing the grace of God (see Romans 5: and Galatians 5:22-23) – not the Gospel itself.
If this is peace, what then does it mean to be a peacemaker?
Obviously, “peacemaker” is not the same as “peace-lover.” We are not seeking passivity but activity. “Peace-making requires action: it implies that we are to be busy about something in the world. We may love peace and yet do nothing about it.
The fact that we are called to be peacemakers implies a world of conflict. And so it is, of course. But why? In order to know how to go about establishing peace, we need first to know something about why individuals are at odds with themselves.
James says that evil desires within are the source of conflict (James 4:1-2). People are at war with their neighbours because they are not at peace with themselves. And they are not at peace with themselves because they are at war with God. The heart of the peace issue is the spiritual condition of the human soul. Any peace-making effort which does not take seriously this truth is at best merely a “truce tactic.”
If the Scriptures teach that the hostilities which exist in the world are results of the strife between God and His creation, then it is logical to believe that it is this aspect of peace which concerns Jesus in the Beatitude. Also, the nature of the Beatitudes is spiritual and personal, not political and global. In light of this fact, biblical peacemakers have a three-fold agenda:
First and primarily, Christians are called to lead others into a peaceful relationship with God their Father. This is the basis for peace without which no lasting harmony can be found.
Second, the peacemaker works to establish harmonious relationships between individuals and their neighbours, based on their spiritual relationship with Christ, the Prince of Peace. Doing this bit right is where the Stray Dog proverb comes barking in, full tilt!
Third and finally, Christians attempt to lead their nations into peaceful co-existence. They must realize however, that this is not their primary calling nor will the effects be long-lasting (see Matthew 24:6). As long as the leaders of nations remain hostile toward the God who made them, they will continue to be hostile toward their global neighbors.
OK: So since lasting peace can only be established upon the basis of spiritual harmony with God, what does one do in those situations where persons who are hostile to one another are not open to the truth of the Gospel?
Sometimes I get called in to arbitrate where clearly both sides are in the wrong, and though they offer me a little respect (!), they have no place for God in the equation.They are not open to spiritual counsel. What does the pastor do, since lasting peace is not very likely possible? Throw in the towel? Cast up hands in despair? Ignore what can be done? No, of course not! As with many things in life, the ideal is not always within reach. At such times, the spiritual leader must be willing to work for whatever peace can be found – even if it is less than complete. A little peace, an improved condition, is always better than no progress at all.
This is really where we stand regarding world peace. As Jesus said, there will be hostilities until the end of time (Matthew 24:6-7). Nevertheless what peace can be enjoyed, even if temporary or partial, is better than war. And because lasting peace is only certain when Christ is centre-stage, Christians do not rest content with mere secular peace — but continue to work at introducing individuals to the Messiah who provides that basis for true peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” What does it mean to be a son of God? It is important to note that the Greek here is the word “huios” which is clearly “son,” and not “teknon” which is “child”. Although both of these words are used in Scripture to identify believers (see John 1:12 where the Greek is “teknon“), the word “son” is the more frequent term. It is also, of course, used often as the title for Christ, both connected to “man” and God.”
In Greek, the word “huios” (son) is used primarily three ways: It is used in its natural sense to indicate the male child of a man or woman. In Matthew 13:55 the people asked about Jesus: “is this not the carpenter’s son?” It is used in a divine sense, to specify that Jesus was God in the flesh. In Matthew 16:16 where Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And it is used in a figurative sense, to imply that someone shares the character qualities of another. For this reason, James and John are called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Their personality reminded Jesus of the roar of thunder. Barnabas is referred to as the “Son of Consolation” (Acts 4:36) because he demonstrated kindness and compassion. And the disciples were called the “Sons of Light” for they were chosen to bear the light of the Gospel to the world (John 12:36).
Since it is obvious that we could never be the literal, physical offspring of God, and since we most certainly cannot be divine, the meaning of “son” here in this Beatitude must be the non-gender explanation that of the third definition. Peacemakers are blessed with the title “Sons of God,” for they are manifesting in their ministry a Godlike work. They are living out in their lives a character quality and an aspect of activity which is true of God himself. The Apostle Paul says: God was reconciling the word to himself in Christ, not counting man’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5: 19-21).
This promise–to be called “a son of God”–is perhaps the most significant of all. Sure it is good to be promised the Kingdom of heaven, comfort, inheritance, satisfaction, mercy, and a glimpse of God (as all of the other Beatitudes pledge). But to arrive at the place where one’s life demonstrates the characteristics of God, that is the highest compliment and blessing of all. To be so involved in the lives of others, leading them into peaceful relationships with their God and their neighbours, that one is seen as doing a Godlike work is most certainly the greatest tribute which can be made to our heavenly Father.
Are we about the business of peacemaking? Or, are we content to have truces, temporary cease-fires, sweeping the issues under the carpet? Are we about the ministry of sharing the Gospel with those who have not yet heard so that they may find peace with God? Or, having found this tremendous peace, are we keeping it to ourselves?
- Pursuing Peace (craigsturm.wordpress.com)
- Blessed are the Peacemakers (stillvoicing.wordpress.com)
- day 3 – peacemakers (cherishthenow.wordpress.com)
- 6/28/13 “You are Peacemakers” (corazoncowart.wordpress.com)
- The Beatitudes … (livingwatermedia.wordpress.com)
- Just Peace (pleasegrace.wordpress.com)
- Blessed are the peacemakers (sago.com)
- Pursuing Peace (pursuitofproverbs.wordpress.com)
- Meet the Peacemakers (pierrebourbonnais.wordpress.com)