Blessed Are the Peacemakers – A Sermon on Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Many Christians demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. … I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon?
Kurt Vonnegut, “Cold Turkey,” In These Times

We are almost done the beatitudes this summer. It has been a good summer of being challenged to see what is really going on in this famous sermon by Jesus. Let’s do a little summary of where we’ve been so far. The first four beatitudes are poor in spirit, mourn, meek and those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus works at two angles in this sermon. In the first four he is describing a condition that we are in. Mourning, meek, hungry, poor…..these are all describing conditions where God meets us. The first four beatitudes is when God meets you where you are at.

The second four are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and those that are persecuted. These last four are more about relations. These last four are about how after God meets you, he then transforms you to interact with others completely differently. After you’ve recognized and you’ve become the first four, you can no longer relate to others the same way at all. God completely transforms the way you look at and treat people.

So we are looking at being a peacemaker, and apparently, by being one you get the great title of being called child of God. Now there are a few terms that we should get out of the way in terms of what a peacemaker is. For starters, a peacemaker is not the same thing as a peacekeeper.

Q: What is the difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker?

What I would see the difference between the two is that you can keep peace with guns. Walk into a room with two people fighting and pull out a weapon and those two people are probably going to stop fighting. Walk into a country conflict with your advanced machinery and you will keep the peace for a little while, they will all be awe of your presence. What ends up happening though is instead of there being conflict between two sides, not there is just conflict on three sides and you become the third side. Then we end up calling extremely destructive bombs, like Richard Nixon did, “the peacekeeper.” This isn’t peace. Oppressive and strong people call their attempts to control; peace, but we know better, you might create a sense of peace for a while, but there is no real peace there. If you have to take sides, you misunderstand what peace is.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of justice and brotherhood.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Peacemaking on the other hand, doesn’t need guns. Peacemaking isn’t necessarily (though it could be part of it) creating peace amongst two external parties that are battling. Remember, the last four beatitudes are about how we interact relationally. Because we realize our pour in spirit, because we mourn, because we are hungry for justice, because we are meek THEN we can act properly in our relation to others. So being a peacemaker isn’t necessarily about an action that you do, but it is about an attitude that you have towards others. It certainly isn’t about forcing cooperation and assuming that is peace either. We are not talking about inner peace, like feeling good about situations or people. We are talking about the reconciliation of all levels of human engagement, all levels of our relationships.

The Hebrew term for peace is shalom (שלום), which means all of the above things as well as “whole and entire.” This is the kind of peace that Jesus is talking about.

