Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,
Jesus blesses the peace-makers. They are the ones who will be called “children of God”.
I love, and I’m challenged by the fact that Jesus blesses the “Peace-Makers” as opposed to “peace-lovers”, or “peace-seekers”, or even “peace-keepers”.
Of course, Jesus’ disciples will also be peace-loving, peace-seeking, and peace-keeping, kind of people. But peace-making is a step above those other good things.
There’s a difference, you know, between being an art-lover and an art-maker. The art lover strolls through the gallery, admiring the colours and the shapes. The art maker labours in the studio, piecing together the colours and the shapes.
Peace-makers are creators. They do more than long and pray for peace. They make peace.
Context is important for understanding all the beatitudes. But its definitely important for understanding this beatitude.
Recall that prior to preaching the sermon on the mount, Jesus was preaching his way around the sea of Galilee. His main message: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.”
What did Jesus mean with this announcement? Essentially he was announcing that the reign of God was fast approaching. The old order was passing away, and God’s new thing was on the rise.
This is a little hard to understand, but there’s a simplicity to it, I think.
Here’s an example that might help. Some of you lived through World War Two. And during that time, you lived under the reign of the Nazis. But then one day, you heard rumours that the Canadian Soldiers were approaching. The good news started to circulate in your village. You got ready. And then, one day they came! And you experienced the sweet taste of liberation.
This is Jesus’ message. Liberation day is at hand, he’s saying. The Kingdom of God is moving in. Believe it, and get ready for it.
So, prior to preaching the Beatitudes, Jesus announces that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But what kind of Kingdom is God’s Kingdom? What is God’s platform? What is God’s agenda?
In a word, its peace. Shalom.
We hear rumours and catch glimpses of this Kingdom in the Old Testament. For instance, in Isaiah 11, we read:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. [The result] The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them… Isaiah 11:1-9
So, a day is coming, says Isaiah, where one from the line of Jesse, will sit on King David’s throne. He will rule righteously, and the result will be peace like we’ve never seen before. The New Testament writers identity Jesus as that coming King.
Isaiah 2 contains a similar picture:
In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains… and the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come let us go up the mountain of the Lord… He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
He [the Lord] will judge between the nations and settle disputes… They [the people] will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:1-4
Swords into plowshares. Weapons of war into weapons of well-being. That’s a picture of peace. All because God’s mountain was raised up, and because the nations came to the learn from him art of peacemaking.
Now there’s a connection between Isaiah 2, and the sermon on the mount. Recall that Jesus is preaching the sermon on the mount, from a mount. He’s up on a hill. And the nations are coming to listen. And there, Jesus instructs the people in the ways of peace.
The sermon on the mount, is God’s peace-making manifesto.
Peace. in English, we tend to think of peace in two ways. Firstly, we think of it as the absence of war. And secondly, we think of it as an inner, tranquil, disposition. (I’m at peace, we say.)
The biblical concept includes these two dimensions, but it’s much richer.
Frederick Dale Bruner says: We can almost translate the keyword “peacemakers” with the word “wholemakers.” Peace in Scripture is a situation of comprehensive welfare…. [Shalom] means communal well-being in every direction and in every relation.” Frederick Dale Bruner, pg 179.
So back to my little, happy, stick figure, diagram. Shalom is a state of total peace. Shalom is when all these relationships are rightly related and harmonious.
Now, Peacemaking, from a biblical perspective, is God’s work, primarily.
We couldn’t have peace like a river attending our soul, for instance, if it were not for Christ’s, once and for all, sacrifice on the cross. Its only through Jesus, Paul says, that we come to have peace with God.
And we couldn’t have peace with one another in the body of Christ, if Jesus had not torn down the walls of hostility. Jews and gentiles, slave and free, male and female—these groups didn’t associate with each other in the Roman world. But they did in the community of Jesus. This is God’s work.
And its also true that we won’t experience the fullness of Shalom until Jesus returns. In this broken and bleeding world, wholeness will always remain illusive. Nation will continue to take up sword again nation. People will pollute the earth. Relationships with others and our own-selves will fall apart. For Christians, true, lasting peace will only be established when the true King returns.
So God is the primary peacemaker. And yet, we have a roll to play too. We are called to live into the agenda of our King.
So what does this look like for you to turn swords into plowshares? How do we live into this calling. Here are four practical applications.
1: Well, I think it starts with keeping the Vision Alive and clear. That picture that Isaiah gives us, of the lion lying down with the lamb. That is our destiny. This is what life looks like when God’s will is done and his Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
Life with God is not life in the clouds—eating cream cheese. His vision is wholeness. A renewed heaven and earth. We need to keep this vision clear, so that we can be peace-lovers and peace-seekers. Desiring it, comes before making it.
