7 April 2013
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9 ESV)
If you are paying close attention to the news you will find that there ever is some war going on. Right now we have troops in Afghanistan and have recently sent planes and ships to Korea. We hear of the rebellions in the Middle East, especially in Syria. We hear of these wars and battles so often that we are accustomed to them, too accustomed. Wars are common place to us, at least as they are happening throughout the world. Though there are organizations that exist to promote, instill, create, etc. peace, those attempts are elusive. World War 1, was known in its time as the "war to end all wars". It was followed by the "League of Nations" which would resolve territorial disputes without war. Then World War 2, The United Nations, and many wars since show humanities failure to find peace even when we strive for it.
This is also true in our own lives and in the communities in which we live. Though we do not have guns often pointed at us, we are ever at war with others around us. Perhaps people in your class are dealing with strife in their home, with their children, with their jobs. All of us have these man-to-man battles we face weekly. Still yet, we find that we battle within ourselves. Inner conflict sometimes leaves us depressed, wrecked, and uncertain where to turn. These are things with which we all find in common and because of that we all are in search of one thing: peace.
We would like to see peace from the wars in the world and the wars in our lives. John MacArthur accurately speaks of worldly peace, "Peace is merely that brief glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload." (MacArthur, 136) We all would like to find peace, sometimes at whatever the cost. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that it proclaims a peace to come to all mankind too. There is a strong correlation between the good news of Jesus Christ and attainable peace in this world. This is why the seventh beatitude says, "blessed are the peacemakers." This morning we are going to look at what this verse means and how we can have peace in our lives.
Sin is Our Impediment to Peace
There is an innate desire for peace in every person. When we find those brief moments of peace, we exhale and try to make it last. Commercials even capture that moment with the slogan "Calgon take me away". It can be said that there are some people so contentious they are always looking for a fight. But if we were to ask that person, perhaps their answer would be that they were trying resolve all conflict in their life; they were trying to achieve peace. That desire to seek peace come from the subtle awareness that we do not belong here. It is the realization that something in this world is not right. This only points to the reality of the biblical message. In Genesis we see that God created the world and saw it good. (Gen 1:31). It was at peace, there was no conflict. It is also true in Revelation that at the end of all things there will be peace again (Rev 21:4). It is clear that God intends for us to be at peace.
The real problem for peace is that the world is utterly opposed to it. It is against peace because of sin within it. As soon as sin entered the world in Genesis 3 we wiped away every notion of peace from our histories. Mankind closed himself off from a relationship with God and a relationship with others. His inner attentions turned from doing the will of God to doing only as he pleases. This is the nature of sin and as such it is not surprising to see that it is against all that is peaceful. For a man who only looks to himself and his interests (the true life of the sinner) can never find peace for he will always be working against others.
Sin is the real impediment to peace in our lives. If we are to achieve peace in this life we must find a way to overcome sin. This is indeed a real problem. In Isaiah 48:22 it says, "'There is no peace,' says the Lord, 'for the wicked.'" If we are to be people who live in peace, we must find an end to the sin in our lives, for sin is ever roadblock to peace.
Christ is The Giver of Peace
For many of us the declaration of sin as an impediment to peace is as obvious as the second point that Christ is the great giver of peace. However, lest we gloss over this point too quickly let me ask, if we know the problem and the solution to finding peace, why then do many of us still long for peace? The answer is that we still struggle with the knowledge of Christ as the giver of peace. So, let us not move too quickly over the point of our need for Jesus as the bringer and giver of peace in our lives.
For us to understand the peacemaking we are to do we must understand the way in which peace is connected to Jesus. In Isaiah 9:6 we are given the picture of Christ, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." In this messianic prophecy we see that the very nature of Christ will entail peace, and not just any peace, but all peace. For it is in Christ, as the prince of peace, that is the fountainhead of all peace. No peace comes apart from Christ. In another prophecy we see this function of peace in Christ's work:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zech 9:9-10)
It is no wonder that the Jews thought of the Messiah as a conquering hero for them, but in that they miss his type of peace. He comes not riding a war-horse, but a donkey. His peace is not through force, as with the Romans, but through a different plan. The first appearance of Messiah is for reconciliation through sacrifice rather than conquest.