We live in a world where everything is divided. Instantly when you meet someone you decide if you are with them or against them. You either like them or you don’t. You go to this church or you go to that church. You are either conservative or a liberal. You are for Israel in Palestine or you are against. You are either a Christian or you are not. You are either for homeschooling or you are not. You are either for or against specific people. Jesus lived in this same world. We’ve talked about this before many times. But just as a reminder; Jesus lived in a divisive time where all the Jews were awaiting the arrival of a Messiah and king to stand up and destroy the Roman army and occupation. This is the world that Jesus walked into. This is why in John when Jesus perceived that his followers were going to come and take him by force, to make him a king, he took off into a mountain himself and alone. Jesus was not into taking sides. Even if it was the right side.
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself
John 6:15
Jesus did not delight in division, in bitterness, strife and petty divide-and-conquer” world. Instead he delighted in making peace wherever possible. To truly make peace. To be a peacemaker and not just a peacekeeper, it takes a very special kind of person. It would take someone that recognizes their poorness in spirit, and one that mourns along with God of the suffering in the world, one that longs for righteousness and justice and one that have allowed God to make them pure in heart. The first four beatitudes are prerequisites for the second four. Peacekeepers are a special breed.
The peacemakers are are the ones who are not so convinced of their own truth that they are unable to see the truth in another. They do not have to make the other wrong in order to believe that they are right. The peacemakers are able to entertain the idea that truth might be bigger than their own particular piece of it…..they are those that are open to truth in others, even when it challenges their own truth.
– Kathleen O’Connell Chesto
Can you see all the other beatitudes that sneak its way into what a peacekeeper is like? Not so convinced of their own truth? I’m pretty sure that’s what we said in the meek and poor in spirit weeks. The only way you would desire peace is if you felt unrest or that there wasn’t peace. Peacemakers have a deep sense of who they are, they know their own place because they don’t need to prove themselves and someone else certainly does not make them agitated or upset just because they hold a different belief. In fact, to a peacemaker, different beliefs are welcome and encouraged. They are not trying to make peace by helping everyone believe the same thing, rather they are realizing that there is a chance he is wrong, so he welcomes the other and embraces what he is and what he knows.
Kathleen O’Connell in her chapter about peacemaking tells this story of her son. Her son was newly married and he was buying a home. He would call his parents three times a week for a few months asking questions and looking for advice. Finally though, Kathleen had enough and said “I’m not giving you any more advice.” The son sounded confused and ask why. She said that because he doesn’t listen. He said what are you talking about, I listen to you more than I listen to anyone. “No you don’t, you argue” she says back. “But that’s how I listen” he said. Now I know I’ve had this exact conversation with Rachel. She gets so upset about me interrupting and asking questions and digging and digging until I can know more and more about what she things and how she feels. So the son goes on to explain.
“When I ask your opinion, you tell me what you think. Now I have what you think and what I think. If I argue with what you think, you give me five reasons why you think it. And if I argue with each of those five reasons, you give me five more reasons for each of them. Now I have thirty reasons why you think what you do. And I can use them to make a good decision.”
Here is what she says to explain how this makes her son a peacekeeper. To be honest at times, this person just seems annoying, but there is a subtle difference.
“This is the argument of the peacemaker. It is not the contentious arguing of those who are trying to explain or justify themselves and their actions. The peacemakers do not argue to convince us of their truth, but that we can convince them of ours. “Persuade me, Broaden my truth, enliven my vision with your own particular piece of reality.” As my son would point out, it’s how they listen. It is the listening that is essential, the listening that marks this as more than argument, the listening that leads to wisdom. And when the need to explain ourselves and our position is greatest, then the listening demands total silence.”
– Kathleen O’Connell Chesto
So the peacemaker is an interesting character. You can’t pin him down. Sometimes he’s fighting against you and sometimes he’s fighting for you. He hasn’t picked sides and defending ideals, he has picked truth and sees dialogue and conversation as a crucial part of discovering it. It is because of this, that we know that this beatitude isn’t just “blessed are all those that help everyone get along.” The next beatitude is blessed are those that are persecuted that John is going to dive into next week, so we know that this isn’t just about helping people get along, in fact it seems in many cases the opposite might occur.
We don’t like peacemakers. Peacemakers seem to be constantly walking into situations and not taking your side. You desperately just want him on your side, you want him to hate the person along with you, but the peacemaker refuses. We always want people to take our side in every situation. The world has no room for peacemakers because they seem like fence sitters, unable to make up their minds. I would think though, that it is only these people who are just being honest with themselves and reality around them. There is no perfect group to be part of for anything that summarizes everything you believe that you can say I am full on this side and nothing else. To even hold such a stance is ignorant at best.

When the gospel takes root in your life, when these first four beatitudes take root in your life you realize that not everyone or everything fits into these right or wrong, good or bad categories.  You start to see that the people that used to be “them” that you kind of like, you sort of see and understand now and you kind of like them. As this gospel starts to take root in your life, you start to learn to embrace people where they are because you now know that God embraced you where you are. You start to see less sides and more people. So now, peacemakers, don’t pick sides.

“To be a peacemaker means not to judge or condemn or speak badly of people, not to rejoice in any form of ill that may strike them. Peacemaking is holding people gently in prayer, wishing them to be well and free. Peacemaking is welcoming people who are weak and in need, maybe just with a smile, giving them support, offering them kindness and tenderness, and opening our hearts to them. It is welcoming those with whom we may have difficulty or whom we may not especially like, those who are ….. different than us. It is to approach people not from a pedestal, a position of power and certitude, in order to solve problems, but from a place of listening, understanding, humility, and love. When we relinquish power, we become more open to the compassion of God.”
-Jean Vanier
Q: In what you know about the Israel/Palestine conflict, what is happening? What is a proper Christian stance towards this issue?
Bing a peacemaker is part of being surrendered to God, for God brings peace. We abandon the effort to get our needs met through the destruction of enemies. –
Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee
Let me assure you, if we as a church continue to hold a peacemakers stance in conflict like this, we will most certainly eventually end up in the last beatitude of persecution. When you don’t take a side, you tick more people off than if you did take a side. Those that are pro-Israel are going to assume that you are Anti-Israel and Pro-Palestine, even though that is not the case at all. Those that are pro-Palestine will assume you are Pro-Israel and anti-Palestine. I watched this battle happen in comments on this article this week happen. There was an obvious peacemaker in the midst and he was saying over and over again that he didn’t want to see anymore death in this conflict at all. Over and over again the same guy kept attacking him by saying that his arguments lead to wanting a destruction of all Israel.
Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposure creates to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
“There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake.”
— Father Daniel Berrigan
Peacemakers don’t create peace wherever they go. Peacemakers fight for reconciliation and divine peace in every one’s lives; restoring shalom. This doesn’t always make for happy people, but eventually it will make for true peace. God isn’t interested in taking sides and letting one side win, God is interested in everyone coming to terms that they are in need of him and he doesn’t hold your sin against you so you shouldn’t hold anyone else’s against them. Jesus says the opposite actually, he says if you hate them, if you’ve created an “us and them” scenario with someone them, if they are your enemy, then move towards them, pray for them (wish God’s best on someone). This is the role of a peacemaker. They see opposing sides, and they wish God’s best on both sides. They see their enemy with all their flawed personality traits and foolish beliefs and pushes himself to love that person. God causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil, I don’t know how many times we have to keep saying this, he doesn’t pick sides.

