9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Cottonwood Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico, does something interesting in their new member class. In each class, the following statement is read to those who are thinking about joining the church. Listen:
“Since we are all sinners saved by grace, we hurt each other. Successful church members make a habit of taking the initiative to clear up hurt feelings and damaged relationships. By so doing, they keep their friendships intact and their emotions healthy through the years…All the leaders at Cottonwood Church commit to reconciling relationships in harmony with Christian principles found in Matthew 5:21-26 and Matthew 18:15-20. At Cottonwood, we’ve made a commitment to being a peacemaking church!”
I like that last sentence: “At Cottonwood, we’ve made a commitment to being a peacemaking church!” That’s intriguing to me.
Or how about this: at Grace Fellowship Church of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, those who come to join the church are asked a number of questions in front of the whole church. Then the church is asked some questions about whether or not they will love and welcome these new members. The questions they ask the prospective new members involve an acknowledgment of their trust in Christ, an acknowledgment of the Bible as authoritative, and questions involving their intent to love their brothers and sisters in that church. Then they ask them this question: “Are you committed to preserving the unity of the Spirit in this church and to pursue the things that make for peace and build up other believers?”
So at Cottonwood Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico, you are intentionally informed that the church is a peacemaking church before you join. And to join Grace Fellowship Church of the Lehigh Valley you must make a verbal commitment to peacemaking. Why do you think these churches and others would go to such lengths to communicate the expectation of peacemaking over their prospective and current members? Surely it is because of (a) how important peacemaking is to the health of the body of Christ and (b) how easily a spirit of peacemaking slips out the back door if it is not intentionally kept in the house.
Peacemaking is worth the effort. Consider the extremes to which Solomon went to offer the sacrifice that the Jews called “the peace offering.” When the Ark of the Covenant wass brought into the Temple in 1 Kings 8, King Solomon does something quite dramatic:
62 Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. 63 Solomon offered as peace offerings to the Lord 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord.
A peace offering of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep! Whew! If Solomon took such steps to offer a peace offering to God, perhaps we should consider our own efforts in this direction.
Why? Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” The Lord Jesus said this because He is our peace and because peace resides in the heart of His Father. Therefore, to be a follower of Jesus is to prize peace very highly.
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon at Ophrah and commissioned him to strike the Midianites, Gideon feared that he would die for having seen the angel of the Lord’s face. But the Lord spoke to him and offered him peace, assuring him he would not die. So Gideon made an altar there and named it, “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24). Indeed. “The Lord is Peace.” Thus, we are blessed when we draw closer to the heart of God by being about the business of making peace.
This morning I would like to do something a little different. I am going to lean less on a detailed exploration of word meanings (though that is very important), and more on working out a practical definition of peacemaking by looking at numerous ways that we become peacemakers. I’m going to take all of these ways from scripture, and we’re going to move through them in a summary fashion. But let me encourage you to take note of these, literally, if possible.
Before we begin, let me offer a definition of a peacemaker. If peacemakers are blessed, we do need to know what the words means. To this end, I’m going to use the definition offered by Chromatius, a Christian who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries. I do so because I think his definition is useful, helpful, and faithful to the biblical vision of a peacemaker:
The peacemakers are those who, standing apart from the stumbling block of disagreement and discord, guard the affection of fraternal love and the peace of the church under the unity of the universal faith.
Furthermore, I realize that being a peacemaker in the world in which we live is very difficult. When you set out to do this and to become this type of person, you will likely feel like the psalmist in Psalm 120:
5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
It is tough work. It is often lonely work. Oftentimes we find that when we want peace, others don’t. More often than we would like to admit, we are the ones who don’t want peace ourselves! Even so, regardless of whether or not you have been a peacemaker or are being a peacemaker at present, let me challenge us all with God’s Word this morning concerning the need to embrace this life.
How do we become peacemakers? Let us begin.
I. Love the truths of God.
First of all, peacemakers love the truths of God. They love His law. They love His word. They love His truths. There is a direct connection between loving the truths of God and becoming a peacemaker. Consider Psalm 119:
165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. 166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your commandments. 167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
If you love the law of God, you will have peace and you will make peace. If, however, your mind and heart is far from God and the things of God, you will not know peace or make it. In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
So let us be clear this morning: you will not become a true person of peace if you do not have your mind and heart turned toward God and the truths of God. Why? Because it is out of the storehouse of the truths of God that we are equipped to have peace and to make it.
Practically speaking, to ignore your Bible but hope simultaneously that your heart and mind and soul will become inundated with peace and peaceful intentions is a fantasy. To distance yourself from the God of peace by distancing yourself from His truths is to distance yourself from the very possibility of being blessed as a peacemaker.