The ultimate peace that Jesus has brought to us is through His work on the cross and the resurrection. He knew our biggest obstacle to peace is sin, and in defeating it on the cross he gained peace for us. As Paul tells us, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1) or "and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col 1:20). What we must not miss in this is that in order to gain peace that comes from Christ, the only peace there truly is, we must attain it in similar ways that he did. He suffered and died, so too do we. Maybe we do not suffer and die ultimately, but everyday we suffer and die for our faith, we die to sin, we die to our wills, wants, and desires, and we live for God's. For in conforming our minds and hearts to God's will (something for which the progression of all these beatitudes trains us) we are able to attain peace from Christ, because when we are in His will we are at the place where He grants it. Whereas the more sin we allow into our lives the more conflict we invite.
Christians are the Promoters for Peace
With that foundation laid, we may ask so what? What are we to do now? We have the knowledge that we need Jesus' peace, but what are we to do with it? This is the main thrust of the beatitude. We are happy when we are peacemakers. We are happy when we are making peace. This is an adjective and it modifies our actions. This verse is not just encouraging us to be peaceful, rather it is encouraging us to make peace (something altogether different and perhaps even un-peaceful at times). It is as the NLT says, "Those who work for peace." It is an activity we must engage in. So how do we make peace?
First, in order for us to make peace, we must do so evangelistically. If we are to understand that peace only comes through the overcoming of sin in the world, and that only through Christ, then our first duty to make peace in the world is to take that message of peace to the world. We are to sow the gospel and in doing so we are sowing peace. This mandate is in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, and in Acts 1:8. By doing the work of an evangelist we are providing peace for people at the same time. This is the will of God for us. Another way of being a peace maker is found in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20:
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
When we were reconciled to God in Jesus Christ we found peace, and it is God's will for us to take that reconciliation to the world so that they too can find peace in God.
Another way to look at how we promote peace is in our everyday actions. Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
Hebrews says, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14). We are to try to find peace with all. This means our co-workers, our bosses, our spouses, our children, and even our n-laws. The way in which we do this is with our everyday actions. Too often we get irritated at the people around us. We become bitter and angry and we do not live at peace with them. We have already noted that peace comes through God and especially through His righteousness. It is that righteousness that we are to seek daily, but we also know that "for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (Jas 1:20). We must strive to find peace with all men daily. Later on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt 5:23-24). We must decide to seek forgiveness and in that we find peace.
We also must act, at times, for the benefit of others. If we see that there is strife in our family or friends we should find ways to aide peace in these situations. This does not mean that we have the license to stick our noses with they do not belong, but it does mean that if believe we can help people find reconciliation we need to do so. Though this sometimes means that we must engage in suffering in order for others to find peace, we must seek it out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this best, "Peacemakers will bear the cross with their Lord, for Peace was made at the cross." (Discipleship)
We must be people who strive for peace, even at our expense, because Jesus Christ acquired peace for us with the greatest cost.
Sons of God are the Recipients of Peace
Finally, we come to the promise for those who are making peace in the world: "for they shall be called sons of God." This is an important part of this verse and we must forget it in our discussions of peace and making peace. As we first look at this phrase we must note that the appropriate translation is "sons of God" as opposed to older translations "children of God." There is a word for child tekna but this verse uses the word for sons huios. There is a difference between these two words, especially in relation to God. "Children of God" has a connotation of position, and affection. It is true that we are adopted (Romans 8:15) and that we have the love of God, but that is not what this verse is getting at. The term "Sons of God" has the force of character, dignity, and honor. When we are called the sons of God we are likened to God himself, and not just as a member of His family; meaning we readily see the Father in the Son.
Later on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus explains this sonship:
You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)
The important clause in this passage is the so that clause. We are to love others, to make peace with others, to be reconciled to others, so that we may be sons who cause others to see our Father in heaven. It is does not get plainer than that. Our ability to take on the character of God in this life (and beyond) is directly related to the way in which we make peace in the world around us. We must be people who make peace if we are to marked as the sons and daughters of God.
In sum, to be a sons of God means, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it, we are owned. Everything about us is related to our relationship with Jesus Christ. He owns His sheep and His sheep do what He commands. To be owned by Jesus is to be a peace maker in this world.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)