Next up in Jesus’ teaching on how to live a life that brings glory to God is peace making.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
When you think of peace making you usually think of the United Nations or famous influential figures from history that have obtained the Nobel peace prize, people like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr.
Jesus here is highlighting that the church should be famous for making peace; when people think of those who make peace, they should think of the church. Instead, the church seems to cause more drama with scandals, negative stereotypes or news stories discussing whether an advert (the Lords prayer) should be played in the cinema or not!
Depending upon your upbringing, culture or politics you will have a view on what it means to make peace. For some it’s the laying down of all weapons, for others it’s making sure we are armed in order to create a peaceful state. The problem is this – none of these man-made solutions actually ever obtain lasting peace, just look at the Middle East, at the state of Syria and Iraq today, it’s tragic.
So the best way for discovering how to go about making peace is to listen to the words of the Prince of Peace.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers- for they shall be called sons of God”. A little later in the same chapter He says this,
“You have heard it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of Your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
Jesus talks about loving your enemies and then praying for them- and in doing that you will be known as sons of your Father- the parallel is that peacemakers are called sons of God- which means loving our enemies is one way that we make peace.
So how do we do this?
Pray for them, Jesus says pray for those who persecute you. Pray for the person at work who is making your walk with God difficult; pray for peaceful interactions; pray that they would know God.
Just a few verses later Jesus expands even further on how we can be peacemakers. Love our enemies. This is a combination of prayer and action,
“For if you just love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Matthew 5:46-47)
Loving people who are like us is no achievement; even tax collectors in Jesus’ day did that! But loving those who are different to us or our enemies, that’s peace-making, that’s counter cultural living.
So first we pray, second we greet. The temptation so often with those who we have fallen out with, or those who hate us is to avoid them at all costs.
Jesus here says; greet them, say hello, build bridges, if you see them walking towards you don’t put your hoodie up and cross the road – strive for peace. Do it in a genuine way, don’t be phony and fake. Don’t cover them in awkward hugs and tell them how much you love them when your actions don’t line up.
Avoid harbouring grudges, don’t sit on animosity, it breaks relationships and communities. Our hearts get wrapped in animosity and grudges and we become known as miserable moaners instead of peacemakers!
Long for peace in your heart and your actions should follow.
Now for some people who are reading this, you may have some long standing heart aches and difficulties. I know, first hand, that some people just don’t want peace, instead they cause destruction, but don’t let that shake you from walking right before God.
Romans 12:18 says,
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
As far as it depends on YOU, live at peace. Don’t be the cause of a rupture, do your utmost to restore brokenness, and don’t write people and situations off. By God’s grace everything is redeemable, and God wants to use you to be the bringer of peace into hostile relationships and workspaces, so that it brings attention to God.
One final thought is that peace-making needs you. So often we pass off peace making to the higher echelons of society- but we need a peace making revolution. In Jesus’ day, as a Jew, He was under the occupation of the iron fist of Rome. He knew what it was to not be in freedom and to be oppressed, the people wanted peace and what they wanted was peace from Rome.
However, in Jesus’ teaching, time and again He speaks about individual situations. He does not use his platform to address the nation of Rome and its cruelty to his people, but deals with individuals. That tells us something really important- if we want peace and lives transformed then the onus is on us to be those that cross the room, to pray, greet, love our enemies- Blessed are the peace makers and it starts with you!