Blessed Are The Peacemakers
In 1873, Samuel Colt introduced a pistol that was named “The Peacekeeper.” Because of its simple design, and the use of shell cartridges anyone could learn to use this weapon. It was easy to load and simple to aim and fire. The Peacekeepers slogan was God made every man different but Sam Colt made them equal. The concept was that a larger, stronger man could no longer overpower a smaller, weaker man. What formerly depended on strength now depended on speed and accuracy.
But it’s not just guns, in November of 1982 President Reagan dubbed the new MX missile “The Peacekeeper.” President Reagan exclaimed that because of mobility and more modern guidance systems this missile would be a great deterrent to foreign aggression.
I have always chuckled at the idea that we would use the phrase peacekeeper to describe weapons. In fact, if you search the internet for the word peacekeeper, most of the references are to weapons or soldiers or video games about war. It seems that if a person is going to keep the peace they are going to need bigger and better weapons.
I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus was talking about when He said in In Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” In his study on the Beatitudes John MacArthur says: peace is merely that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stops to reload.
Peace can be very elusive.; one moment you can have peace at home, at work, or in your relationships, and the next it’s gone. This can be seen throughout history. From the beginning of time mankind has been looking for peace. We have been at war with God ever since Adam and Eve sinned, and we have been at war with one another since Cain killed Abel in the field. We forget peace is not something that can be forced from the outside. You cannot keep a peace that isn’t there.
I wonder how Jesus’s statement Blessed are the peacemakers sounded to those sitting in that crowd. How could the Jews ever hope to overthrow the Roman government and restore themselves to a place of prominence while pursing peace? Who ever won a battle by using peace? The Romans were not going to just lie down or step aside at the request of a group of peace making Jews. What Jesus said in this beatitude made absolutely no sense to those who were looking to overthrow the Romans and to take back by force that which rightfully belonged to them.
As we get into this beatitude we must understand peace keeping is not the same thing as peacemaking.
Some of us have been guilty of making this command more about keeping the peace at any means necessary, instead of making peace. Peace keepers see peace as simply the absence of any kind of argument or discord. They will go to any lengths to avoid any kind of conflict or confrontation. In doing so they settle for a counterfeit peace that is based on avoiding the real issues.
I have a friend, who tells a story about what he calls a grand failure in his ministry. While he was working at a church, he noticed that another minister on staff seemed to be getting too close to a woman in the congregation. Over lunch one day he looked at his friend and expressed some of his concerns, but the other minister got mad and my friend immediately backed off deciding he would not mention it again. Six months later the church was suffering the fallout of a minister caught in an affair and that cost this minister his ministry, wife, and children.
Sitting in the rubble of all of these destroyed relationships, my friend said he failed this other minister. He says “I should have expressed my concerns, I should have let him yell at me and get irate and make a scene. I should have endured the pain, I should have done something because he was my friend.”
Often times we refuse to have difficult conversations because we fear the arguments they would cause. When we choose peace-keeping over truth-telling, we might think that we are being noble, but in reality we’re making a bad choice. Whatever caused tension in a relationship, if left ignored, will come back again without ever being properly resolved.
When things are not resolved, then that peace you’re trying so very hard to maintain by avoiding the issues will get harder and harder to keep. Eventually there will come a total breakdown in the relationship. In the end, relationships die while everything on the surface looks peaceful.
Peace at any price is a form of deception. When you know you need to tell the truth the enemy will whisper in your ear, Don’t do it! Maintain the status quo. Truth telling takes courage and needs to be done out of love and compassion. Any other approach, over time, will undermine the integrity of our relationships.
I told you when we started this series, that the Sermon on the Mount was an X rated sermon. There are not any warm fuzzies in these three chapters. We all want to live in peace, but we are not so sure we want to go through the pain to find that peace. The word that Jesus uses here is Shalom. Most of you know that word means peace. I have told you before that when two Hebrews met one another they would greet one another by saying Shalom or peace. What you might not realize is that the Hebrew idea of peace is totally unlike our concept of peace.
We believe that peace is an absence of trouble; Shalom means everything which makes for a man’s highest good. When a person said shalom they were not simply wishing that all of the bad stuff would stay far away from you, they were wishing that your life was filled with the good things of God. But it also goes a step further, not only am I wishing that your life is filled with blessings, I am committing myself to doing what I can to fill your life with blessings.
This call from Jesus to be peacemaker is not to merely keep the peace that we believe exists in our world. The peace Jesus is talking about here is not a passive acceptance of wrong, but the ultimate triumph of good, even if it involves conflict. It is a promise to step into conflict if it means that true blessings and peace will come. It is the idea that I will cause a little chaos if the chaos will bring real peace.
Those who are striving to be peacemakers know a few things: First they understand Peacemaking is difficult work.
Some of you are struggling with this right now. Someone in your life made some comments to you that were way out of line, or someone set out to spread vicious rumors about you. And it hurts. Two weeks ago we talked about dealing with jerks, and when we are faced with a jerk, we usually want to be a bigger jerk, or punch them in the throat, or just cut them off all together. God is not happy with any of those options.
