The world needs peacemakers. Sometimes our cities look like war zones. Even when we aren’t literally on fire, digital media invites the spreading of incendiary words. We have been burned by people assuming the worst about us, escalating conflict, digging in their heels, and trying to win at any cost. We have done the same to others.
God’s remedy to the wars of this world is to create a new, peace-loving humanity. Jesus began his peacemaking ministry by “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a kingdom charter. The community cleansed by his blood and renewed by his Spirit will be distinct from the world. In The Beatitudes Jesus pairs a kingdom trait with a promise of blessing for those who walk like him. Here’s the seventh beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). Jesus invites us to promote peace in a world of war (Ps. 120:7). How do we answer his invitation? Three things are true of every peacemaker.
Peacemakers Are Pacified by the Gospel
James Boice put it well: “Only those who have first tasted peace with God at the cross of Christ can become peacemakers.” By nature everyone is hostile to God (Rom. 8:7). The disease of original sin inclines people to pass their “days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). That has been true of all of us.
When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life he begins to extinguish their hatred toward God and others. He gives viciousness and aggression a bad taste to his children. Before meeting Jesus the apostle Paul was a “violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13 NAS)—his own words. After meeting Jesus he believed that God’s people should “live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). Before Paul would change the world he had to be changed himself.
Peacemakers come to Jesus and keep coming to Jesus. The act of becoming a Christian is a voluntarily submission to God; we accept his offer of peace sealed with the blood of Jesus. We repent of injuries our violence has caused. We renounce the weapons of the flesh and pledge to walk only in the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). And we keep doing this our whole lives. People must be made like Jesus before they can make peace like Jesus.
Peacemakers Deliberately Practice Peace
Peacemakers commit to both not making things worse and intentionally making things better.
Peacemakers don’t add fuel to the fire. This requires extreme listening. Martyn Lloyd Jones said that the most important first practical step in becoming a peacemaker is this: learn not to speak. How often do we splash the fuel of our opinion onto the fire of discord before truly understanding? To do so is a disaster because our strongest feelings are often poisoned by ignorance. Jesus knew what was in a person (John 2:25).We don’t. But we feel like we do. So we bypass James’ motto: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak” (1:19). Listening has a way of correcting our first impressions. That aggressive woman might be scared. That man we are scared of could be an ally. Your theory about why someone did something could be totally wrong, even opposite of the truth.
Of course, one does not practice peacemaking by simply avoiding trouble. Listening is not all that we must do. We cannot sacrifice the truth, compromise principle, or forsake our duty. But we are to avoid all needless contention. And that is hard to do without listening.
Peacemaking is a sacrificial calling. It requires recognizing when God would be more glorified by not asserting your rights and by willingly enduring wrongdoing. That’s what Jesus decided; God would be more glorified by not asserting his right of justice. Christ-like peacemakers sacrifice their right to exact a penalty every time they are offended. And they take the first steps to bring about reconciliation, like Jesus did. Jesus made peace by a bloody cross (Col. 1:20). How far will you go?
Peacemakers Experience God’s Blessing
Jesus’ promise is that peacemaking is its own reward. By peacemaking believers stand “on the road to a heavenly life. [They] are already growing in the right direction. “Recovery” from the fall “has begun and God will ensure a complete cure.”[i] That’s a good place to be! Contentious people—peace-breakers, conflict-makers—simply are not happy. Paul’s command to “Live in harmony with one another” (Rom. 12:16) is positive, right?
More specifically Jesus promises this blessing: peacemakers are called sons of God. It is obvious to observers that true peacemakers are God’s children; they act like the Prince of Peace. That compliment is a tremendous blessing. Peacemakers, said Lloyd Jones, “repeat what God has done. If God stood upon His rights and dignity … every one of us … would be consigned to hell … It is because God is a ‘God of peace’ that He sent His Son, and thus provided a way of salvation for us. To be a peacemaker is to be like God.”[ii] The peacemaking of God’s people is a pledge of their adoption.
We have a choice. We can keep acting out on the passions that are at war within us (James 4:1). Or, we can submit to God, make peace like God, and receive the assurance that we have become children of God.
[i] Jakob Van Bruggen, The Sermon on the Mount: A Travel Guide for Christians (Winnipeg: Premier Publishing, 1986),19.
[ii] Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), 126.