Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Matthew 5:9
So, we find ourselves in a new year. Unfortunately, a change in the calendar doesn’t magically erase all of the problems of the past year or years. A quick review of the news shows that nothing has really changed. There are still wars, there is still hatred and constant fearmongering among the media and authorities of new threats of various kinds, all designed to keep us in a constant state of anxiety and worry and at each other’s throats. The United States is a deeply divided country which threatens to tear itself apart, one which cannot find agreement on even basic questions regarding life, gender, citizenship or responsibility to community and country. We all desperately cry out for peace but see it as either total surrender to our beliefs or eradication of those who oppose us. It would seem that each side believes they win if they yell the loudest or make themselves the most obnoxious. Peace doesn’t work that way.
To the world, the only important thing is money and power, and the pursuit of it. “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The end justifies the means: it doesn’t matter who you need to destroy or step on in your quest to reach the top. “Survival of the fittest” is the lesson taught by those who would be the masters of this world. Peace is something to be won by conquest and only when your opponent is beaten into submission. But as most of history’s “conquerors” have discovered, it is a hollow victory, for war and conquest can’t win hearts and minds. Your enemy may be your servant or slave, but they are still your enemy, and chances are their hatred for you still burns hot.
What the world desperately needs in not another conqueror or great power dictating terms to the rest of the world on how they should live their lives. And just resolving to learn to live together in peace won’t work, either; we don’t have the capacity to do so, because we’re all selfish, self-absorbed, and concerned with satisfying our own desires, even at the expense of others. The world teaches us to ‘watch out for number one’ first and foremost. It’s when my desires rub up against yours that problems arise.
Christians will always be at war with the world; the Bible makes that abundantly clear. But at a certain point in His sermon on the mount, Jesus makes this statement: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” It is one of a collection of sayings that seem illogical in light of “conventional” (i.e., the way the world thinks) thought. But it shows that the logic and reality of God is diametrically different than the world.
The Beatitudes as listed in Matthew 5 are Heaven’s criteria for success. They seem impossible, or even ridiculous, because to most of us they don’t make sense. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? How in the world can the humble “inherit the earth”? What is Jesus talking about? The Jewish leaders believed that being rich meant you were especially righteous, because after all, weren’t they his chosen people? And therefore, it stands to reason that the rich would be the “especially” chosen. It makes sense from a worldly perspective but is backwards and upside down from a spiritual one.
There are several ways to view the Beatitudes. They can be seen as individual characteristics, any one of which we might experience at any given time. The way that someone once described, and the way which seems most logical to me, is that they represent a progression of spiritual growth. It begins with the realization of our own spiritual poverty; we are all wretched sinners, broken and hopeless. But Jesus tells his listeners that those who are poor in spirit are the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. It is only when we recognize our spiritual poverty that we begin the process of being fit for heavenly citizenship. But it is only a start.
From that realization comes mourning over our hopeless condition and inability to save ourselves. We should mourn our hopelessness, because we begin to realize that there is nothing we can do to win our salvation and reconciliation. Noting we could ever or will ever do will be good enough. But Jesus promises comfort will accompany our mourning, because God recognizes our lost state and makes provision for His grace to accomplish what we cannot.
This produces a spirit of humility, recognizing our righteousness is no more than filthy rags in comparison to the love and righteousness of God. It is in humility that we surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ and receive God’s grace and mercy. When we give ourselves completely to God through obedience to Christ, we become joint heirs with Him who is Lord of heaven and earth. As children of God, we will receive our inheritance when heaven and earth are made new with the return of Christ.
Because of the grace and mercy we have received, we learn to extend mercy and forgiveness to others. Scriptures tell us that we will receive mercy to the extent that we are willing to grant it to those who have committed offense against us. Our mercy is extended on the basis of recognizing our offenders are in the same pitiable condition that we once were and are in need of God’s forgiveness and grace as well. By being merciful we are showing God’s heart.
As we learn humility, show mercy and grow in our relationship with God, we become pure in heart, fit for the presence of God and His spirit within us. It is when the Spirit is working through us that we may become peacemakers, offering the gift of God’s salvation, reconciliation and healing to others, just as it has been given to us. When we act as “ambassadors of Christ” as the apostle Paul describes it, we show ourselves most clearly to be sons (and daughters) of God.
But there’s one more “Blessed”, perhaps the most perplexing of all. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Remember, those who belong to Christ will be hated by the world. As we seek to be God’s peacemakers there will be those who will hate us, because they don’t want peace. They seek power and domination, not humility and surrender to Christ. But if we pursue God’s peace and stay faithful in the face of hatred that will come as a result, we are promised the kingdom of heaven, both in the gift of the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ here on earth, and in the eternal kingdom when this life is over.
My beloved fellow saints, let us dedicate ourselves this year to being Christ’s peacemakers. Goodness knows the world desperately needs peace. Let us be part of giving it a true peace that will last for eternity. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (and daughters) of God.”