Ephesians 2:11-22 & Matthew 5:9
This morning we are looking at Beatitude number 7:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9 NIV).
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family (Matt 5:9 MSG).
Two versions of the 7th Beatitude. Here is a third one, Brian Zahnd’s interpretation:
Blessed are the peaceful bridge builders in a war-torn world, for they are God’s children working in the family business.
This Beatitude centres on relations with others, as did verse 7, the merciful.
What does the Bible mean by peace? I haven’t done a count myself but I read that there are 400 references to peace in Scripture. The best-known word for peace is the Old Testament word, Shalom. It refers to having wholeness and harmony in all relationships. It was used as a greeting, wishing the person outward freedom from disturbance and an inward feeling of well-being.
Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
The Greek Lexicon says that peacemaker—in this verse—is “one who cultivates peace and concord”. So, peace and harmony. In Acts 12:20 it is used in relation to international relations when the people of Tyre and Sidon came to Herod and asked for peace. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 God the Father is called the God of peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Who or what are peacemakers? Are they the same as peacekeepers? Not really. We can understand it this way: Peacekeepers go in after peace has been restored. Peacemakers, on the other hand, take responsibility for restoring peace and they take an interest in then keeping the peace.
Peace. Something so desired yet so elusive. Why? An estimation is that in the past 4,000 years, less than 300 have been without a major war. Another estimate is a little more precise and says 286 years. Either way, the stats are not encouraging. Today, most of us probably have heard of the UN, NATO, Camp David talks, Geneva conferences, all looking for ways to bring about peace to the troubled areas of our world. All very hopeful. However, as you might expect, among the people meeting together, there are many different views held, including atheists and humanists. So, I wonder, has God ever had a seat at the table in these meetings? Is peace made with documents, or in the hearts of people? Would it be fair to say that it’s not the absence of war that creates peace, but the presence of God? Today, we live in a world that is characterised by fighting and rivalry. From sibling rivalry to civil war, animosity and its effect is at all levels of our society. Sometimes even in church families it is hard to find peace.
Peace is Elusive
How often is it that one moment there is peace in our home, work, relationships, and in another moment so quickly, something happens and the peace is gone? Have you ever found yourself in the role of peacemaker? The reality is that peace being elusive is not just a modern-day occurrence. Humanity has been at war with God since Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. Then there was Cain and Abel and so it went on and continues right down to us today. A couple of Bible verses that show it is not a new thing:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence (Gen 6:11 NIV).
Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city (Psalm 55:9).
Our society is not a friend to God or to His people. I am sure we can all think of events, right now, when this is a blatant reality. Politicians from a certain party are coming to Canberra a day early because they have conflict among themselves on a particular matter. Like it or not, there is going to be conflict between the followers of Jesus and the world. Am I stretching things a bit?
Jesus said in Matthew 10:34:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
This is not a contradiction. What Jesus was meaning here was that conflict would be the inevitable result of his coming. Simply living by the standards Jesus modelled for us, puts us at logger-heads with the world because we are seen as different from the world, a threat maybe. Our attitudes are—or should be—different. If we are to be worthy of Him, we have no option but to love Him best and put Him first. This does not mean we look for conflict, or be responsible for it—on the contrary. 1 Peter 3:11 encourages us to seek peace and pursue it. Hebrews 12:14 says we are to make every effort to live in peace with all; while Romans 12:18 says as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with everyone. Each Beatitude has been presenting a position that is pretty much the reverse of the world’s position. The world encourages disobedience to God in so many ways. Our world is at war with God and I see no other reason for the lack of peace, and the atrocities that we hear about, than this very thing.
So, I guess it’s a given that followers of Jesus are going to suffer in some way. Paul gives it to us straight in 2 Timothy 3:12—In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (NIV) It’s important to remember though that God does not focus on our outward performance, but rather He focuses on what is in our hearts. Given that conflict in one form or another has been part of our world since almost the beginning, Jesus saying “Blessed are the peacemakers” would have been a stunning and shocking statement—yet again—to those who heard him.
Can you imagine some of the thoughts? How are we going to overcome mighty Rome, restore our nation to prominence by simply being peacemakers? Of course, the Romans are simply going to lie down and roll over and give us what we want—NOT! Yet, this is the context in which Jesus promised those who had become his followers, and therefore agents for peace, would be blest and known as children of God. What does it mean for us? Does it have relevance for us? Yes! It means that each of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, are responsible for being peacemakers in our homes, churches, communities, nation and ultimately, the world.
Big ask? Not if we are all doing the bit that God has asked us to do. We do it well in our church family I think. We don’t all have the same passion for the same things, but as long as we do the bit God calls us to, we are being obedient, responsible. As we do what we have been called to do, we are being agents of peace. Jesus is not referring to a peacekeeper. He is referring to someone who is active in overcoming wrong with right, ending hostilities and finding a resolution between enemies. Jesus is referring to a peacemaker.
I have another story!
