Will You Be A Peacemaker Or A Peacekeeper?
Updated: May 21
In Matt. 5 Jesus opens His Sermon on the Mount with 9 bestowal of blessings known as the Beatitudes. The invocation of blessedness was and remains common in our communities of faith. They denote Divine approval, favor and protection, and a radical reorienting of one’s identity. But the offering of blessings usually occurs right before a send off, after the delivery of instruction, or at the conclusion of a conversation. In this way Jesus begins with a benediction. And while unconventional, this is just like Jesus to begin with the end in mind.
The Beatitudes are antithetical to what we have come to believe concerning those who we call “blessed” because it situates the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, and pure in heart, the peacemaker and persecuted as the blessed ones.
I want to draw your attention to the peacemakers of verse 9. The blessing ranks 7 among the 9 and is situated between those who are pure in heart, or those who continuously seek to see God Himself and in others, and those who are persecuted because of righteousness. Throughout history the life of the peacemaker has always been one motivated by their genuine and selfless desire for the well-being of God’s creation yet finding themselves enduring hardships, falsely spoken of, and rejected because of their righteous endeavor.
Consider the 3 Hebrew boys, who were thought of as defiant for wanting to engage in their religious freedom and not bow to the Golden Image. This was an act of civil disobedience. It was peacemaking. After healing a man who was blind and could not speak, the Pharisees called Jesus a follower of the prince of demons. He was doing the work of healing and restoration. He was peacemaking. Remember the drum major for justice, Martin King Jr, was called an outside agitator after responding to the injustices happening in Birmingham, AL. He was engaging in non-violent demonstrations. He was peacemaking
As we can see from these few examples, peacemakers have often been misidentified by society as troublemakers and a nuisance. But the blessing that Jesus offers is salvific in this manner. Consider the pattern of His words. They offer us a concise statement of their present reality (blessed ARE those…) and then it moves to a promise that is both now and not yet (for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven, they WILL be called children of God, or WILL inherit the earth)
Jesus is speaking of the inevitable in light of the inconceivable! In other words, How can I be blessed when I stand for righteousness and receive rejection? How can I be blessed when my refusal to be hateful to those who do not worship like me, love like me, or look like me causes people to question my salvation? It is inconceivable how they can be the blessed ones. Yet we know from the text that this group “will be” called the children of God.
But it begs the question...what are they being called now? Right now they are called “troublemakers”; right now they are called “rabble-rousers” and “agitators”. You may be enduring this in your life now. Your wanting a better education for our youth, better healthcare for our seniors, liberty for those falsely accused is conceived by moderate people as problematic. But take heart because God calls you blessed, your efforts are not in vain. Remain pure in heart even when it attracts persecution.
Peacemaking is an intentional, restorative work that involves more than just wanting to live in peace but the work of preserving peace among humanity and God. It is this disruptive, uncomfortable, process of bringing to light what has been thriving in the dark that enables real peace to reside. Peacemakers will not settle for cheap peace; which exists at the expensive of another’s well-being. Peace is not merely a tranquil and quiet feeling but a radical, life-giving reality and we must not mistake the two. When we shy away from taking up our cross and following Jesus we function in the interest of the peace-takers. And when we decide to substitute charity for justice, preferring the maintenance of those in power rather than the freedom of the powerless we become peace-keeprs. Peacemakers are the offspring of God. we must support those who do this work and remind them in the face of grave insult that they are the children of God.
During a campaign speech in 1964 , Fannie Lou Hamer famously asserted “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired…She further states, “We are tired of people saying we are satisfied, because we are anything but satisfied.” What Sis. Fannie is getting at is the ways a false sense of peace has been blanketed to undermine the pain and struggle of her people. They are not in peace. Her work to educate people and get them to vote was the very essence of peacemaking. Jesus refusing to stone someone whose sin was being exploited in order to trap him was the essence of peacemaking. This is why when He comes Matt. 10:34 He brings a sword, but after He’s gone to work, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, disrupting oppressive economies, challenging bigoted authority, John 14:27 He declares “Peace I leave with you!” In other words, before you can leave peace you’ve got to make peace!
Friends, if we want to be blessed we’ve got to be willing to do the work necessary for making peace. God is looking for us to take up the cause of proclaiming the good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free. To do so requires peace making.
We can no longer be content with pretentious peace which thrives at the expense of others pain.
So I ask again, will you be a peacemaker or a peace keeper?’