Peacemaking starts in the imaginative vision laid out in Isaiah and the Psalms. Don’t allow God’s vision to become clouded over with the distractions of life. Make God’s will your treasure, and you will become a peace-maker.
2: Alignment. Take stock of your own life and relationships. What doesn’t fit the vision? Where is there dissonance? Or Discontinuity.
I remember in High School I would occasionally play a video game called “Grand Theft Auto”. The basic idea of the game was to steal cars, and then race away through the busy streets of some city. Pedestrians were often run over in the process. We’d laugh about it.
This past summer, a man played a real life version of grand theft auto in Toronto. Bodies went flying. Its no laughing matter.
Now, I can’t even watch someone else play a game like that. Maybe its time for you to put away grand theft auto, some other gratuitously violent game. Is Mario Kart still around? Play Mario Kart instead.
And what relationships might need attention in your life. Peacemaking is not just for governments, you know? How are your relationships with your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends, people within the Church.
Is there any un-forgiveness in you? Are you nursing a grudge?
Forgiveness is heartbreaking, heavy lifting work. But it is the strongest weapon we have in war against war.
Jesus says, Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. I think we could use some re-alignment in that area.
I watched a Ted Talk the other day. It was given by Ozlem Cekic, a female muslim politician in Denmark. She receives hate mail everyday. She used to just delete it. But now she responds and asks for a coffee break. She has had hundreds of coffee dates with people send her nasty emails. Wow… she may not be a Christian, but she is a peacemaker.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book called Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High.
One of the helpful things I’ve learned from this book, is that avoiding hard conversation is not a good peacemaking strategy. Avoidance produces a temporary peace, but that peace is skin deep.
Its better to have the crucial conversation now, even if that conversation happens to temporarily rock the peace of the group.
But in order to do that, everyone needs to grow their capacity for dialogue.
But think about it. If we could grow our capacity for dialogue—if I could model and teach my children how to have a hard conversation, and stay connected—that’s going to make a difference in our broken and disconnected world.
Alignment. What doesn’t fit the vision that you need to repent of? And what skill or tools do you need to acquire in order to peace-make in your own life.
Why might this be essential? Well, as Christians we believe that no peace is full or complete until the peace that passes understanding takes root.
The root cause of violence in this broken world is not ruthless dictators or weapon hoarding governments. The root cause is the human heart, living in rebellion against the living God.
I know that Christians have not always been model peace-makers in our mission to share the gospel. We have much evil to confess.
But we shouldn’t stop sharing.
A few years ago, an indigenous Navajo woman addressed the CRC synod in Grand Rapids. She was raised in a former CRC residential school down in Rehoboth, New Mexico. In her talk, she mentioned the things about her experience that were not good.
But then she continued to talk about the way that God had impacted her life through the people at Rehoboth Christian School. She named them all. These people are not my oppressors, she said, they are my brothers and sisters. They introduced me to Jesus.
There’s a priceless treasure in the story we tell. My Peace I give to you, Christ said to his disciples. Its a peace that the world doesn’t understand. This is the peace that comes from knowing that we belong, in life and in death, to our faithful saviour Jesus Christ.
And what’s more, our evangelistic efforts help the peacemaking efforts by making more peacemakers.
I mean, think about William Wilberforce—the leader of the abolitionist movement in England.
Wilberforce didn’t care much for God. He was interested in building a name for himself. But then, through conversations with his friend, Isaac Milner, and a priest named John Newton, Wilberforce’s experienced the peace of Christ.
He thought about becoming a priest, leaving politics behind. But Newton encouraged Wilberforce to stay in politics. Wilberforce did. And instead of building up his own name, he spent the rest of his career fighting the slave trade. That was his way of making peace.
None of that would have happened, if Isaac Milner would have kept his faith to himself.
So, 1) keep the vision clear, 2) align your life with the vision, 3) share your Faith, and finally, 4) How could you be a peacemaker in all the other areas of your life?
Work, Financial Stewardship, Creation Care.
The offering song we sung today, was called “Day by Day”. Did you see how it dignified all kinds of different jobs. Painter, you are teaching us to see. Labourer, you lift a heavy burden for the week. Nurse, yours are the healing hands that touch the poor and broken.
You can nudge this world towards shalom, you know, just by doing your job to the glory of God.
Similarly, you can nudge this world towards shalom, by donating your money and time to organizations that fight poverty and corruption. And in the world, you can tread lightly. Make it your goal to eliminate waste in your house. Limit your pollution. Ride your bike. Compost your food scraps.
I mean. These things. There so small. But we don’t need to focus on the results. The point is to live a peace-making life. To pursue wholeness.
Peace-making is not just for the people in power. Its not just for those who serve our country in uniform. All who belong to the prince of peace, are called to create in the studio of peace.