Day 11: “Peacemakers” 08.15.18
Matthew 5:9 (NIV) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
In September of 1978, President Jimmy Carter brought together two of the world’s most contentious leaders. Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. After days of negotiations, they signed what became known as the “Camp David Accords.” The effort by all parties was, of course, commendable. President Carter presented a gift to his counterparts on the last day of their meetings. He gave each of the men a plaque that read “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” A strong Christian himself, Mr. Carter used the words of our Lord to encourage the other men.
I’m sure his motives were pure, but I remember being puzzled. To use that verse that way almost suggests that one can earn a relationship with God by being a peacemaker. Yes, it is pleasing to God when we strive to bring opponents together. But all these beatitudes are a description of the person who has come to know God and lives accordingly. Let no one think “If I act in these ways, I will be saved.” No. these characteristics SHOULD BE the personality traits of the regenerated person. We live this way because we belong to God.
We must take a moment to review a critical theological concept known as “Common Grace.” Special Grace is the action of God to open a sinner’s heart and lead that person to Christ. Common Grace is the means by which God blesses people with gifts and skills even when they do not believe in him. That is why an atheist can be a great car mechanic and the unbelieving soldier or policeman can sacrifice themselves. My point is that while everyone was pleased at Mr. Carter’s initiatives, I wondered if the other gentlemen might have been confused. No peacemaker will ever be called a son or daughter of God if they do not belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, once again we realize that the qualities outlined in these beatitudes are traits Jesus expects to see in his own flock. In other words, because I belong to Christ I am a child of God who will be a peacemaker.
Peacemaking is certainly close to the heart of God. Indeed, consider the Gospel itself. It is about peacemaking! We read:
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV) 17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Reconciliation is all about peace. God making peace with sinners through the Cross. Yet, peacemaking can be very hard work. And very discouraging. In my many years of pastoral ministry, I have regularly tried to bring people together…Christian people, so that they may be at peace. Only recently, I asked a man if he would come along with me for lunch. I was meeting another man with whom he had great breakage. His response was to curse the man out and make it clear I need never suggest that again. Later in our study, we will consider the frightening words of our Lord when it comes to forgiveness. But I must say, that latter man was in a bad spiritual state. Why? BECAUSE THE NATURAL DEFAULT DESIRE FOR THE TRUE DISCIPLE IS TO BE AT PEACE WITH OTHERS AND HELP OTHERS BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER.
Most of the time, we will be challenged to make peace with someone else rather than mediate peace between other people. This can be impossible if that other person refuses to move forward towards peacemaking and healing. I had a ruined relationship with a man who felt I had wronged him. I did not agree although I assured him that I regretted his pain and wished to “bury the hatchet.” We went around and around. It would have been disingenuous of me to apologize because the apology would be dishonest. Finally, I said to him: “You know, I think it is possible that we will never agree on this…so…why don’t we just get together and admit that we are both probably a little wrong. No one really has to win the argument, in my view.” But he had no interest and still has no interest in reconciliation. In peacemaking. I needed to remember that the Word of God tells us this:
Romans 12:18 (NIV) “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
The Lord knows I did my part. I had to set it aside. I could not make the man desire peace.
Until now, we have spoken of peacemaking on an individual basis. But more must be said. Sometimes Christians confuse these Beatitudes, which are really the attitudes of the genuine disciple, with pacifism. However, a realistic view of the world is one that takes evil seriously and is prepared to deal with it by force if necessary. Some gentle folks forget that the Word of God says this:
Romans 13:1-4 (NIV) 1 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
With this in mind, we should pray for the soldier called upon to be the peacemaker by defeating terrorism. The greatest peacemaker we know may be the policeman who saves three people by stopping an active shooter by using force. Peacemaking ultimately is required only in a world of sin.
Here’s a thought: when we live in the Kingdom of God in its fullness…yes even Heaven, there will be no need for police and armies. For we will be in the ongoing presence of the “Prince of Peace” himself!” Indeed, let us say “Come Lord Jesus!”
As always. 🙂 Peace. Pastor Alberta