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SM #8: Peacemaking & the Ministry of Mending (Part 1)

Updated: Feb 18

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ~ JESUS (Matthew 5:9)

NOTE: We now arrive at the best known and most quoted Beatitude, and we will divide this study into two parts.

Also a reminder: These 1820 studies probably work best for readers if spaced out over several days, taking time to read over, meditate on, and pray through the listed Scriptures, and then taking time to discuss and apply what we're learning together in the context of a few close relationships. See our 1820 study called "The Sermon on the Mount: An Invitation" for more on how to get the most out of these writings.

CORE (The heart of the message):

Peacemaking goes beyond being nonviolent to actively engaging in the work of mediation and reconciliation between hostile people with broken relationships. When we do the work of peacemaking we are most God-like, who became Emmanuel and gave his life to bring peace between us.

CONFESSION (Personal reflection):

I confess that I am a passive person by disposition. I am a natural passivist (which is different than being a pacifist – keep reading). My natural passivity can make it easier for me to avoid initiating arguments and other conflicts (that’s good), but it holds me back from being an active peacemaker (that’s bad). True peacemaking is not passive, but active. Jesus calls his disciples to true pacifism: that is, pacify-ism – to be actively and energetically engaged in peace-bringing.

Think of a pacifier or soother that parents give their crying babies. To pacify is to actively bring peace, to sooth troubled emotions (or relationships).

Over the years, and especially recently, I have gotten to know some true pacifiers, real peacemakers, and I am amazed at the active energy they bring into a situation where hostility, misunderstanding, and malice have created a rift in relationship. They take initiative, work hard, and apply their creativity, all for the goal of helping to mend broken brotherhood and sisterhood. These Jesusy peacemakers may or may not be publicly noticed for their peacemaking efforts. Most often, I find they are working behind the scenes, quietly but intentionally mending misunderstandings, soothing unreasonable outrage, and arranging mini-reunions. They are the opposite of gossips, slanderers, and piously judgemental religionists who seem to emotionally feed on the drama of division. Instead, peacemakers go between opposing parties, helping each side better understand the other’s perspective a little better. They work to get people talking. And they bathe every interaction with patience and grace.

I have so much to learn about peace-making, so I share this post as a fellow struggler, overwhelmed by the task ahead, but also excited to learn and grow in Christlikeness.

One thing I am learning is that I am more ready for the task of peacemaking when my inner life, my mental and emotional world, is peace-full.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are focused on you, because they trust in you. ~ The prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 26:3)

The phrase “perfect peace” in this passage above is actually just a repetition of the Hebrew word for peace: “shalom shalom”. It seems to me that when we are Jesus-focused, Jesus-centred, Jesus-obsessed, when we focus our minds on his heart, his life, and his teachings (like we’re doing right here and right now!), we are moving toward the experience of a peace so real and so wonderful we’ve got to say it twice: peace peace!

This has been my own experience. Like many of you, I have had some difficult days lately. (A sentence that wins the understatement of the year award.) And doing the research for and writing these 1820 studies, then discussing them with friends and taking notes on what I learn through them, then returning to edit the studies, and all the while praying to meet Jesus here, has become a spiritual practice in keeping my heart and mind focused on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). It has been lifegiving in the middle of a storm of confusion and shame.

Just saying to myself “Don’t be depressed” or “Keep your chin up” or “You’ve got a lot to be thankful for” or a thousand other well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual phrases, does little to displace the darkness and let in the light. But giving my mind the bright focus of the Son of God, to actually apply my thinking energy to the study of, understanding of, and delight in Jesus, and to do all of this alongside sisters and brothers who bring unique insights and experiences to the table – this all makes it hard to stay in the darkness and brings a kind of transcendent peace.

So I can attest by experience that the saying is true: Keeping our minds fixed on Jesus – his life and his teachings – can bring us peace in the middle of the storm.

CONTEXT (What’s going on before and after this passage):

Jesus has begun his Sermon on the Mount with a series of beautiful blessings before ever giving a command, demand, or direction. Grace comes first, and we are meant to remember this later when the Sermon sets the standards high.

Later in this sermon Jesus will teach more about what active peacemaking might look like. It involves absorbing the violent attitudes and actions of others and responding with nonviolent enemy-love that includes serving their needs in practical ways. Jesus’ commitment to peacemaking is a central theme to his ministry and later his disciples’ ministry – both reconciling us to God and enemies to each other. [See our 1820 study called “SM #6: Mercy Me” for more on the absolute necessity for this kind of ministry in the first generation of disciples.]

Peace is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and peacefulness is one of the ways we recognize what is really real and truly true. God's wisdom is peaceful, as James teaches...

The wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure; then peaceful, considerate, cooperative, full of mercy and good fruit, without judgmentalism or hypocrisy. Peacemakers who sow in peace produce the fruit of righteousness. ~ The apostle James (James 3:17)

Peace, peacefulness, and peacemaking are important to God and should be to us.

