If you were to ask a random person on the street if they like peace, chances are the answer would be yes. In fact, most people would probably wish for world peace, and yet the world around us just doesn’t seem to reflect that this is a desire of most people. The reason is that, most of the time, a desire for peace is conditional.
“I’m willing to make peace as long as I get my way.”
“I’m willing to live in harmony with that person as long as they come over to my political point of view.”
“I’m willing to reconcile with him as long as he apologizes first.”
Each of these statements has a condition, meaning that peace is contingent upon the other person doing something first. But Jesus’ next Beatitude in Matthew 5:9 is not conditional. He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Notice that there is no as long as statement, or anything of the like. He simply says, blessed are the peacemakers.
To really wrap our minds around what Jesus is trying to communicate here, it’s important to make a distinction. Jesus was not saying that one way to become a child of God is to be a peacemaker. If that were so, then we would be able to earn this status by our actions. Rather, Jesus is saying that children of God are in fact peacemakers. How does this work?
First, God is the ultimate peacemaker. While we were still His enemies, by our own choice, he made a way for reconciliation through Jesus. He bridged the gap even though we were the ones who chose to create the gap. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, “God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in him, 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” (Colossians 1:19-20). God provided Jesus as a way of making peace with us.
Those who have accepted this free gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ have become children of God, and children of God take on the nature of their Father. Just like my son takes on some of my physical features, my personality, my tendencies, my characteristics, I take on characteristics of God when He becomes my Father. This is accomplished when God’s Spirit comes to dwell inside of me and begins to bear fruit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). God’s peace-making nature begins to work its way out of me.
It’s then that Paul’s words in Romans, Chapter 12 begin to make sense to me. Paul says, “Do not repay evil with evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone...do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18, 21). From this, we can see several practical elements of engaging the peace-making nature of God.
First, Paul says two wrongs don’t make a right. Children of God do not repay evil with evil despite the reality that the world often operates in this way. By human nature, we love the idea of retribution. If someone wrongs us, we want to see wrong done to them, and even celebrate it and call it karma. Again, this is where the world says they love peace, but at the first opportunity will repay evil with evil. Peacemakers don’t seek retribution, they seek reconciliation.
Secondly, with regards to being an agent of peace, Paul says if it is possible. This must mean that there are times when peace is not possible. Indeed, full reconciliation requires the participation of all parties involved. Unfortunately, there are going to be those people who are just unwilling to be reconciled, especially if they aren’t yet children of God. To those people, you may always be the enemy, but that does not mean that they should be your enemy. A peacemaker longs for peace, works for peace, and sacrifices for peace even when it seems as if peace is not possible.
Paul continues this statement by saying, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you. You may not be able to change other people, but you can choose how you are going to respond. Remember that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He recognized that peace depended on Him because we weren’t going to change, and so He took action. Likewise, we should take action by praying for our enemies and being kind to them even if they aren’t going to reciprocate. Peacemakers are bridge builders.
Finally, Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
.” How in the world are we to live at peace with everyone? Right there is the problem – this doesn’t come from the world. It comes from God’s Spirit living inside of us and the wisdom that He gives us has His children. Remember that we have the capacity to be peacemakers. It’s up to us to engage it. James tells us that wisdom, given through the Holy Spirit, is the foundation of peace (James 3:13-18). So we should seek this wisdom in order to know how to truly live at peace with everyone, even those who consider us enemies.
Join us this weekend as we dig deeper into what God’s Word says about these truths. Saturday evening at 5:30 PM and Sunday morning at 10:30 AM.