II. Live the truths of God.
If you love the truths of God, you will live them. We become peacemakers when we live holy and righteous lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. I love the imagery of Psalm 85:10b where it says that “righteousness and peace kiss each other.” That is true! Righteousness and peace (ideas at the heart of two of the Beatitudes, I might point out) kiss each other, they live in peace with one another, they love one another, they are connected. Be a man or woman of righteousness and you will become a man or woman of peace.
In fact, God blesses the righteous with peace. Thus, Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Jesus talks about being salt and light in the world just after the Beatitudes in our chapter this morning. He speaks also of being salt in Mark 9:50. In that verse, He connects saltiness (i.e., godliness, righteousness) with peace. He says, “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
In Romans 8:6, Paul puts it in glorious bluntness: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Reject the truths of God and you will find death. Live the truths of God and you will find peace.
III. Love peace.
Furthermore, we are called on in scripture specifically to love peace. We read this in Zechariah 8:
18 And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, 19 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.
The Lord God established fasts and observances with His people to lead them to joy and peace. “Therefore love truth and peace,” He says. You are commanded to love peace. Do you? Would you say that you love peace? How much should you love peace? Simply as much as you love conflict.
Love conflict? Are there Christians who actually love conflict? Yes. Yes there are. As a pastor, I have seen it.
Some years ago I led a business meeting in a church I pastored. An issue arose in that meeting that was somewhat controversial. While the meeting did not get out of hand, there was some measure of disagreement among some of the people. One person in particular (a person who, it seemed to me, had a penchant for being around conflict when it happened) was fairly vocal in the meeting. The meeting concluded with a degree of lingering disagreement, but not with any real rancor or hostility.
Three days after this, I entered the sanctuary for Wednesday night prayer meeting. The first face I saw was this person’s face. The person had come to prayer meeting. Now, why did that surprise me? Because in my years there as pastor, this person had never (never!) attended prayer meeting. And what struck me was the person’s face. The person sat there, unsmiling, looking clearly out of place and awkward during prayer meeting. The person was certainly welcome in prayer meeting. I’m simply describing how he/she looked. The prayer meeting and bible study commenced and continued happily and peacefully with no comment about the prior Sunday’s business meeting. Afterward, we all went home.
The next Wednesday, as usual, that person was not at prayer meeting. In fact, the person never returned to prayer meeting again. I was not surprised. In truth, the week before when the person showed up, I knew that he/she would not return to prayer meeting again. And he/she did not.
How did I know that? How did I know the person would never again show up at prayer meeting? Easy. Because I knew, the moment I saw that person in prayer meeting, why he/she had come. I knew, instantly, that the person came to prayer meeting that night only because he/she thought that the conflict from the Sunday night business meeting might continue on into that prayer service the Wednesday afterward. When it did not, the person did not return. Why? Because the person was more interested in conflict than prayer, and more interested in a lack of peace than in the presence of peace.
It is a tragedy to love conflict more than peace, but it happens. Let me ask you a question. I want to ask this question carefully. I want, specifically, to ask it of those of you who do not attend, say, Sunday evening services here at Central Baptist Church. No, don’t worry, my point is not to beat you up about Sunday night attendance. I restrict the question to you only because the hypothetical situation I am going to propose will not work on those who do attend evening services.
Imagine this: it is Sunday. You are at church on Sunday morning. You are in Sunday School and, following that, you will attend morning worship. You will not come back that night simply because you are not in the habit of doing so. However, on this Sunday morning, just before Sunday School, a friend leans over to you and whispers, “Hey, you need to come back tonight.” “We don’t come on Sunday nights,” you answer. “Yeah, but you really need to come tonight.” “Why?” you ask. “Because there’s going to be a big argument tonight, a big fight in the business meeting.” “Really?” you ask, “What about?” The person then mentions some item of business that has caused a division in the church. It seems that two sides have formed around this issue and that night, at church, they were going to go at it publically in the business meeting.
After Sunday School, you hear more people discussing it in the hallway. After lunch, at home, you are awakened from your nap by a phone call from another friend in the church. “You comin’ tonight?”
Now let me ask you a question. Be very honest with yourself. If that happened to you, if you knew there was going to be public conflict at church tonight, and you don’t normally attend church, would you come? Some of you would not. Many of you would. I know that because it happens in churches all the time. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it too. Word circulates that there will be a conflict on a Sunday night or a Wednesday night, and, all of a sudden, people who never attend these services show up. On any other given week, worship and prayer and praise is not enough to bring them. But the promise of possible conflict? That brings them out of the woodwork.
Why? Because there is something within us that loves conflict more than peace. There is something within us that loves a fight more than unity.