Jesus, the Son of God, is the ultimate peacemaker (Colossians 1:20), giving his life to unite us with God. So when we work for peace, we are most like the child of God we were meant to be.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. ~ The apostle Paul (Colossians 1:19-22; also see Romans 5:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

What an amazing context for our own ministry of mending. We'll talk more about Jesus as the ultimate peacemaker in part 2 of this study. For now it is worth remembering that we are called to be peacemakers because we follow the Peacemaker par excellence.

CONSIDER (Observations about the passage):

Blessed. The Greek word here translated “blessed” (makarios) means something like fortunate or flourishing. It’s like our English word “lucky” but without the randomness that luck suggests. We could translate it “God has made lucky those who” or “God’s favour is upon those who” or “Flourishing are those who”, but “Blessed” probably still works best, as long as we remember that it points to a Blesser behind the blessing. The word carries a connotation of communication, exhortation, declaration, and congratulation. That is, the translation might be more literally “Blessings upon…” or “God blesses”, the way we might say “Bless you” when someone sneezes, but with real power to make the wish a reality. The blessings come from somewhere and Someone. Also remember the blessings are a present reality, right here and right now, even if a future fulfillment is hoped for. [For more on this, see our first 1820 study on the Beatitudes called "SM #2: A Kingdom of Beggars".]

Peacemakers. This is a literal translation of the compound Greek word (eirénopoios), which is, just as in English, the word for peace (eiréné) plus the word for making or producing (poieó). Although “peace” is a common biblical word (used approximately 400 times in the Bible!), this compound noun “peacemakers” is only used once, and this is it (and in verb form in Colossians 1:20). This Greek word for peace (eiréné, pronounced: i-ray'-nay) literally means to join, to tie together into a whole. When all the essential and proper parts are together, there is peace, or wholeness, completeness. In relationships, therefore, a peacemaker is a person who expends their energy on the work of reconciliation and unity. A peacemaker is a wholeness-maker. A peacemaker glues together the broken pieces. A peacemaker is a net-mender [see our first 1820 study, “A Mercy-Full Church”, for more on net-mending.] The shepherd who pursues and brings home the one lost sheep is creating a whole flock again. This is peacemaking. The Greek word for peace is similar to the Hebrew word shalom (the root of salem, in Jerusalem, the City of Peace). Again, shalom conceives of peace in deeper terms than just the absence of conflict, but the presence of harmony, unity, and wholeness. Shalom conveys the picture of an unbroken circle of relationship. In his excellent book on the Beatitudes, Darrell Johnson, a Presbyterian scholar, writes: "Shalom is a psychosomatic, relational, economic, racial, and spiritual wholeness." So Christ-followers are called to be active agents of wholeness, not just pious sin-avoiders or nonviolent passivists. And in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Stanley Hauerwas, an Anabaptist theologian, writes: “The community that Jesus calls into existence cannot be determined by what it avoids.” To be a peacemaker, a shalom-maker, is to be an active, energetic, enthusiastic, risk-taking relationship-rebuilder.

Called. Jesus doesn’t say who it is that will call peacemakers God’s children, and this is probably his way of keeping it all inclusive – God himself will identify peacemakers as his kids, but so will others who notice something uniquely divine in their activity (also see 5:44-45).

Children. The word here is actually “sons” and this is significant in three ways:

1) EQUALITY. In Jesus’ day, only a son had particular rights and privileges, and only a son could inherit the wealth and land of the family. We know from the rest of Jesus’ teaching and example (and other New Testament teaching) that this promise is for both male and female followers, so giving both men and women the promise of being called “sons” of God is actually a way of subverting the system and granting equal status to women alongside men. Without this knowledge, a literal translation of “sons” might be misunderstood as exclusionary to women, so the translation “children” has been preferred by many translators.

2) IDENTITY. Calling his disciples “sons of God” is significant in another way: this was what the Hebrew Bible called the nation of Israel (e.g., Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 1:10). Jesus is inviting all people, including and especially his Jewish followers, to find their identity first and foremost as citizens of his new kingdom, and children in his new universal family (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 2:19). Also, “Son of God” was a Roman title reserved for the emperor. Jesus is speaking quite highly of all of his peacemaking disciples (more on this below).

3) RESEMBLANCE. Lastly, the word “sons” connotes similarity, family resemblance with our heavenly Father. We are most God-like when we bring peace to people and people to peace. Jesus will make this same point later (Matthew 5:43-45) where he says that when we actively and energetically love our enemies we are most like our heavenly Father who does precisely that every day. To be a peacemaker is to be “a chip off the old block”.

