New Life in Christ: The Beatitudes for Today VIII -“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”(Matt. 5:9)
When anger flares up inside us, more often than not we trace its cause to the fault of others. They would not listen! They wronged me! It’s their problem, not mine! But James has a different perspective: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). The problem of strife and division and anger is a heart problem, not first in the hearts of others, but in our own. “It is not a physical problem, but an ethical one,” said Albert Einstein in a 1948 lecture on the threat of nuclear war; “what terrifies us is not the explosive force of the atomic bomb, but the power of the wickedness of the human heart, its explosive power for evil.”1 That is the real issue with which we must all come to deal: festering in our hearts is the explosive power of evil. It is therefore a matter of real challenge to us that Jesus’ seventh beatitude pronounces blessing upon peacemakers. It is in their capacity as forgers of peace that they will be named sons of God. What does Jesus mean when he says that being a peacemaker makes plain our status as God’s adopted children?
Peace in scripture, while it certainly applies to relationships between human beings, speaks first and supremely of the relationship between God and believers. Peace is the condition of being right with God, reconciled to him, in fellowship with him. As theologian, Cornelius Plantinga, defines it, “the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrews prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means much more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, ‘shalom’ means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight- a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. ‘Shalom,’ in other words, is the way things ought to be.”2 Peace, in the full biblical sense of the word, is shorthand for salvation, heaven and the re-creation of all things in the world to come. This eschatological peace is a reality that Jesus gives to us truly, though only partially, in this life, when we come to believe in him: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” In Christ “God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). “Since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). God makes peace for us in Christ. And having made peace he changes us so that we become his agents in bringing shalom— gospel peace— to the world.
That is Paul’s point in Romans 12:14-21:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Those into whose life God has brought gospel peace, those for whom Christ made peace by enduring the conflict of the cross, are the ones who become peacemakers. Certainly, that means that we become agents of interpersonal reconciliation, but since the peace in view is gospel peace, we will become those who make peace by sharing the peace-giving Gospel among those who live still at enmity with God. Nothing so displays and evidences your adoption as a child of God so well as your peacemaking in a sin-ravaged world.
May God make us a church filled with peacemakers who themselves testify that God used one of our own number to bring peace into their hearts, that by our gospel witness all might know whose sons and daughters we are! Blessed are the peacemakers, for we shall be called sons of God.
1 Cited in John Blanchard, The Beatitudes for Today, (Bromiley, UK: Day One Publications, 1996) pp. 214-215
2 Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way its Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin,(Leicester, UK: Apollos, 1995) pp. 10