The Peacemakers (Matt. 5:9)

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When you look at the injustice, unfairness, and evil in the world, what seems to bother you most? Perhaps it is something in your own life, like how it seems so unfair how someone at school treats you, or at home. Maybe it is something you see in the world, like the wars that are raging, hunger, disease, sex trafficking, slavery, etc. This world has no shortage of tragedies to frustrate you or break your heart.

As Christians, we need to be sensitive to the pains of this world – we can’t turn a blind eye to the injustices or evils in the world. This is one of the great sins of the nation of Israel that the prophets spoke against,

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever- flowing stream.”
– Amos 5:21-24

 It may be that God hates our quiet times and worship services because we are turning a blind eye to, or participating in injustice in our communities. If you go on mission trips, study your Bible, and pray for an hour in the morning, but make fun of people who are different than you, treat the homeless as if they aren’t real people, or refuse to stick up for what you know is right and true because you fear men more than God, than know that God is not pleased with you.

We are going to ask three simple questions today: Who is Jesus addressing in this passage? What is peace? What does it mean to be a “peacemaker”?

Who is this for?

Jesus begins with saying that the blessing of being a peacemaker is that they “shall be called sons of God.” Is this saying that we become children of God by being peacemakers? No, it is not. Remember, the Beatitudes are describing the characteristics of someone who has already submitted to Christ as Lord, someone who is already a Christian – it is not a list of requirements for someone to fulfill in order to become a Christian. And if you are a Christian, than you are already a son or daughter of God. We see this in the gospel of John,

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13

Conversion is a supernatural act of God that He accomplishes, which enables us to receive Jesus – it is not something we achieve through good works, like peacemaking. So, what does Jesus mean when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Well, He probably is using the term like He does just a little bit later in chapter 5, where He describes us as being “sons of God” when we represent the character of our Father,

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. – Matt. 5:44-45 

The Father loves His enemies by bestowing good things on them that they don’t deserve, so when we love our enemies, we resemble the loving heart of our Father. When Jesus is saying that we shall be called “sons of God”, He is saying the blessing is that people will recognize that we reflect what God is like to them. So, in other words, since all Christians are children of God, that means that the command of being “peacemakers” is for all of us.

What is “peace”?

“Peace” is something that we see described all throughout the Bible, and for simplicity’s sake I am going to divide it into two categories: horizontal and vertical peace. Horizontal peace is peace that has to do with peace here on earth; it is usually used in the Old Testament as a description of a nation when wars ceased, or some tension between people is resolved, or as a kind of greeting (“Peace be with you”, a kind of wish or blessing). Horizontal peace tends to describe all of creation interacting with one another in sync with its design, in harmony with each other (shalom). Vertical peace, on the other hand, has to do with an individual’s or nation’s right-standing with God.

In the Bible, loss of vertical peace, always leads to a loss of horizontal peace. We see this immediately in Genesis. Directly after Adam and Eve sin and lose their vertical peace with God, they lose their horizontal peace with one another and the rest of Creation – they hide from and blame each other, the earth begins to produce thorns, children are born through great pain, they are cast out of Eden, and eventually return to dust in death. The rest of the Old Testament is the unfolding of this problem. Man is now unplugged, disconnected, and cut off from God, alienated from his Maker, and thus alienated from his fellow man and the rest of Creation. Abuse, violence, deceit, sickness, wars, destruction, and idolatry gushes forward – the toxic barrel of sin tips over and spills onto everything.

But this isn’t our permanent state – throughout the Old Testament God promises that, although we have pushed Him away, He will return again and restore peace between Him and us. When Jesus is born, angels appear and proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Jesus, God Himself, comes to make peace between God and man – not through punishing us for our rebellion, but through taking the punishment Himself,

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed,” (Isa. 53:5).

Jesus, He who had every right to come and make war with us, came instead to bring us peace – costly, blood-bought peace. So now, if by faith we trust in Christ’s accomplished work on the cross, we can have peace with God,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:1).

