We continue our look at the Sermon on the Mount by focusing on the seventh Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” This is probably the one most familiar to the world at-large. It is often cited by those wishing to bring about some type of reconciliation between peoples or nations, or to justify a pacifist position. While there is some justification for being a reconciler between two parties in conflict, peace between human beings is not really what this Beatitude is talking about.
Rather, the peace Jesus is talking about is peace between God and humans. The relationship ruptured in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. Thus began an estranged relationship between the Lord and those he created in his image. From then on, God initiated his plan for reconciliation. First, he set down what we call the Mosaic Law, which includes the Ten Commandments. This Law was intended to lead, as Paul says, humans to Jesus. In essence, Jesus came as the peacemaker. As Paul says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
This is the type of peacemaker to whom Jesus refers, the one who brings the good news of Jesus Christ to others. Of course, it is difficult to do that if one is often “stirring the pot” so to speak on the hot button issues of the day. Which brings me back to where my focus on the Sermon on the Mount began—the Capitol Breach on January 6th.
Paul often is criticized for not being more outspoken against slavery and for women’s rights. (I once had a fellow student in grad school call Paul a male chauvinist.) In my early years as a follower of Jesus, I, too, struggled with Paul’s silence on slavery and his supporting the silence of women in the assembly. However, what I have come to recognize is that Paul had one overarching priority—”to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) To focus directly on the social issues of the day would turn the focus to them, when what he wanted to do, was called to do, was to proclaim the gospel.
This is our calling, as well, as followers of Jesus. Like Paul, we are to trust God that through the proclamation of the gospel he will transform lives, which leads to a transformation of culture. What I believe so many Christians today have missed is that we will never change hearts through laws or political parties. And if that is our standard of being a good and faithful Christian, we will instead erect barriers that prevent people from being reconciled to God. I have seen that play out in two areas—abortion and homosexuality. In the late 1970’s, well-known Christians, such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, promoted a strategy that the way to cultural change was through lawmaking. Thus, with the onset of the Reagan administration, these men and many others began through their preaching and radio broadcasts to encourage Christians to become politically active in order to pressure the government to hold firm to the Judeo-Christian teachings on which they said the nation was founded. The so-called “culture wars” had begun.
The trade-off was that the proclamation of the gospel receded, while political activism ascended. And the ones who were called to promote reconciliation to God, instead often got into shouting matches with those who opposed them. The results have been less than impressive on many fronts. Millennials, raised in such an environment of hostility left the faith in droves, some of those who became pastors decided not to confront sin at all and rarely talked about it other than to say that we all sin. And, of course, homosexuality, and now transgenderism, are widely accepted by the culture, and abortion is still legal in all 50 states.
As I told one of my former students, I believe such political activism is a fool’s errand. This is not where our passions should lie as followers of Jesus. Rather, our passion should be to see people reconciled to God. I do not mean that we should necessarily stand on the sidelines politically, but I believe there is a way to do that without declaring war on others’ beliefs. We vote our conscience; we might even try to persuade people to our way of thinking. However, we never hate them; rather we continue to love them and we demonstrate that love by how we treat them. Again, a good measure is how would we like to be treated.
Yet, our focus as disciples of Jesus is to be similar to Paul’s. We want to be agents of reconciliation to God:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5:16-20)
The peacemaker about which Jesus speaks does not look on anyone from a worldly point of view; that is, from the view that those who are different in their appearance, culture, or beliefs are somehow less than us. No, the peacemaker sees each individual as a creation of God, valued so much that he sent his only Son to die so that he or she might have eternal life. Thus, his or her passion is to see them reconciled to God. This Beatitude is the penultimate of the list; all the preceding ones lead up to this. A true peacemaker realizes his helplessness, is mournful about his own sin and the sins of others, is self-controlled, is one for which righteousness is her focus, is merciful toward others because she has received mercy, and is one who has healthy eyes to see God at work in all circumstances. Such a person is ideally qualified to be a peacemaker.
Laws come and go. Souls live on into Eternity. It’s best if they have peace with God, and that will never come through worldly means. It will only come when we are truly ambassadors for Jesus, demonstrating the same love he has for the world.
Oh what bliss there is when we play a role like that!
© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.