Many of us resemble our parents, whether we take that as a compliment or not! Maybe you say certain phrases they do, or you do a routine chore in a specific and quirky way. Hopefully, we can take the good and learn from the rest when it comes to resembling our parents. But how about our heavenly Father? How do we resemble God? One of the ways we resemble the Father is when we are peacemakers.
Wonderful news for the peacemakers! You’ll be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9, N.T. Wright’s translation)
Peacemaking is part of God’s family business. It’s what God’s children do.
But what does it mean to be a peacemaker? Maybe it’s helpful to start with what it’s not.
Being a peacemaker is not:
- the absence of conflict (conflict is inevitable in a broken world)
- the avoidance of conflict (this would be peacekeeping, not peacemaking)
- appeasing all parties (many times not everyone will be happy about your stance).
So what is peacemaking?
Being a “peacemaker” (eirēnopoios) is more than the opposite of war or hostility. In fact, it is quite ironic that Matthew records Jesus using this word choice here since secular Greek writers often used this word to describe leaders who applied forceful establishment to create peace.
Historians have pointed out how war is “one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization and democracy. In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.”
Only 268 years have seen no war.
By stark contrast, Jesus envisions His disciples being peacemakers by living counter-intuitively, as the rest of the Sermon on the Mount (and the Gospels) unpack in more depth. To summarize, peacemaking is about standing in “no man’s land” (so to speak) and play a pivotal role in the reconciliation of two parties. But this can only happen if the so called “peacemaker” has first found peace with God for himself or herself. Peace with God is the catalyst to bringing peace to others. What do people need most? Peace with God. What do they also need? Peace with one another.
Being a peacemaker is about participating in binding broken things that belong together.
Humans were not designed to be such disparaged and divided creatures. While Jesus secured our peace but there is still work to be done to bring it into effect.
- How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7, ESV)
How does our life proclaim the peace of Christ? It’s easy to talk about how we need world peace when we don’t have peace within our own community, and even in our own homes. We are more likely to attend a rally about peace but won’t take action to bring peace with a friend we are in conflict with. In essence, it’s okay for peacemaking to start small. Big dreams and aspirations are great, but they are futile if we don’t take those first steps in bringing peace in the environments we are already in, before aiming to see peace in the surrounding world.
St. Francis of Assisi understood this call to the active pursuit of peace and summarized it with this poetic prayer:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hate, may I bring love; Where offense, may I bring pardon; May I bring union in place of discord.”
What would it look like to reimagine St. Francis’ prayer in our world today? Maybe Jesus was on to something. Maybe people would see the Father’s heart through our actions if we lived as peacemakers.