To Cultivate Peace

We are coming to the end of our series on The Beatitudes. In the last few weeks, we have covered how being poor in spirit and mourning can be good things. We talked about what it means to be meek to hunger and thirst for God. Last week we focused on mercy and being pure of heart

Today we cover the last two Beatitudes. Attitudes that our culture is in desperate and dire need of. They are also the ones that require the most self-reflection and struggle. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” (MSG)

To many, being a peacemaker meaning bringing peace. It means re-establishing stability, ending conflict. Maybe there is an aspect of mediation. We substitute arbitration, negotiator, or mediator. We see it as someone who brokers peace. 

Blessed are the peacemakers – it is active, alive, a verb. To be getting our hands dirty! To do something. It’s not those who love peace or those who keep the peace (aka don’t make any waves) but those who make peace

“This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good.” (Guzik).

In our culture today there are people who want everyone to get along. They don’t want to talk about what is hard. They don’t want to see the pain and reality others live under. They want everyone to just “love one another” but do not realize there cannot be true peace until there is the absence of evil.

There is the biblical term: Shalom. Peace. But it is not peace as in the absence of conflict. It is completeness, safety, wholeness, prosperity, peace with each other and peace with God (Blue Letter Bible). It encompasses the entirety of who we are, and that comes not by refusing to make waves but by diving in and coming out the other side whole and with conflict equitably resolved (not just denied or excused).

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The Bible Project did a series on God’s justice. In it, they spoke about how in the Old Testament word we translate as “justice” had two connotations. The first is retributive – because you did “X” we will punish you with “Y.” The other was restorative. Justice, as God handed it down through the OT laws, was heavily focused on protecting what is called “the quartet of the vulnerable” – the widow, orphan, immigrant, and the poor. It was more important for God’s people to behave “justly” that to be self-protective or seek vengeance. 

“Peacemakers means not only living at peace but bringing harmony among others; this role requires us to work for reconciliation…”

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Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Again, this is not merely the absence of conflict – that is not real peace. Peace is when conflict has been removed because it has been dealt with equitably and fairly, in line with God’s heart for justice. 

Spurgeon writes, “We are to be ‘first pure, then peaceable.’ Our peaceableness is never to be a compact with sin, or an alliance with that which is evil. We must set our faces like flints against everything which is contrary to God and his holiness. That being in our souls a settled matter, we can go on to peaceableness towards men.” (emphasis added).

For Christians, to be a peacemaker, means we put others first. It means we seek the welfare and the safety of our neighbors, it means we do not pursue our self-interest. It means we are more interested in protecting the rights of others than protecting our way of life. 

I can become a peacemaker when I have set my sights on heaven. I become one who seeks to overcome evil with good, because whatever power or influence or comfort this world offers me is dust. 

And what is the reward for this work: they will be called children of God! 

I can seek the welfare and safety of others because I know God has me. I am not concerned with my way first because, if I am truly seeking a more equitable world for others, it will benefit me as well. I can lay down my “rights” – one, because that is what Jesus did, and two, because ultimately what God promises those set their gaze on our true home will be so much sweeter than any right or privilege I cling to here. 

Which leads us to the last Beatitude: 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble” (MSG).

What will the world’s response be for those who take up the call to live the life Jesus has laid out: persecution

Peter reminds us to make sure we are suffering for the right things: But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:15-16). 

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The simple reality is what Jesus put before us: laying down our illusion of control, mourning our condition and the world, being meek, seeking righteousness above all else, showing mercy, being pure at heart, and cultivating peace – is not what our world values. If you look at who we elect as leaders, we want people who will defend us, support our rights, fight our battles! We do not look for those who are humble and call the marginalized to the forefront. 

These attributes do not describe most people. To be honest it does not describe most of the Church at the moment. But the attributes above describe the citizens of heaven. People who get it and are living for a higher purpose.

“Jesus expected that their righteous lives would be lived after His example, and in honor to Him.” (Guzik)

It is not persecution when you are asked to acknowledge that other points of view, religions, and holidays exist and to make room.

It is not persecution when you are asked to bake a cake for someone you don’t like.

It is not persecution when you are asked to share your space with someone who worships differently or is different than you.

It is not persecution when you are asked to giving something up so someone else can benefit.

It is not persecution when someone asks you not to leave a track on their desk.

It is not persecution when people request you acknowledge the pain caused from the start by our “Judeo Christians” founders who stepped off the boat in Jamestown with a smug sense of white superiority.

It is not persecution for those who are not white to ask the main-stream church to be included and acknowledged fully for who they are.

It is not persecution being asked to acknowledge that injustice exists in this country, that people are dying unnecessarily, and that the systems that have propped some of us up for 400 years need to change. 

Simply put: you are not being “persecuted for Jesus’ sake” when the sword you have impaled yourself on is a direct contradiction of what Jesus said above (and in the next two chapters) or in any of the gospels. 

“Jesus declares not “(Blessed) are those,” but “(Blessed) are you.” Not only must we refuse to strike back, but we are to rejoice when persecuted. It confirms our trust in God’s promise of reward. The prophetic role of a disciple is (comparable) to (Mt 10:41-42; 23:34) and greater than (11:9-11; 13:17) that of an Old Testament prophet. (IVP)

Someday I will write on what it means to love our neighbor. In the meantime, maybe Google some of the Old Testament prophets and see what they endured. Note, they never suffered to get their way. They never did it to be right. They never did it for themselves. They suffered insults, schemes against them, physical opposition, and torture because it pointed to who God is and helped others better understand everything we’ve been discussing in this series so far. 

Throughout His life, Jesus calls us to be like Him. Jesus became fully man – fully 100% limited like you and I, with our distractions, questions, self-doubt, hurts, etc. – so that He could model how to move closer to God’s heart. The most incredible thing about that way is that it starts with acknowledging our “poverty of spirit” and that we can do nothing to truly cultivate these attributes into our lives. 

“The characteristics Jesus lists as belonging to the people of the kingdom are also those Jesus himself exemplifies as the leading servant of the kingdom and Son par excellence of the Father (11:27; 20:28). Jesus is meek and lowly in heart (11:29); he mourns over the unrepentant (11:20-24); he shows mercy (9:13, 27; 12:7; 20:30); he is a peacemaker (5:43-45; 26:52). If he is lowly, how much more must be his disciples, who are to imitate his ways (10:24-25; 23:8-12)-in contrast to worldly paradigms for religious celebrities (23:5-7).”

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He is our loving savior and He goes first into this life of lowly humility, meekness, death to self, and living for others. The question is – can we find the faith to let go of the idols of comfort, power, and having it all together in order to discover the richness of life that comes as a full citizen of His kingdom? 

Until next time… 

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