In the fourth century a little monk named Telemachus from Asia, was led by an inner voice to go to Rome without knowing why. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum. Two gladiators were fighting, and Telemachus tried to get between them to stop them, shouting three times, “in the name of Christ, forebear!” Telemachus was killed … by one of the gladiators. When the crowd saw the little monk lying dead … they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Because of Telemachus death, three days later, the Emperor by decree ended the games. You can look up the story yourself and you will find some difference of opinions in how things actually happened, but this seems to be the way the story is most often told.
You see, a peacemaker is willing to stand in the gap, like Telemachus, to bring peace. We might hear the different reasons for discord and war happening, but the reality is, I believe, humanity turns its back on God. It’s been said that the biggest enemy humankind has is sin—living outside of God’s plan for us. This alters our relationship and fellowship with Him and this is what leads to conflict between people, between nations. What might being a peacemaker look like for us? It won’t be easy!! We will need to be determined to live righteously in all areas of our life. We know this will be challenging because as Ephesians 6:12 says:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
No wonder the next verse tells us to put on the full armour of God! Satan and his cohorts are earnestly committed to causing as much disruption and discord as possible. What do we do?
The most important thing for a peacemaker is to be a person of prayer. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 clearly outlines the responsibility we have to pray:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
A peacemaker is to pray for everyone—every nation, every class, particularly those in authority, from kings down to those in public office. Have in mind though, that when Paul wrote these instructions Nero, the pagan Roman emperor, was the world’s most powerful ruler—yet, followers of Jesus were to pray for him and others in authority. How many of them would have been believers? We have the same responsibility today. Why? Because God instructs us to. We have no idea how our prayers may bring benefit; we have no idea how much they may help to avoid God’s anger. We don’t need to know, but we do need to be obedient and pray. A peacemaker is to live in such a way that quarrelling is avoided. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Some things that may trip us up include pride, self-centred desires, going after personal pleasure and covetousness—wanting what someone else has. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:1-3 NIV).
Anger, a harsh tongue, are other things that can cause us to go off track. On a boat trip on a Norway fjord, looking up at the steep, snow covered mountains on either side, someone asked the guide if avalanches were likely when the snow melted in Spring. The answer was yes. Then the guide added that there are times when the snow is so delicately poised that the sound of a human voice can bring the snow down. There are, and will be, times in our lives when a situation is so delicately poised that the sound of a human voice can bring down an avalanche of disruption, misunderstanding, pain.
Perhaps it is a good plan to pray as David did in Psalm 141:3:
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Peacemaking requires effort! Hebrews 12:14 urges us to make every effort to get along with each other and God (MSG)—a biblical responsibility. Yet the Bible acknowledges and understands this can, at times, be impossible—some will stubbornly refuse to be at peace with us. Romans 12:18 qualifies the command—if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (NIV).
One thing we must not do is settle for peace at the expense of holiness or truth—but we must be sure we have exhausted all options to handling the situation with love and grace, righteousness and truth. As followers of Jesus, we are ambassadors. So, evangelism is another activity peacemakers can become involved in. As new creations in Christ, we reach out with the Good News, but again, without watering it down—compromising to achieve “success”. Peacemakers are those who are at peace with God the author of peace and lover of harmony. Peacemakers show they are truly children of God by being determined to use every opportunity open to them to bring understanding between those who are not in agreement. Jesus is the supreme peacemaker. He reconciles human beings through his death on the cross. This supreme peacemaking is the announcement of the gospel.
… for they will be called children of God.
This was a term given to faithful Israel in the Old Testament. Now it becomes the special children and heirs of God as they become peacemakers in following Christ. That’s us! It is Jesus’ character to be a peacemaker. In ushering in peace, we bear His name. Jesus said peacemakers will be called children of God. If we bear his name, we must also bear His character. Are there areas in your life that you see a need for reconciliation? Are there areas in which you feel God might be asking you to begin working and praying for peace?
Blanchard, John, 1996. The Beatitudes for Today-Day, Day One Publications, Leominster, UK.
Glass, Guy, 2009. Peace in Our Time www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/peace-in-our-time-guy-glass-sermon-on
Holy Bible, NIV 2011 & The Message 2004 versions.
Houghton, John, 2015. The Beatitudes: Immersed in the Grace of Christ, CWR, Surrey, UK.
Law of Liberty, www.lawofliberty.com/sermons/Resources/08-blessed-are-the-peacemakers.pdf
Osborne, Grant R, 2010. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Preston, Monk. Favourite Monks: Telemachus: the Monk Who Ended the Coliseum Games, www.prayerfoundation.org
Rodgers, Joseph, 2006. Blessed are the Peacemakers, www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/blessed-are-the-peacemakers-joseph-rodgers
Stott, John, 1998. The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character, IVP, Nottingham, UK.
Tasker, RVG, 1961. Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, IVP, Leicester, England.
The New analytical Greek Lexicon, 1990. Wesley J Perschbacher, Ed., Hendrickson Publishers Inc., Massachusetts, USA.
Zahnd, Brian, Beatitudes.