 Not only do we have peace with God, but we have the same level of peace with God that Jesus Himself has,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” (John 14:27) 

Because we are now united by faith to Christ, we have the same vertical peace with the Father that He also has – how remarkable is that? Wicked, rebellious enemies of God can be treated as precious sons of God, because the true precious Son of God was treated as if He was a wicked, rebellious enemy.

This is how God restores our vertical peace with Him, but this then leads to horizontal peace, because once Christ saves us, we are then commanded to follow Christ. So, we obey His commands to love our neighbor, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, care for the least of these, etc. We begin interacting with our fellow brothers and sisters and the rest of Creation in the way we were designed to – in harmony. While we still live in a broken world that constantly is working against our peace, we sit on the edge of our seats, eagerly anticipating Christ’s Second Return where He will be consummate final and complete peace.

This is how we receive peace from God, but how do we make peace?

How can we be peacemakers?

 It is interesting to note that this is the first beatitude that is not a passive characteristic: poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart. Peacemaking, on the other hand, insinuates that we are actively pursuing peace.

First, let’s get a definition of a peacemaker, and I think Paul provides an excellent definition in his second letter to the Corinthians,

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  – 2 Cor. 5:18-20

Obviously, “reconciliation” means for there to be peace between what was once not at peace. From this passage we see that first a peacemaker is someone who has been reconciled to Christ themselves, and thus can now act as “ambassadors for Christ” (vs. 18, 20).

Second, they are people who have been entrusted with the “ministry of reconciliation” (vs. 18) – the Greek word for “ministry” is diakonia, and it literally means “service”. This is where we get our word for “deacon” from – it is someone who strives for restoring horizontal peace.

Third, they are people who have been entrusted with the “message of reconciliation” (vs. 19). What is the message of reconciliation? It is what Paul is saying in the very passage, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

So, a good summary of a peacemaker: someone who through Word and deed represents Christ, and His Kingdom.

Horizontal Peacemakers

In what ways can we be horizontal peacemakers? I thought about listing out a few general principles that I thought would cover what this would look like, but I think it might be more helpful for me to list specific examples of what it would look like for you to be a horizontal peacemaker. So, there will be plenty that I miss in this list, but hopefully it gets your mind thinking.

  • Forgive people quickly.
  • Respect parents, teachers, police officers, and other people placed in authority over you.
  • Enjoy good food, good music, good art, and good laughter with good friends.
  • Don’t support businesses that unethically exploit people.
  • Recycle, don’t litter, pick up garbage you see, take care of Creation.
  • Oppose sex trafficking by refusing to participate in viewing pornography; oppose the sexual objectification of woman by refusing to watch movies that contain sexually explicit content.
  • Not only fight against the evil of abortion, but help support young pregnant mothers. Volunteer at pregnancy clinics.
  • Pray for the good of your city, that businesses here would flourish, that families would thrive, and that this city would be a better place to live.
  • Support a child in a third world country through Compassion

Vertical Peacemakers

Now, striving for horizontal peace is kind of cool these days. Social justice is what our generation is all about – but we can never disconnect the ministry from the message of reconciliation. Christians should care about injustice in the world and strive to remedy it, but we never stop at just alleviating horizontal needs without driving towards their ultimate, vertical need – peace with God. If we strive to alleviate the world of its pain without addressing its deep spiritual pain then,

(1) all we will have accomplished is making men and women more comfortable on their way to Hell. John Piper states it like this, “Christians care about all human suffering, especially eternal suffering.” We want suffering to end. We want children in Uganda not to be kidnapped and forced to become soldiers at age 8. We want Syrian refugees to have a safe home and to be able to free from the terrors of what is going on in their country. We want all of this because we love people – and because we love people, we desperately want them to know Christ and experience peace with God.

(2) We will lead them to a half-hearted life. We were not made to simply survive on earth, die, then go to heaven. We were given everything in this world so that we may thank and worship God supremely (Rom. 1:21) – therefore, if we help improve someone’s standard of living, but do not lead them to know God, they are living a mediocre, hollow life.

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