The Peacemakers

Growing up, I knew exactly who was calling as soon as dad picked up the phone.

He greeted every caller by repeating their names – except for one. But I still knew who it was. When dad answered, “Well Shalom to you too,” it meant that Uncle Jimmy, our pastor, was calling to see how we were doing.

Shalom, the Hebrew word for Peace, is the way Uncle Jimmy has greeted everyone since before I could remember. He begins even the hardest of conversations with that word, because that is his goal in each and every circumstance: peace.

Uncle Jimmy’s greeting encapsulates the meaning of the verse, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God.”

I used to think Uncle Jimmy’s greeting was relegated to him and people like him: the super spiritual person who had entire books of the Bible memorized, who could read Greek and Hebrew, and were calm, cool, and collected, even under the most intense of situations.

I realize now that’s not the case. Christ didn’t say blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be the most spiritual; he said peacemakers are blessed because they are children of God. That means if you are a child of God, you must be a peacemaker.

But what does it mean to be a man or woman who makes peace?

This question, which I’m sure must have been asked by Christ’s disciples and the crowds gathered around to hear this sermon on the mount, is one I’ve been asking myself during these recent trying and turbulent times.

So much of our interactions are now online. I often read status updates, articles, and snippets from entertainment news sites, stoking the flames of anger and fervor in this current age.

Pandemic, police brutality, protests, riots, death. Our feeds are filled with injustice and reactions to it.

So much anger. So much hatred. So little peace.

It’s easy to become angry when flooded with so much hatred and vitriol. Anger is a natural response to injustice. Anger is a right response to injustice. But that anger doesn’t define us. What we do with it, however, does.

That is why the call to be a peacemaker is such a high calling. Because while becoming angry at injustice is a natural response, seeking peace is not. Anger soon diminishes into vengeance when we are not careful to aim our anger in the right direction.

Again, what does it look like to be a man or woman of peace when the world is constantly at war and wants you to join in, pick a side, and take up arms? Does my anger at injustice require me to respond with the same vengeful, hopeless attitude the world does?

We all know the answer is no. But how do we reign in our anger and bridle our tongues in order to think and feel and act and speak as peacemakers?

Paul’s life and words give us the model to live by. And his words in Philippians 4 sum up, I think, how Paul was able to be a peacemaker in this world.

“Finally, Brothers and Sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9.

Follow what we heard and saw in Paul’s life in Acts and his words in his letters as he navigated and resolved nasty church politics, endured persecution from both government and Pharisees, lived through seasons of sickness and famine and depression, and fought his own sin still within.

In other words, follow Paul in what he said and did, because he followed Christ in what he said and did.

If we are peacemakers, then our anger at injustice is held with hands that care, and guided by the bow of righteousness. As Godly grief produces repentance, righteous anger seeks justice and restoration. Its aim is peace. Its aim is Shalom.

Because our aim is peace, we weep with those who weep, bless those who persecute, and rejoice with those who rejoice. As Paul writes in Romans 12, we are to live in harmony with one another, associating with the lowly, and as far as we are able, live peaceably will all people (Romans 12:14-18).

A peacemaker aims to resolve conflict and, when wronged, turns the other cheek, does not seek vengeance. Rather, a person of peace prays for the wrongdoer, does good to them, feeds them when they’re hungry, gives them drink when they are thirsty, seeks justice, repentance, and restoration (Romans 12:19-21).

But being a peacemaker doesn’t mean we ignore injustice and sweep it under the rug, excusing sin in the lives of ourselves and others. And it doesn’t mean we become pacifists. But it does mean peace is our aim.

Peace, but not at the expense of justice. Peace, but not at the cost of truth.

We are required, as the Prophet Micah reminded Israel, “to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” Micah 6:8.

That’s what it means to be a peacemaker. Humble before God, loving others more than we love ourselves, seeking justice for those oppressed, while at the same time praying for the oppressors, and loving mercy, knowing that God’s mercy to us in the person and work of Christ established peace with God and man.

It is that peace we seek to spread. The gospel of peace, given by the God of peace.

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