The Unsettling Truth About Peacemaking
The scripture tells us to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed people (Matthew 5:9). Shalom (peace) is one of the richest Hebrew terms in the Bible. Shalom is peace that leads to or is evidenced by wholeness. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Peace is what Jesus promised to (John 14:27) and breathed on (John 20:19) his disciples in the upper room. And peace is what most people deeply desire.
Many people never experience peace. The soul of the natural person is at war. The soul of this lost world is at war. The inner and outer conflicts result from the lack of peace in us and among us. In today’s world where God has been ignored in personal and global affairs, peace is scant and hard to come by in personal and global terms. As someone quipped, “no God, no peace or know God, know peace. The first seems to have been the choice of many. The second is the solution that is too often ignored.
With this in mind, Jesus who brought peace (Colossians 1:20), blessed those who make it. He said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” We don’t know if there was an intended order in the beatitudes or if they were random statements about those who truly are blessed people. Pastors and theologians throughout the ages have always striven to find a pattern in the beatitudes of Matthew 5. I would suggest there well could be.
I would like to believe that after he mentioned several quality character traits of blessed people (those who are poor in spirit, mournful over sin, meek, hungering and thirsting for God, merciful and pure in heart) he saved one or two outcomes befitting of such people- peacemaking. In other words, transformed people (character change) are motivated to transform people (drawing them to love God and one another (spiritual and societal change). Blessed people (godly character) bless people (godly representation).
Peacemaking is not a skill to be learned as much as a calling to be lived. It emanates from a heart at peace in a person of peace who is living in peace with God and others. Perhaps that is why God put it near the end of the list.
The only thing that follows it is a cost associated with it. Peacemakers make peace at great cost. People at peace live in righteousness. Knowing that, Jesus went on to say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness” (Matthew 5:10). People at peace are easy targets for the powerful in society. People at peace are a threat to the insecure and self-righteous. Peaceful people who make peace are not always trusted. Their motives are suspect to those who profit from distress, war and confusion. That is why Jesus extended the idea by affirming the persecuted who have been insulted and lied about. In fact, he said, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. . . .”
Peacemakers are in the line of fire. They find themselves bitten by the mouths of those they try to feed. Over 20% of police officer deaths in America between 2010 and 2014 (132 of 684 deaths) occurred while they were attempting to resolve domestic disputes or deal with domestic violence. Supposing the motive in a majority of cases was generally to bring peace into a volatile situation, it was not only unappreciated by those involved, but was threatening and an excuse for escalated violence and even murder.
Peacemakers will almost never be viewed as a fully supportive ally of either side of a conflict they are trying to mediate or resolve. Their efforts are to stir sometimes bitter or entrenched people to a better place. As an ensnared animal rarely appreciates the motive of the person trying to free them, so the person in conflict rarely appreciates their own brokenness or the noble efforts of those who try to help them understand the need to forgive and be forgiven.
Peacemaking is not for the faint hearted. But, true peacemakers are blessed. They are subject to persecution and being misunderstood. They are most often underappreciated. Those who broker spiritual and social peace together are children of God, of course, for Jesus is the Prince of Peace and he is our brother. So, what we need now more than ever are peacemakers- people of character who know how to reconcile people to God and to one another. Souls are at war. People are at war. Peace is a calling. Let’s start actively living it out. Be blessed. Don’t be unsettled by the consequences. You are in good company- Jesus and the saints.