Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:9a (cont.) “Blessed are the peacemakers:. . .”
Peacemaking takes time, is often thankless and dangerous, and can backfire, but is nevertheless necessary. After peace begins within self, and then flows from self, the third procedure for peacemaking is to have genuine love for others, to care deeply about conflicting parties, to be hurt by the wounds they inflict on each other.
Satan, whose heart is loveless, was the first peacebreaker, callously dividing from God one-third of the angels, and all of humanity. Satan has many heartless cohorts who still enjoy stirring up strife and fishing in troubled waters, but peacemakers, in the true spirit of Jesus, love people and refuse to increase their misery.
Sow seeds of peace between others. Beware the scarcity mentality, thinking there is only a limited supply of love to go around, and if you like someone else, that means you cannot love me, too. Refuse to drive wedges between people. Do not repeat things that cause harm. It is no kindness to tell someone an unkind word you have heard about them. Peacemakers love to promote peace, to soothe hurts, to strengthen bonds of affection, to prevent and allay strife in every relationship.
Peacemakers exercise their skills at home. War within a family is perdition on earth. Peace at home is heaven on earth. Peacemakers are the golden clasp that hold a family together and keep it from shattering and disintegrating. When a garment is torn, we sew it together again. Since our family members are much more valuable than cloth, when they are tearing apart, let us do our best to sew them together again. Live by this law, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (EP 4:26). Never let a member of your household go to bed while still angry at another.
Peacemakers exercise their skills at work. On the job, the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot began fighting (GN 13:7). Abraham knew lost people were watching, and to keep God’s name from being dishonored, was willing to sacrifice, to suffer personal loss for the sake of peace. Christ still needs such noble spirits on the job.
One of Robert E. Lee’s most severe critics and outspoken opponents was his fellow officer, General Whiting. President Jefferson Davis once asked Lee’s opinion of Whiting. When General Lee gave Whiting a very positive recommendation, a friend took Lee aside to ask if he knew of Whiting’s unkind remarks about him. Lee said yes he did, but Davis had asked what he thought of Whiting, not what Whiting thought of him. This kind of magnanimity is still needed in the workplace.
Peacemakers exercise their skills in government. Christ truly was establishing a new and different kind of kingdom. Earthly governments place their highest laurels on warriors, but Jesus reveres peacemakers. David wanted to build the temple, but God said, “Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood” (1 CH 28:3). The honor fell instead to Solomon, a son whose reign was marked with “peace and quietness” (1 CH 22:9). To be ruthless in battle requires reflecting the cunning of the fox and the prowess of the lion, but to be a peacemaker requires picturing the gentle spirit of Jesus.
Governments are not to be pacifistic, but do need to be led by lovers of peace. Lincoln plunged us into our bloodiest war, but loved peace. The war drained him of his vital essence. Lyndon Johnson believed war in Vietnam was necessary, but nightly spent hours in the White House war room, dying one inch at a time.
What a contrast to Stalin and Hitler, who thrived on war and annihilation. These two twisted men, due to their perverted desire to speed up Darwin’s fancied “evolutionary progress,” were responsible for more deaths than all religious wars in history combined. God spare us from such war-mongers, from leaders who will cease to be hated only when they are finally forgotten.
Matt. 5:9b “. . .for they shall be called the children of God.”
Our Heavenly Father, “the God of peace” (RM 15:33), calls peacemakers His children. He deems them as being like Himself, bearing the family resemblance. Peacemakers portray the very heart of God. Jesus, the ultimate mediator, the peacemaker par excellence, made the long journey from Heaven to Earth to make peace.
Our Father expects us, His adopted children, to act like His only begotten Son in this area of peacemaking, to stand out from the crowd, to be starkly different from the rest of mankind. Our Savior earnestly desired and prayed for His twelve disciples and for believers in every age to follow, “That they all may be one” (JN 17:21). The very fact Jesus prayed for us to be one proves He was concerned about our future relationships with one another. His concerns sadly proved well founded.
To still controversy in the Church, Emperor Constantine convened the first general council at Nicea in 325 A.D. The Bishops arrived with treatises they had written in advance, containing bitter accusations against one another. Constantine took their papers, tore them to shreds, and exhorted them to peace and unanimity.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor of the third century, was not a Christian, but admired the teachings of Jesus. Seeing two Christians quarreling with one another, he commanded they could no longer bear the name Christian, for he said they dishonored their Master. How reproachful it would be for a pagan to command us never to take the name of Christ upon ourselves again.
Luther was hot-tempered. He at times berated John Calvin, who would nevertheless say, let Luther call me what he will, I acknowledge him to be a precious servant of God, whom God doth use as an instrument of great good. Amen! Thank you, John Calvin. May we all tone down the rhetoric, and cool the emotions.
There have been times when even lost people have said, see how the Christians love one another. In our day, too many are saying, see how the Christians fight one another. Pursue peace, brothers and sisters, peace with God, peace with others, peace at home, peace at work, peace in government, peace at church.
Put away malice and bitterness. Say often, “If I have offended you in any way, I truly am sorry. Please forgive me.” Let peace begin with me. If I, your pastor, need to apologize to you, please come speak with me, tell me where I spoke or acted amiss, let me have the honor of making things right and being restored to your heart. Parents, spouses, siblings, workers–we need to say these words to each other often. Some are seated right now next to the person they need to speak to.
King Aris of Sparta once commanded two quarreling soldiers to meet him in a temple. When the two antagonists arrived, Aris ordered the priest, “Lock the door of the temple; these two shall never go forth till they be at one.” The two settled their differences and went away as friends. If two pagans in an idol temple made peace with one another, believers in the house of the living God should do no less. Let us learn to live with one another as Paul urged the saints at Thessalonica, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 TH 5:13).