God. The word “God” (Greek, theos) refers to the energy force that has created and currently sustains the universe (Genesis 1; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16-17). God is our atmosphere within which we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). God is our source, our sustainer, and our goal – the one we have come from, live in, and are returning to (Revelation 21-22). This God is personal (being a person, not just an impersonal power, thing, or concept) and relational (interacting within and beyond God’s own self). Because God always wants to bring together in wholeness whatever is broken apart, peace is a primary identity-marker of God (Romans 15:33; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). Ultimately, God is love (1 Corinthians 13:11; 1 John 4:8, 16). Jesus will go on in the Sermon on the Mount and other teaching to help us relate to this God as our Father, our Dad. [For more on the biblical concept of “God” see our previous 1820 study called "SM #7: Seeing God".]

COMMENTARY (Thoughts about meaning and application):

This Beatitude reveals the extent of Jesus’ subversive spirituality. The Roman emperors called themselves two things that Jesus now calls his disciples: "peacemakers" and "sons of God". And when the emperor made a pronouncement about the good they were bringing the people of their kingdom, that message was called the “gospel” (Greek, euangelion). Are you catching this? Jesus, the real king of an alternative kingdom, the real emperor of an alternative empire, announces his “gospel” (a royal pronouncement): that all his citizens are called to be peacemakers and sons of God. In first-century Roman-occupied Israel, this kind of message could get a guy crucified. Jesus is elevating and honouring everyone in the kingdom of heaven on earth with the honour people usually reserved for the emperors. Wowza.

When we understand that the biblical meaning of “peace” (Hebrew, shalom; Greek; eiréné) emphasizes the idea of wholeness, then we see how peacemaking means actively mending rips in relationships. Peacemaking means bringing resolution and reconciliation where people are separated by sin, selfishness, shame, misunderstanding, genuine disagreement, and historical hostility.

Peacemaking is central to how we give and live the Gospel. The apostle Paul calls the Good News message of Jesus “the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

Peacemaking happens whenever we:

  1. Help non-believers UNDERSTAND the Gospel of Peace through evangelism (our focus in part-2).

  2. Help believers APPLY the Gospel of Peace by working with them to mend broken relationships (our focus in this study).

As we talk about in the first 1820 study on this site, A Mercy-Full Church, sin is always separating. Grace is always restoring. All relationships that involve imperfect people are continually being pulled apart through the many ongoing micro-offenses caused by countless daily micro-aggressions, micro-omissions, and/or micro-misunderstandings. And these many micro-offenses must be met with an endless flow of micro-mercies to maintain the health and unity of any relationship.

Then there are times that the “micro” becomes “macro” and significant failure causes deep hurt and heart-wrenching relational ruptures. These relational disasters become “go time” for peacemakers. These situations of catastrophic relational rift are where Jesus-followers are meant to rush toward.

Let us therefore chase hard after what leads to peace and to building one another up. ~ The apostle Paul (Romans 14:17-19)

Jesus-followers are not just called to be merely peace-loving, peace-wanting, peace-wishing, or peace-living. Jesus calls us to go beyond being peaceful in our own relationships, to being peacemaking, which is thoroughly social and reaches out to help other people resolve their disputes. Peacemakers are peace-producers, shalom-labourers. They are ready to move into the breach between people and work with everyone involved to bring about repentance, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, and restoration. And for Jesus, the ends and the means, the goal and the methods used to achieve that goal, always align. We don’t use violence to achieve peace, and we don’t use division to achieve shalom.

Peacemaking is an active entrance into the middle of warring parties for the purpose of creating reconciliation. … The peacemaker, as the person whom Jesus blesses, seeks to reconcile – not by pretending there are no differences or by suppressing differences, but by creating love of the other that transcends differences or that permits the people to join hands in spite of differences. ~ Scot McKnight (Sermon on the Mount)

Peacemakers are always mending the nets of relationship, which not only benefits the church community, but also benefits the world around us, because it prepares us for evangelism (the focus of our next post).

We can’t catch fish in torn nets.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Mend what is torn, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. ~ The apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 13:11)

CONTEMPLATE (Scripture passages that relate to and deepen our understanding of this topic):

Psalm 34:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; 26:3; 32:16-18; Zechariah 9:9-10; Luke 2:13-14; Romans 5:1-10; 12:14-21; 14:17-19; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 13:11; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 2:14-22; Philippians 4:4-9; Colossians 1:19-23; 3:15; Hebrews 12:14; James 3:17-18; 1 Peter 3:9-11 (For bonus study, read all of Romans 14 to see how the apostle Paul helps early Christians mend their relational rifts regarding the ethics of buying and eating meat that had been already used in pagan sacrificial services.)

CONVERSATION (Talk together, learn together, grow together):

  1. What is God revealing to you about himself through this passage?

  2. What is God showing you about yourself through this passage?

  3. Can you identify some powerful peacemakers (or their opposites) in your life? Talk about examples and their effect on you.

  4. What is one thing you can think, believe, or do differently in light of what you are learning?

  5. What questions are you still processing about this topic?

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1 comentario

That was far too convicting! But thank you...I needed to hear that. The small offences or disappointments, if they are not met with Jesus-mercy, have a sneaky way of becoming the ground for huge rifts and generational pain and trauma, not to mention a doorway to Satan's work.

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