Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
As we come to the seventh Beatitude Christ calls us to deal with our conflict by pursuing peace, yet how many countries are in conflict today? Conflict seems to be our one constant, and why are so many communities crippled by conflict? Could our conflict problem be a result of what we are pursuing? It’s here that we see one of the greatest contrast between the culture in which we live and Christ we are called to love. While the Savior calls us to pursue peace society encourages us to pursue power, position and possessions. But it’s not so much the pursuit of power, position and possessions that is the problem it’s the purpose behind the pursuit. Are we pursuing it for selfish reasons or for serving reasons? These opposing purposes may appear to start out on the same path but they head in two totally different directions, arriving at separate destinations. Self leads to lust, service leads to love , and while society encourages us to pursue self the Savior encourages us to pursue service. The cancer of conflict results when we pursue our plans over those of the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 tells us: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The gift of Christmas means that we don’t have to live in conflict; we can pursue His plan and be peacemakers. Which plan are you pursuing? Hebrews 13:20 refers to God as the “God of peace” and because this is part of His very character, He wants His people to be marked by peace as well. Peacemakers bear a family resemblance and should reflect our Heavenly Father’s character. When you pursue peace, you partner with God in spreading peace, and you demonstrate to a watching world that you are a son or daughter of the King. Yet most of us are more prone to conflict than conciliation, like Winston Churchill in his classic comeback to Lady Astor after she had said, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” To which Churchill responded with cutting wit: “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.” We laugh at this sarcasm, but it reveals that all of us are predisposed to conflict. We don’t have to teach conflict to our children, they don’t have to practice picking on each other, no we have to teach them how to pursue peace. Unfortunately today God’s children seem to be more competent at conflict than compassion. Instead of living out Jesus words in Matthew 18:20 to a watching world: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We often reflect this reality: “Where two or three Christians come together there is conflict.” Our witness to a watching world is often one of war and fighting than one of friendship. The fact that the lack of peace is so pervasive is really nothing new. We can trace it all the way back to the beginning and the book of Genesis. We have been at war with God ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s response to God’s question of whether he ate the fruit was to blame both God and his wife. Instead of fessing up he fought, instead of taking personal responsibility he tried to pass the buck using blame. He chose conflict over confession, his sin not only carried on to his family but was carried out by them. It was conflict between his children Cain and Abel that led to the first murder. Its here in the midst of this continuous conflict and incessant strife that Jesus speaks some of the most stunning words, which the Message paraphrase puts this way: “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” The word “peace” appears over 400 times in Scripture, with many other indirect references, but what is peace? Before we talk about what biblical peace is let’s describe what it is not. Biblical peace is more than just merely the absence of activity. We often use the phrase “peace and quiet” to refer to our need to slow down. Peace is more than the absence of hostility, the biblical concept is much deeper than just not having conflict. Peace is not just getting away from reality, while we go on vacation to get away from it all, the Bible offers peace right where we are. In truth Peace is not the absence of something bad but rather it is the presence of something good. In the Old Testament, the word peace is shalom and is a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to resonate in all relationships. When used as a greeting, shalom was a wish for outward freedom from disturbance as well as an inward sense of harmony. To a people constantly harassed by enemies, peace was their premiere blessing and in Numbers 6:24-26, God gave Moses these words to use when blessing His people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” As we come to the New Testament we see this proclamation of peace continued in every one of Paul’s thirteen letters. They all begin with a greeting of peace and several of them also end with it. Jesus called us not only to pursue peace but to be a people of peace, yet when it comes to peace we often see three distinct types of people: The peace-breakers, the peace-fakers and the peace-makers
We live in a world of peace-breakers. In fact it has been estimated that in all the years of recorded history, the world has been at peace just 8% of the time. During this period of time over 8000 treaties have been made and broken. It has been said that “Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” Are you a peace maker or a peace breaker? Those who break peace in the church often cause trouble and division and the Bible speaks some strong words to us in Romans 16:17-18: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” In contrast to this we see God’s heart revealed in Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” But before we rush to point our finger at someone else, we first need to examine our own hearts. One area we need to pay attention to is our speech and how we use our tongues. Ephesians 4:29-31 says: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Are you pursuing peace in your speech, are you building up or breaking down? When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he expresses his concern about what he may find when he visited in 2 Corinthians 12:20: “I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” Harmony is a heart issue, in the 1980’s Psychology Today posed an intriguing question: “If you could push a button and thereby eliminate any person with no repercussions to yourself, would you do it?” 60% of those who responded said yes but one man posited an even better question, “If such a device were invented, would anyone live to tell about it?” How about you have you been pushing any buttons lately? It’s always easier to create conflict than it is to promote peace. Are you a peace-maker, do you bring people together or pull them apart?