Most of us want peace. Very few of us are willing to make it. If we breeze through the Beatitudes, we might mistake peacemaking for a passive quality, one possessed by people who mind their own business. Their virtue is found primarily in avoiding conflict. But that is certainly not Jesus’ intended teaching. A peacemaker does not avoid conflict. A peacemaker engages conflict—not to inflame it, but to resolve it. A peacemaker is one whose posture is primarily active; relentless in the pursuit of justice, harmony, repentance, and reconciliation. The life of Jesus, the supreme peacemaker, reveals how difficult and dangerous this work often is.
Who are these peacemakers among us today, and how can we join their blessed number? The peace-making envisioned and embodied by Christ has two orientations: toward God and toward man. Follow-ing in the footsteps of their master, the citizens of Christ’s kingdom are called to labor with both aims before them. Most basically, peacemakers are those who proclaim and apply the gospel in evangelism and in conflict resolution. If we would join their ranks, we must hone our skill in applying the good news to every conflict situation.
To find success in this endeavor, we must operate from a place of personal peace and reconciliation with God. Only in possession of this gracious gift can the peacemaker endeavor to bring peace to others. Having tasted and seen that God is good, they find that their heart’s greatest desire is for others to enjoy peace with God and those around them.
Christ’s words are a helpful corrective for those of us who are energized by the prospect of theological debate but bored by the thought of personal reconciliation. Jesus indeed warned that His truth would bring strife, but the heart of His mission was peacemaking. If we have found peace with God, the pursuit of peace with and for others should be a central aim of ours as well.
This is not work that can be accomplished in our own strength. Peace can only flourish where there is deep and lasting change within hearts. The free and undeserved grace that secured our peace with God is the same grace needed to make peace in the hearts of others. Remember this as you agonize over conflict between loved ones and God or among members of your church and community. Grace is what is needed. Bathe your peacemaking efforts in prayer. Ask God to honor your imperfect work for the sake of the supremely faithful Son.
The blessing promised to peacemakers is the remarkable approbation sons of God. In the preceding chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we witnessed the baptism of Jesus, during which God proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” Now Jesus offers a very similar title to the citizens of His kingdom. What an encouragement this is. Peacemaking is not only hard; it is blessed.
Rooted firmly in the peace made by Christ, today’s peacemakers must look to His life as a model. His peacemaking earned Him the hatred of religious leaders and the derision of His family. His peacemaking led Him to a garden, not for quiet repose, but for midnight wrestling; not for cool refreshment, but an overflowing cup of almighty wrath. His peacemaking led Him to a cross. It led Him to outer darkness.
It also led Him to a crown, a throne, and a people from every tribe and tongue and nation. This is the lot of peacemakers. Their bodies are scarred and they have been despised, but their harvest is full and their title is no cause for shame. They shall be called sons of God.