Stewarding the Beatitudes – #5 Blessed Are The Peacemakers
February 8, 2024
We are in a six-part series looking at the Beatitudes through the lens of our steward theology. Our premise is that the blessed or happy life Jesus is announcing comes through the fully surrendered life of the steward. Each Beatitude depicts an aspect of this stewarded life. To help us, we are considering the correlates to the Beatitudes – what we might call the Bad-Attitudes. This week we will look at verse 9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Miserable are those who create division out of pride, for they will be called children of the enemy.
At first blush this seems to be the most straightforward of all of the Beatitudes. Jesus calls us to make peace in the world and as we do we reflect a God who, through Jesus Christ, made peace with the world. Is there really much more to say about this seemingly succinct and simple text?
Well, yes, quite a bit actually. As we dig deeper, we find that this is may be the most troublesome of all of the Beatitudes. It will require us to stay close to our steward theology and view this text through the owner – steward lens.
The reason this text proves so difficult is both its brevity and its lack of contextual clarity. It sticks out there amongst the Beatitudes both in the uncommon use of language and in the paradoxical historical setting in which it was pronounced. First, to the text.
The Greek word for peacemakers here is εἰρηνοποιοί (eirenopoios). This is the only place in the entire Bible where this word is used. So even to the ears of those gathered on the plain that day this would not be a well-understood term. Why would Jesus use an enigmatic term to make such an important point?
If the text is challenging, the setting is more so. I will dare to say that there was little about Jesus’ ministry up to this point that could be labeled as ‘peaceful’. Quite the opposite. From his birth that brought death to innocent baby boys throughout Bethlehem to rising tensions with both the Romans and the Pharisees, Jesus was stirring things up. And it was about to get so very much worse!
Linda and I are big fans of The Chosen. The powerful writing and acting pull out of the text this sense of upheaval and chaos that happened all around Jesus. While teaching in the temple, you have his direct and brutal confrontation with the Pharisees (read Matthew 23:13-37!), Romans patrolling the crowds ready to arrest him at any moment, zealots angrily yelling for him to start the revolution, sick and dying pushing through the crowd to get near him to be healed, and hecklers jeering at his message. The scene is absolutely chaotic, filled with division, teetering on the brink of violence.
I wonder if someone in the crowd that day thought back to his Sermon on the Mount and remembered Jesus’ words, ‘blessed are the peacemakers’? How jarring the scene must have seemed to them.
But it gets worse. Not long before this Jesus tells his disciples,
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” Matthew 10:34-39.
How do we reconcile much of the life and teachings of Jesus with his blessing on peacemakers? Even calling them children of God?
I believe we must begin by defining what peacemaking is NOT. When we live as owners, we will seek to control the situations in our life. Owners try to manipulate people and processes to maintain their security and safeguard their happiness. From such misplaced ownership motives have come these misguided notions of peacemaking.
- Peacemaking is not appeasement. It is not ‘doing whatever is necessary to keep people happy’. Reconciliation takes intentional engagement, humility, and prayer.
- Peacemaking is not passivism, certainly not in spiritual terms. Paul commands us to ‘put on the full armor of God’. We are in a spiritual battle everyday with the dark forces of this world. If we eschew this teaching under the guise of being peacemakers, we have already been defeated.
- Peacemaking is not achieved by avoiding conflict. If that were so, Jesus failed miserably. In the same way, hard conversations, conflict over seeking the truth and even division caused by seeking to be true to our faith are not sins. Jesus told us plainly that our faith will cause division in our family, friends, and our community. More pointedly, Jesus brought such conflict! If we equate these divisions and conflict as sin, we directly refute Jesus’ words, and his mission.
- Finally, peacemaking is not ‘just getting along’. Too many leaders and pastors preach and teach that anything that upsets the peace of the community is sinful and must be put down immediately. They eschew dissenting points of view and try to navigate carefully through difficult topics so as not to upset anyone. By doing so, they forfeit their role as preachers of the Gospel of Jesus.
Let’s eliminate these counterfeit definitions of peacemaking and let ‘scripture interpret scripture’ (the basic hermeneutical axiom). In doing so we see that there are three kinds of peace: peace from God, peace with God, and the peace of God.
Jesus came from God to be our peace,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” 2 Corinthians 5: 15-19a.
Jesus came to reconcile us and win for us peace with God,
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” Ephesians 2:14-16.
As we live in Jesus, we experience the peace of God,
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” Colossians 3:15.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7.
And the presence of God’s peace is the work of the Holy Spirit,
“Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace” Romans 8:6.
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things” Galatians 5:22-23.
It requires the heart of a steward to be so surrendered to Jesus that we can experience His peace in all these forms. When we read the Beatitude through these steward lenses, I believe we can draw three conclusions.
First, all peacemaking starts from the heart of God, comes through the work of Jesus, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Peacemaking is a trinitarian event.
Second, all work of peacemaking flows out of a heart that is reconciled and at peace. Therefore, peacemaking is less about a process we follow or a technique we learn, but about how we live, speak, and act in the world. We are people who can make peace because we are people at peace. Our BadAttitude reads:
Miserable are those who create division out of pride, for they will be called children of the enemy.
Owners work to protect their pride, and in doing so they cause division. This is not the division Jesus spoke of that turns a man against his father, etc. This is division borne of selfishness that refuses the total surrender of the will to Christ and instead holds on to the pride and selfishness that can only result in discord.
If our hearts are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ, if the fruit of the Holy Spirit is evidenced in our words and deeds, we will be in the right position to be used by God to bring his peace to this world. We can only be peacemakers when it’s not about us.
Finally, we are called unequivocally to this work of peacemaking. Again, we must hear scripture as we close,
“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
“Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit” Ephesians 2:14-18.
May we be peacemakers by pointing the world to the love of God from whom we have our peace, the grace of Jesus with whom we find our peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit in whom we can experience the peace of God that passes all understanding. We are never more the children of God than when we do.