Jesus said, "Blessed are the Peacemakers," but what does that mean in the 21st Century? The world is not as simple as it used to be. No longer is it divided between East and West, Communists and Capitalists. The cold war is over, the arms race has ground to a stop. The things I used to warn about and preach against have largely disappeared. So do we still need the 7th beatitude? Has peace already been made and now we go on to other things?
You know the answer. The world has gotten more complicated, but not more peaceful. Now instead of fighting the cold war against the Soviet Empire, we are fighting little nations: Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo. Meanwhile Russia is fighting in Chechnya and Pakistan and India are threatening nuclear destruction on each other. Further East, China is ready to invade Taiwan the day they declare independence.
Only a few nations had nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Now, 20 nations are trying to acquire them, and add to that the terrorists and criminal syndicates who also want them. In addition, many nations are now capable of mass destruction through biological and chemical means. With upwards of 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, some are bound to leak out.
Even if the nations of our world were not at war, we look in vain for peace in our schools and churches and families. Conflict close to home keeps pushing the dove of peace farther out on a limb.
To us, as to the people of his day, Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." This is no pious platitude, no bland statement of the obvious. The familiarity of the saying has deadened us to its original meaning. In these few words Jesus has declared our business, our problem and our blessing.
In this dangerously fragmented and hostile world God has called his children to be agents of peace. Whether they know it or not, they are the professionals. Their Bible is a peace primer. Eighty-eight times the word "peace" is used in the New Testament. Every Epistle begins and ends with a prayer for peace. Christ's last will and testament to the disciples was, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27). No Christian has the right to be an amateur in this urgent business. It is not enough to be peace-lovers, or even peace-keepers we must be peace-makers.
Every privileged nation, race or class naturally prefers peaceloving and peacekeeping to peacemaking. When faced with a grievance, the peacekeeper tries to keep things as they are. The peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to change things to arbitrate the hostility. That's our business!
Paul described our business in these words: "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, 'I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord'" (Romans 12:16-19). Bible believing Christians know that massive nuclear retaliation pales in significance to the mighty arm of God.
Granted that peace is our business, it is also our problem. Paul says, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace" (Romans 14:19 KJV). The problem is we are not at all agreed on what things make for peace. Humanism thinks that peace is a normal state of being. All we need is education to keep out of conflict. The Bible says war is a normal state of being and will persist until the un-holy spirit of our time is driven out by the Spirit of God. We need a peace conference with the Prince of Peace who said: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
The peace the world gives is peace by escape. This kind of peace secures a temporary tranquility by refusing to face reality. It pretends there is justice where there is injustice, love where there is lust, virtue where there vice, and immortality where there is impending death.
The peace Jesus gives is peace by conquest. It enables us to face dreadful circumstances without hearts that are troubled and afraid. We are content and confident because we have surrendered to Jesus Christ, the final winner who overcomes world
Meanwhile we remain at war with Satan and all his "principalities and powers." While the fighting is sometimes fearfully horrible, we are not the least bit worried about the outcome of the conflict. We know we are on the winning side. I would much rather lose in a winning cause than win in a losing cause. We are soldiers in the Kingdom of God who will reign forever and ever.
Jesus is the great peacemaker. What he did for us he commissions us to do for others: "Blessed are peacemakers." Those reconciled to God become reconcilers of others. He has commissioned us as Paul said, to the "ministry of reconciliation." We are ambassadors of peace to a world frightened and fragmented into hostile camps.
We cannot reconcile others until we are reconciled to ourselves. We are walking civil wars. The Heart of our problem is the problem of hearts. There is no peace in the world because there’s no peace in our heart. James says, "Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?"
If we allow worries, jealousies, and resentments to brood in our hearts, they will disturb our peace as tiny gnats destroy a paradise.
Peace is not the absence of strife; it's the presence of God. Lay down your arms and surrender unconditionally to him. "The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said, "for they shall be called the children of God." The expression, "children of God" is a Hebrew idiom which declares the peacemaker's resemblance to the Heavenly Father. To be the child of someone is to be like the parent. For instance "Sons of Abraham" are those who have Abraham's faith (Galatians 3:7). And "Sons of Belial" (Deuteronomy 13:13) have his iniquity and the "sons of snakes," their guile (Matthew 3:7).
Seven times in the Bible God is called "the God of peace." The peacemaker is especially god-like. It is one time when "playing God" is okay! Peacemakers are architects who build bridges with wood from a Roman cross.
One who hung on such a cross said, "Happy are those who work for peace" (Matthew 5:9 TEV). People of many faiths and no faith work for peace, but for most of them it is a pretty grim business. One of the reasons the modern peace movement is so ineffective is that it doesn't laugh enough. That is one thing the Christian peacemakers should be really good at. They are able to work for peace with a perspective that makes them happy even in the face of frustration. They retain their optimism in the pursuit of peace because they know two crucial things.
First of all, they are aware that there will be no immediate success. They have the word of Jesus to remind them that there will be wars and rumors of war to the end of time (Matthew 24:3-14). Failure doesn't surprise them, nor defeat them. They do not expect to build lasting peace in this age. Not until the return of the Prince of Peace will there be any permanent solution of our world's warring madness.
Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel after signing an agreement with the PLO said: "I am ready for painful compromises. Peace is not made with friends. Peace is made with enemies, some of whom and I won't name names I loathe very much." For making peace with the PLO, he paid with his life, assassinated by a militant Jew who wanted to stop the peace process. Likewise, when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel he was assassinated by militant Egyptians opposed to the peace process. David said, "I am a man of peace, but when I speak, they are for war" (Psalm 120 ). Remember that the Prince of Peace himself was crucified by forces opposed to peace. We know there will be no immediate success. But we know something more.
Secondly, we know there will be no ultimate failure. Someday swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). Someday weapons of war will be transformed into implements of peaceful production. Someday the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15). Hallelujah!