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On Christian Virtue Part 12

Part 12 What is a Peacemaker

The Beatitudes found in Matthew 5: 1-12 show us a beautiful picture of how disciples of Jesus are to act and appear. In previous posts, we have seen that on the inside, a disciple of Jesus is humble, aware of his or her shortcomings, displays a meekness because they understand their true condition as a sinner, and hunger and thirst to be righteous. In other words, they are the opposite of how most people act today who go about the business of being proud, self-serving, carnal and self-indulgent. Those who truly desire to follow Jesus do not act that way.

These internal qualities of humility, meekness and a desire for righteousness have a great impact on how a Christian treats others. A Christian should be kind, forgiving, able to empathize, sincere and ‘pure in heart’. But, Jesus is not telling His followers that they must become like that before they can be disciples. Instead, He is telling them that these are qualities they should pursue if they are His disciples. Because these qualities are matters of the heart, only Jesus can remake us to be the kind of people He describes.

Now Jesus turns to the attribute of peacemaking. ““Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9, ESV). This seventh beatitude, the desire to be a peacemaker is dependent, like all the Beatitudes, on those that have gone before. To be a peacemaker one must also desire to be pure in heart, merciful, meek, righteous, mournful over sin, and poor in spirit. R.T. France says this:

“The absence of selfish ambition which has marked the earlier Beatitudes provides the only basis for the quality of peacemaking, which is especially pleasing to God.”

Since most conflicts result from some sort of ‘drama,’ a spirit of openness, selflessness, and sincerity are essential for one to be a peacemaker. Being defensive, looking for some personal gain or having mixed motives will never result in being the kind of peacemaker who pleases God.

Peacemakers are those who promoted peace and harmony in public, at home, and in the community. Peacemakers seek to reconcile people who are in disagreement and encourage harmony and unity wherever they go. A peacemaker is the opposite of a troublemaker. And those who are peacemakers shall be called “sons of God” not by God, but by those around them who observe their actions. This is because peacemakers will more fully bear the image of God. God is a God of peace (Hebrews 13:20), His Son is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7), the gospel Jesus preached was the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:17), and the Father sent the Son to bring peace (Luke 2:14). Paul says in Colossians 1:19ff (and following) that the Father desires to reconcile all things to Himself. Therefore, those who make peace are following the Father’s desire and, as peacemakers, they are truly His children. Since reconciliation (peacemaking) is at the top of the Father’s agenda, it should be the top of His children’s agenda too. Those who are disciples of Jesus ‘seek peace and pursue it’ (1 Peter 3:11), desire peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14) and do everything they can to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).

But the peace of which Jesus speaks is not peace by appeasement. The peace Jesus speaks about, and the peace the Bible describes is always peace within the framework of justice and truth. Appeasement is not true peace; it is a false peace and can never be sustained. The peace every believer now has with God was peace and reconciliation that came through the blood sacrifice of the Son. Without His atoning death, without the covering of our sin, peace with God is not possible. It was not secured by denying our problem of sin. Instead, it was obtained by God in Christ paying the ultimate price for our sin—His death so that we can be justified. Only in the context of justice and truth can there be actual peace with God.

A form of ‘peace’ which is sought without dealing with the deeper, more difficult underlying problem of sin is not true peace; it is a superficial peace at best. True peacemaking is always set in the frame of justice and truth without compromising either. So no one can be a peacemaker if one denies the gospel, the problem of sin and the need for a Savior. That may serve the efforts of ecumenism (the attempt to reconcile Christianity to other forms of religion), but it is not biblical peacemaking. The plain fact is the gospel divides. A Christian is constantly at war with the world, the flesh and the Devil (Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 John 2:16) and we don’t make peace by giving in to them. Martin Luther said ‘peace if possible but truth at any rate’ and that is still true today. True peacemaking must have, as its aim, leading others to Christ by the gospel. Only in Christ will people find true peace.

Next week we’ll look at how to be biblical peacemakers. Until then, may the peace of God be with you and guard your heart and mind in Christ.