What Peacemaking Looks Like
Jesus is describing the characteristics of those who belong to his kingdom. As he sits on the mountain, he declares to the crowds, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Peacemakers do not create strife, hate, fights, division, or disputes. Rather, they assist in reconciliation. Peacemakers make an active entrance into the middle of warring parties for the purpose of creating reconciliation and peace. While peacemaking seeks to reconcile, true peacemakers recognize that this reconciliation is not through tolerance, pretending there are no differences, nor suppressing differences. Peace comes by creating love for the other that transcends the differences or permits reconciliation in spite of the differences.
Before we think about ourselves as individuals, I would like us to consider how churches fall into the trap of false peacemaking. Churches will try to maintain peace by pretending that there are no differences or by suppressing differences. Pretending we have peace is not peace. We have seen this in the Middle East over many decades. We can claim that there is peace and pretend that there is peace, but just because there is not active aggression toward the other does not mean there is peace. Ignoring differences or avoiding difficult or controversial doctrines does not create peace but creates a bomb that is ready to explode when one of these differences becomes a conflict.
This is where grasping what Jesus said is really important. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the peaceful.” This is the direction we want to take. Let us ignore our problems and differences and be peaceful. Nor did Jesus say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” This is another mistake, believing that we must keep peace at all costs, even if the tactics are wrong. Being a peacemaker is far different than being a peace lover or a peace keeper. Being a peacemaker means that we do not get to say, “It is none of my business.” We are going to facilitate reconciliation and try to help end a conflict.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 ESV)
This command truly captures the essence of being a peacemaker. As much as depends upon us, we will be peacemakers with all, living peaceably with all. The apostle Paul also told the Christians in Ephesus:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV)
With all of these commands and teachings about being peacemakers, why do we struggle with having this attitude? Why is it that brothers and sisters in Christ fight, quarrel, and dispute rather than have peace? Why is there strife, conflict, and trouble? Why is peace so difficult?
Why We Lack Peace
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. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1–3 ESV)
This is God’s explanation for why we do not have peace and do not live our lives a peacemakers. We fight, quarrel, and divide because we are listening to the desires of our heart rather than the desires of God. There are things that we are desiring in our hearts that are causing the conflicts. When you think about what these desires are that cause the hatred, malice, arguing, bitterness, divisions, and strife, how often these desires are foolish, insignificant desires!
We have strife because someone did not respect us. We are bitter because someone said some mean words. We are hateful because someone hurt our feelings. We separate ourselves from others because someone was unthoughtful, uncaring, or something else like this. I hope that you will see that the cause of our fractures and divisions is selfishness. We are thinking about ourselves. These are the desires that James is talking about. I am thinking about myself and I do not like what you did to me or said to me, so now we are going to have a problem. This is not being a peacemaker. This is being a troublemaker. We have plenty of troublemakers. Being a troublemaker is easy. Just think about yourself.
Listen to how James say this in verse 1: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” You have desires warring with your other desires within yourself. This is why Jesus said in the last declaration of blessing, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” When we are double-minded we are going to have fights and strife with others. We are divided within ourselves. Jesus is calling for us not be a troublemaker, but a peacemaker. Jesus is calling for every person to step into a conflict and help make resolutions and peace. Notice that we are not supposed to take sides. Oh, how often that happens! People take sides lining up with their families or with their long time friends. Divisions and strife happen because no one will turn to their own family member or own friend and tell them that they were wrong. We just circle the wagons and defend our own rather than trying to create reconciliation and peace.
We have been called to make peace. Who cares who started it? How is it going to end? We are supposed to be doing good in the face of evil (Romans 12:17-21)! So it does not matter if I am right and you did some sort of evil against me. We are to make the way for peace. This is why Jesus said that if your brother or sister sins against you, you go and tell him, between you and him alone (Matthew 18:15). You do not bring in your friends or your family or the church. You and that person alone. You do not wait for them to come to you. You do not try to be a troublemaker. You are to be a peacemaker and you do that by going to that person.
The scriptures give us good reasons to be peacemakers. We are called to be peacemakers because God first made peace with us. We want to make peace with others because God made peace with us. This is what drives our hearts to be peacemakers. God could have immediately destroyed us for our sins. God could immediately judge us for our wrongdoing. But God determined to reconcile us to himself by making peace through the sacrifice of Jesus.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19–20 ESV)
Looking at the peace we enjoy because we have been justified by faith (Romans 5:1) causes us to seek to bring peace to all the relationships that we have. Listen to how Paul spoke to the other churches regarding this truth:
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19 ESV)
Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
Further, listen to the consequences for us not being peacemakers, especially in regards to one another as the family of Christ.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17 ESV)
We bring judgment on ourselves if we are destroying the body of Christ by our selfish desires and intentions. The wisdom that comes from above is peace loving (James 3:17-18), not troublemaking. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17–18 ESV)
They Shall Be Called Sons of God
The result of stepping into the fray and being makers of peace is amazing and truly satisfying. Jesus says that they will be called sons of God. This is one place where it is important to not translate this as gender inclusive “children of God” because being a son had a particular meaning in the Jewish world. To say that you were the son of someone was used to connect a person with a particular attribute. We still even use this kind of idiomatic language today when we say, “He is his father’s son.” What do we mean but that you have adopted the very character of your father. This is why Jesus said that Jews were not sons of Abraham but sons of the devil (cf. John 8:44). They were not acting like their father Abraham.
This is exactly what it means Christian men and women to be called “sons of God.” We are adopting the character of God because God’s character is one of reconciliation. God ended hostility between ourselves and him and between the Jews and the Gentiles through Jesus. Jesus did not come to the earth and make things worse. Jesus brought peace. Therefore, being a peacemaker shows you are in the kingdom of Christ and are displaying the very characteristics of God.
In all circumstances and difficulties let us be peacemakers. Let us not just try to keep peace but help to create peace in the relationships we are involved in and in the relationships of others. Do not sit back and say that it is not your problem. Peacemakers try to facilitate peace. Apply spiritual wisdom, not selfish desires and ambitions, to create the peace that God desires us to create so that we may be called sons of God.