Peace isn’t just about two sides tolerating each other. Peace is about two sides recognizing themselves in the other side. Peace is about two sides realizing that they are actually on the same side. Peace is about recognizing the need for the other side.

The peace intended is not merely that of political and economic stability, as in the Greco-Roman world, but peace in the Old Testament inclusive sense of wholeness, all that constitutes well-being. … The “peacemakers,” therefore, are not simply those who bring peace between two conflicting parties, but those actively at work making peace, bringing about wholeness and well-being among the alienated.
Robert A. Guelich
Someone who encourages this type of reality makes enemies on both sides, but they aren’t the same kind of enemies. The guy who says actually you know how you made yourself the angel and that person the demon in that situation, and then he says you might be wrong. Well you get him to be upset because you say he’s not the angel, then you go to the guy that he called the demon and he’s convinced now you are on his side, so that must make him the angel right? Then you say, no you must be wrong, he isn’t going to be too happy either. People don’t fight for their sides because they think they are half right, they fight because they are right and the other person is wrong. The peacemaker sees past that. The peacemaker sees that this is more than just someone being right and wrong, and this is more than there being a good side and a bad side. The peacemaker speaks out against what is wrong on both sides, and uplifts what is right on both sides. The article on Gaza I was talking about earlier was written by Chris Hedges, and this is one of the quotes from it in speaking to Israel. Now note, he is obviously against specific actions of Israel and what they are doing to the Palestinian people, but there is a sense that this isn’t about Israel needs to back off so Gaza can win, rather there is something else going on here.
You may have the bulldozers, planes and helicopters that smash houses to rubble, the commandos who descend from ropes on ships and kill unarmed civilians on the high seas as well as in Gaza, the vast power of the state behind you. We have only our hands and our hearts and our voices. But note this. Note this well. It is you who are afraid of us. We are not afraid of you. We will keep working and praying, keep protesting and denouncing, keep pushing up against your navy and your army, with nothing but our bodies, until we prove that the force of morality and justice is greater than hate and violence. And then, when there is freedom in Gaza, we will forgive … you. We will ask you to break bread with us. We will bless your children even if you did not find it in your heart to bless the children of those you occupied. And maybe it is this forgiveness, maybe it is the final, insurmountable power of love, which unsettles you the most.
– Chris Hedges
This is the Christian response. “We will forgive you.” We love you. Instead of saying I told you so. Instead of fighting with weapons and destroying humanity. We fight for truth and love and then we forgive everyone who was involved. This is a major Christian theme. All through the scriptures God has refused to pick sides. He used people from all nations. When he picked Israel he picked them to bless the other nations, not to pick their sides. Let’s look at Joshua 5.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
This is the message of God’s heart. God is on no one’s side, and neither should we be. We are on the side of truth and peace and love wherever we find it. Many times this will be on the side of our so called enemies.
So peacekeepers are called children of God. What is this all about? It really isn’t that complicated. The God we serve is the God of peace. Through his son, he has brought peace. It is our job to repeat what he has done. So that is what a peacemaker is. Typically royalty and rulers would be called the sons of God. These are ones that would go to war and fight for the rights of their people. They would take a side and through violence try to come out on top. Jesus, like we mentioned before, says whoa there, I’m not into that kind of thing, I’m a peace maker. I don’t want to be your king and take your side. I’m here for all people. Prince of Peace. So if you really want to be true sons of God, not the kinds that win through violence, then you need to be a peacemaker.
Now peacemaking is a divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. … It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the particular blessing which attaches to peacemakers is that “they shall be called sons of God.” For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with his love.
John R. W. Stott
Just like in the story that Kristine told us before hand, this whole idea of making peace comes from actively seeking to do it. Not just looking for conflict and then trying to fix it, but always being aware and always being the hands and feet of Christ to actively bring peace and perspective to all situations for all people. Picking sides is for people who don’t understand their own plight. Picking sides is for those who refuse to see themselves in need of God. Peacemakers are those that make peace through their own humility and need for the other.

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