The Bible is very clear about what you’re supposed to do when that happens. Matthew 18:15 says that “if someone sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Tell the person, Hey, I was hurt by those things you said! I thought they were uncalled for! But I care about this relationship, and I want us to make peace as soon as possible. I need you to meet me halfway and let’s work to find a place where we can be at peace with one another.
There are going to be times when God wants you to make peace with a person who’s mad at you. And it’s scary because you don’t know how they’re going to react! They might become angry and take it out on you, and things could get ugly in a hurry. I have sat on a lot of couches and allowed someone to vent their hurt at me. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it necessary if we are seeking to make peace. and sometimes people have told me, I’m glad you came here to talk this out with me. I’ve wanted to come to you but I’ve just been too scared.
I truly believe that if the other person cares at all about the relationship, if they desire to have real peace, they’re going to want to tell their side of the story and make it right. But they are probably as scared to have this discussion as you are, so someone has to take the first step to make peace.
Just remember that sometimes relationships, like telephones, can get temporarily disconnected or become no longer in service. That is the time we need to ask God to restore the connection. We need to ask God to bring about peace when our own peacemaking efforts have failed. We need to ask God to soften the other person’s heart.
The most important step is to make sure that before we enter the conversation with someone else we have been in conversation with God. We need to pray that cooler heads will prevail. We need to pray that we’ll be able to understand where the other person is coming from. And we need to pray that they’ll take the time to understand where we’re coming from.
Next we need to understand that I might be the reason that there is no peace.
This one is a bit difficult for us to swallow. I mean we all live with the belief that we are pretty good folks. We believe that we are easy to love, and a joy to be around. I have never had someone come and talk to me and say, I’m having a problem with my wife, husband, children, parent, coworker, because I am such a jerk. We just don’t think that way about ourselves. But we need to consider the possibility that if there is strife in a relationship, I may be the one who causes the strife.
A little later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus will say: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
It is so much easier for me to judge or pass judgment on you without looking at myself first. In a weird way I find inner peace when I judge you based on my own standard of measure. It’s only when I measure myself against God that I can truly be Poor in Spirit. That’s why I have said over and over again unless we are Poor in Spirit none of these other beatitude can be a reality in our lives. Unless I am Poor in Spirit I will never be able to find a way to make peace with you.
It’s not difficult to see the faults in other people’s lives. I love the story from Isaac Murray about a boy and his dog. The young boy was mowing the grass with one of those old reel mowers, and he had tied his dog to the mower so it could help him pull the heavy mower. When someone would pass by the dog would stop to bark at the one passing by. The boy who was guiding the mower said, “Don’t mind the dog, he is just barking for an excuse to rest. It is easier to bark than to pull the mower.”
Even among the disciples we have to realize that criticism and judging is alive and well. Just because I claim to have a relationship with the Lord, go to church on Sunday, read Scripture, and sing does not mean I am totally right with God. We can do all of those activities on Sunday then turn right around on Monday and be divisive and destroy peace.
We can only be a peacemaker because Jesus has overcome sin. We are free from our sin, the ultimate selfishness of heart and mind, and strive to put others first.
Finally we understand that we can only make peace and have peace when we have the presence of the Savior.
Phillip Keller, who was a sheep rancher for eight years, wrote a great little book entitled “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm”. In his book he works his way through the Psalm and explains it from the point of view of a shepherd. He explains that there is pecking order in the sheep, and that sometimes creates conflict among the sheep. Let me safer an excerpt from his book:
Hundreds of times I have watched an old, austere ewe walk up to a younger one which might have been feeding contentedly or resting quietly in some sheltered spot. She would arch her neck, tilt her head, dilate her eyes and approach the other with a stiff-legged gait. All of this was saying in unmistakable terms, move over! Out of my way! Give ground or else! And if the other ewe did not immediately leap to her feet in self-defense, she would be butted unmercifully. Or, if she did rise to accept the challenge, one or two strong bumps would soon send her scurrying for safety. But one point that always interested me very much was that whenever I came into view and my presence attracted their attention, the sheep quickly forgot their foolish rivalries and stopped their fighting. The Shepherd‘s presence made all the difference in their behavior.
The same is true of us. We can only make true peace when we have the Shepherd’s presence. His presence causes us to not only have peace here among those we have relationships but to go into all the world bring His message of peace. He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus died on a cruel rugged cross to make peace for us. His blood was shed that we might know the meaning of eternal peace. In order to be known as a child of God, we should be willing to do no less.
Jesus wants you to be a peacemaker. He doesn’t want you to spend the rest of your life running away from your problems, hoping that your conflicts will go away by themselves. Hebrews 12:14 says Make every effort to live in peace with all men. In other words, it is the will of God for you to do everything in your power to get along with the people in your life. Peacemaking is difficult and dangerous. But it has a lasting effect on the lives of the people we care about.