Written Word

The Beatitudes – Part 8: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said, “for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) This beatitude, if isolated from the rest of scripture, could be used in a manner never intended by the Lord. Jesus is not presenting a formula on how to become sons of God. The beatitudes are for those who are already God’s children.

Today, in war-torn countries, within places of employment, within families, people are engaged in resolving conflicts. However, it is distinctly possible that these same people make no profession of the Christian faith. Some might even be avowed atheists, yet they are trying to bring peace. For example, in Northern Ireland today there is a peace agreement in place, the thirty years of civil unrest has been brought to a halt, the guns are silent and the sound of bombs is no longer heard. While there is an absence of conflict there is present among some, in both communities, a deep-seated hatred towards each other. Has the absence of conflict brought peace? And is this the peace Jesus said is undertaken by the sons of God? I don’t believe so.

The peace Jesus is speaking about cannot be separated from himself, the Prince of Peace. Yet he said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36) Jesus was to make peace between God and man; those who would believe in him could expect to encounter conflict with their family. The peace Jesus secured for us was not obtained cheaply. It cost him his life. Paul tells us that Jesus made “peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20) And the Ephesian believers are told that they have been “brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace”. (Ephesians 2:13-14) And it is because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Through the atoning death of Jesus the hostility between God and man has been removed and in its place there is peace.

Engaged in Peacemaking

Peacemakers are sons of God; they are people of action, both within and outside the church. Where conflict exists in the church, they are involved in working towards reconciliation. Peacemakers do not evade the issue; they set about dealing with the cause of the conflict. They are courageous people and do not subscribe to peace at any price. Stepping into the arena where conflict, enmity and hatred exist is never easy, but it cannot be neglected, for it is the work of God’s children to be peacemakers. Not every effort at peacemaking will be victorious because not all God’s children are easy to live with, as Paul reminds us: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Peacemakers are engaged in evangelism, spreading the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This work can take the peacemaker to regions of the world that are hostile to the gospel, but the truth is that without the gospel these people cannot be reconciled to God; they remain “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in [spiritual] Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) It is only through the gospel that the enmity between God and man can be removed and replaced with Jesus who “himself is our peace”. (Ephesians 2:14) He is the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33) and his children are instructed: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” (Ephesians 5:1)