Which do you love more, peace or conflict?
IV. Deliberately and intentionally run after peace.
We must also be deliberate and intentional about peace. In fact, we must be passionate about peace. The Bible tells us we must run after peace.
Psalm 34:14 tells us to “turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” In Romans 14:19, Paul says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” The writer of Hebrews is even more descriptive when he says in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Seek peace. Pursue peace. Strive for peace. That speaks of deliberate intentionality. That speaks of wanting something so badly that you hunt it down ruthlessly. Do that with peace! Hunt it down and do not stop until you find it!
That is the type of person who becomes a peacemaker: the person for whom peace is so important that they cannot stop until they have it!
V. Pray for peace.
We are also commanded in scripture to pray for peace. Psalm 122
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! 7 Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” 8 For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
“Peace” is in three of those four verses. We must pray for it. We must speak peace over people. We must beseech Almighty God for the peace of others.
This may sound strange to us, but it should not. Have you ever prayed for others to have peace? “Lord, let them live in peace! Lord, let them be at peace! Lord, give them your peace!” Have you ever prayed that?
When two people are at odds, say, in your family, do you pray for peace or are you involved in the drama? Do you strive in prayer for peace between and among people in your Sunday School class, in the youth group, in your circle of friends, at work, in your home, in the church? Have you ever cried out to God for peace between two people?
VI. Understand what you can and cannot do to make peace.
At this point, let us offer a caution lest we think that we ourselves can achieve peace for everybody and everything. In Romans 12:18, Paul says something intriguing: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
You yourself cannot actualize peace in other people. But you can strive to “so far as it depends on you.” I believe this is important lest we become discouraged. The Bible offers no naïve, mechanical approach to peacemaking, as if, if you do steps 1, 2, and 3, you will always be at peace with others and you will always be able to make others live in peace with one another.
Peacemaking can be very painful and frustrating work because we are not the Holy Spirit. You cannot force peace. You cannot make it materialize. But hear me: we would certainly see a lot more peace individually and corporately if we all set about to become godly men and women and boys and girls committed to peacemaking.
The perfect is not the enemy of the good, and the fact that we cannot make peace happen in every case does not free us from the responsibility and privilege of striving for peace “so far as it depends on us.”
VII. Plan for peace in the same way that wicked people plan for wickedness.
Proverbs 12:20 introduces an intriguing thought: “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” Interestingly, that verse parallels a wicked man devising evil and a godly man devising peace. What that means is we should plan for peace in the same way that wicked people plan for wickedness.
What can that mean? Let me give you an example. You’re at the grocery store. It’s Friday afternoon. In front of you are a couple of men. They are pushing two carts. Their carts are loaded with cases and cases of beer and alcohol. They are talking loudly and swearing profusely. It is awkward and embarrassing. They are talking about what is going to happen to them and with them that night at the party. They have planned a night of wickedness.
Have you ever seen or hear anything like that? I have. People planning wickedness: it happens all the time!
I have a question: why can’t we plan peace just like that? It’s Saturday night. You’re having dinner with friends. You look around sneakily. You lean into the center of the table and whisper. “Guess what I’m going to do tomorrow at church?” A sly smile spreads across your face. Everybody giggles expectantly. “What?” You answer, “I’m going to help people live in peace with one another!” The table laughs! “No way!” “Oh yeah,” you say, “I’m going to have so much peace in that church that we’re not going to know what hit us! I’m going to help people love each other more, resolve conflicts, overcome grudges, stop feuding, and live peacefully! I kid you not! I’m going to do it! Been thinking about it all week!”
Now I ask you: why do we not plan for godliness the way the ungodly plan for godlessness? Peace doesn’t just happen. It happens when we plan for it. When we say, “At some point tomorrow this person is going to say something about that person. She always does. And I’ve decided, when she says it, to speak a word of peace and forgiveness and restoration into the situation so that maybe they can reconcile.”
Plan for peace.
VIII. Be patient and understanding with others.
Peace usually flies on wings of patience and understanding. Would you like to be a peacemaker? Then cultivate patience and live in understanding with others. We find this in Ephesians 4:
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Love. Eagerness for unity. Peace. The fact of the matter is that our internal dispositions, what we have allowed the Lord to make of us in here, largely determines the amount of peace that surrounds us.
In 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul told the church at Corinth to “aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Restoration. Comfort. Agreement. Peace. Brothers and sisters, this is what makes for peace. Be gentle with one another. Be patient with one another. Be calm. Have an agreeable spirit. Be humble. Love one another. Do this, be this, and, by God’s grace, you will be a peacemaker.
