Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Beatitudes - Blessed are the Peacemakers

Today we trek on through the Beatitudes.  Today we will be talking about the peacemakers.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.  Matthew 5:9 NKJV
This is one of those verses that is abused and misused more than others.  Yes, we are called to be peacemakers, but there is a misunderstanding on just what that means.  Being a peacemaker is not so much about peace among men, but more about peace between God and man.  Jesus came to earth as the original peacemaker, and here is what was said at His arrival.
Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:1-14 NKJV
Many use this verse to think of the absence of war. Scripture, though, must be read in light of other Scripture.  Remember, this same Jesus is the one who whipped money changers out of the temple.  This same Jesus was confrontational with the Pharisees and other religious hypocrites.  This same Jesus is the one returning under the banner of war wipe out the armies of the Antichrist.  This is also the same Jesus who said this:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' Matthew 10:34-36 NKJV
So when Jesus was born the angels proclaimed peace on earth, but Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace.  So what exactly does it mean for us to be peacemakers?  What it means is that we are called to preach peace between man and God.  We are to preach the Gospel. The only way for there for be peace among men is for there first to be peace between man and God. 

The fact is that history if filled with man's failed attempts at peace on earth.  Just look at the failure of the League of Nations.  Just look at how many wars happened and are happening despite the UN being set up to prevent such wars.  Peace is impossible so long as man lives under control of self.  A Christian is a natural peacemaker because a Christian has denied self.  When you deny yourself and you truly live in meekness, you will be a peacemaker.  Wars and disputes are borne out of personal offense.  Whether it be a desire for personal rights or freedom from oppression, it is for satisfaction of our selves.  We want a better life and so we fight wars to obtain it.  We feel we deserve more rights, so we fight wars to obtain them.  Now there are wars of self defense, and I am not speaking of those wars.  If a nation attacks another, the attacked nation has every right to defend itself.  I am talking about being in the position to initiate a war, whether it be a war for conquest or even for more personal freedoms.  Jesus never fought for his "rights."  He was tried and convicted in an illegal trial, yet He did not fight His fate.  Stephen was stoned without and real trial and he did not cry out for the wrongness of their actions, but for their forgiveness.  When you truly give up your self, you have no self to be offended to start a conflict. Even in our personal lives, we allow conflict over petty personal offenses thinking the offense of self needs to be avenged or punished.  If that were true, then why did Jesus pray for his oppressors rather than just call fire down from Heaven to consume them? 

That said, a Christian is not necessarily a strict pacifist. Let us look at an example from the life of Jesus.
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"  John 2:13-16 NKJV
That certainly was not very peaceful.  Jesus made a whip and used it to drive money changers out of the temple.  He flipped over tables and spilled out their bags of money.  But still, Jesus is our example of a peacemaker.  You see, peace for the world means a lack of violence.  For a Christian, peace can not coexist with sin.  We are not to compromise our faith or our principles for the sake of peace. Jesus knew that there was no place in the house of God for sin and so he drove those money changers out, violently.  When he returns to a world in rebellion against Him, he is not going to negotiate with them, he is going to eradicate them.  Now I am not saying we are to go around killing sinners.  That is not the example of the ministry of Jesus.  How we fight sin is not to fight the sinner.  We are not even to fight directly against the sin.  We fight sin by preaching Jesus. 

And therein lies the role of the peacemaker.  We are to be the ambassadors of peace between God and man.  So long as man lives in rebellion to God, there will be wars and violence in this world.  The only cure to this conflict is Jesus.  We can fight and make laws to make sinful things illegal, but it does not change hearts.  If you are not under Christ, you are a slave to sin.  That said, those outside of Christ will always sin.  That is what sinners do, they sin.  The only way to break that cycle is for Jesus to come into their hearts.  Think about it, if you wanted to end terrorism would be be better to kill Osama Bin Laden or to lead him to Jesus?  One way makes him a martyr for his cause, the other makes him a living example of the power of the true and living God.  One way leads to more lives lost, the other leads to more souls saved. 

Man lives in rebellion to God and God is going to return one day with His army to make one final war against sin.  Those who do not repent will meet a swift and deadly end before finding their ultimate judgment.  The only thing standing in the way of that sad and tragic end is us.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to be His ambassadors sharing that glorious peace treaty known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Blessed are the peacemakers because in leading people to the truth of Jesus, we are joining with Christ in the work of salvation.  Jesus died for the sins of the world and when we share in that ministry by leading people to the knowledge of that truth we see that amazing work of saving grace in the lives of others.  What can be more joyful to get to see the reality and power of the Gospel working through us to reach the lives of others.  We truly are Sons of God in that ministry as we are living in the example of and continuing in the ministry of God's Son. 
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NKJV

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