IX. Be truthful and fair with others.
Peacemaking is also connected to truthfulness and fairness. The Lord says this in Zechariah 8:
16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”
Speak the truth. Make fair judgments. Do the things that “make for peace” and you will be a peacemaker.
Here’s how human relationships lose peace: we traffic in exaggerations, half-truths, shades of accusation, and unfairness. When we do this, we do not have peace. When we behave like this, we are not making peace, we are making enmity.
It is easy to treat one another unfairly when we are in conflict, is it not? When we decide to interpret each other’s words skeptically or look at what another person does in the worst possible light, we are being unjust. This does not make for peace.
Furthermore, peace is delayed when we are not truthful. A wonderful maxim to live by is this: speak truth in love. Sometimes we avoid truth simply because we do not want to give another person the benefit of truth. Sometimes we avoid truth because it is awkward to speak the truth. Sometimes we think we will achieve peace by not being truthful. But peace founded on a lie is not peace.
Speak truth and be fair.
X. Listen more and talk less.
Practically speaking, I am tempted to call this the most important step toward becoming a peacemaker. Listen more and talk less. In James 1:19, James writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
Quick to hear. That does not simply mean hearing. It means being eager to listen, to hear, and to understand. Do you realize how much conflict results from the simple fact that we do not take the time to listen and understand one another? We form opinions of one another, categorize one another on the basis of those opinions, then hold one another in the prison of those opinionated categories. If we are not careful, we can reach the point where we simply refuse to try to listen, to hear, and to understand. We reach that terrible point where we have demonized the other person or the other people. This happens in churches all of the time! Never abandon the grace of listening and trying to understand where other people are coming from, what other people are saying, and why other people are speaking as they are.
“Be quick to hear” and “slow to speak.” The two are connected. The more deliberate we become in listening, hearing, and understanding, the slower we will become in speaking. Why? Because we’re too busy trying to hear!
Our tongues are our greatest hindrances to becoming peacemakers. Our tongues keep us from become agents of peace. When we make verbal jabs, cutting comments, sly insinuations, sarcastic dismissals of others’ motives, and verbal assaults, we tear down peace. On the other hand, it is astounding how words of peace push back conflict. Words like, “You know, I understand what his words sound sound like, but maybe we should ask him what he meant before we assume too much.” Words like, “I understand that what she did was hurtful to you, but maybe she’s going through something very painful and is just acting out of that pain.” Words like, “Have the two of you ever just sat down and discussed this issue?” Words like, “You know, I realize that she doesn’t ‘deserve’ forgiveness…but, then, none of us ever really ‘deserve’ it, do we? But God has given us all forgiveness.” Words like, “I know that you’re angry with that person, but why don’t we stop for a moment and you let me pray for peace between the two of you.”
Do you see? Instead of oily agreement over another person’s faults, what if we drug peace into the mix? That’s what peacemakers do, and they are blessed for doing it.
XI. Reflect frequently on the peace that Jesus has secured for us.
Finally, and certainly most importantly, peacemakers reflect frequently on the peace that Jesus has secured for us. What peace has Jesus secured for us? Well, He has won us internal peace, to be sure. Because we are redeemed through the blood of Christ, we can now be at peace with our own formerly fragmented selves. But, most importantly, He has secured peace between us and God.
The idea of Christ bringing peace to those He redeems is present even in the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. For instance, we find this in Isaiah 53:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
The crucifixion of Jesus brings us peace by granting us forgiveness of the sins that separate us from God. In Romans 5:1, Paul says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Having been made right with God through repentance and faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus, we now have a peaceful relationship with God. Through Jesus, we are no long enemies of God. Jesus came to offer us peace with God.
Maybe the greatest expression of this truth is found in Ephesians 2.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Thus, through the crucifixion Jesus gives us peace in our relationships with one another and then establishes peace between our redeemed, unified body and God. The Son of God makes peace between us and God. The Son of God was a peacemaker.
Suddenly, I think I understand the second part of our Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“…for they shall be called sons of God.”
Could it be that being a peacemaker warrants the name “son of God” simply because the Son of God, Jesus, was the ultimate peacemaker? Could this not simply mean that we are most like the Son of God when we tear down walls of hostility and establish peace? After all, that is precisely what Jesus has done for us.
It is impossible to think long and deeply on the cross of Jesus and not desire peace.
It is impossible to think long and deeply on the peace that Jesus has made for us and not want to make peace with and for others, ourselves.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
 Chuck Lawless, Membership Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), p.87.
 Wayne Mack, To Be or Not To Be a Church Member? That is the Question! (New York, NY: Calvary Press Publishing, 2005), 60-63.
 Manlio Simonetti, ed. Matthew 1-13. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, vol.Ia. Thomas C. Oden, ed. (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p.86-87.