If you are like me you have been following developments in Syria and carefully listening to pronouncements by world leaders on those developments. On Tuesday our president gave a considered speech on the need to protect ordinary civilians, especially innocent children, in Syria with the use of American air strikes. At the same time he registered his desire for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The conflict in Syria has got me reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:9, which say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Some Bible commentators are of the view that this beatitude was the hardest for many of the Jewish hearers of Jesus to accept. They could easily understand why it was necessary to mourn over their sins, why they should hunger after righteousness and why they should be pure in heart. But being peacemakers took matters to another level, with which they may not have been comfortable.
Making peace with the Romans would take a lot of doing for many Jews, especially the Zealots who sought to incite the Jewish nation to revolt against Rome and drive every Roman from their land. Many Zealots were known to carry daggers on their person so as to be able to kill Romans. The Zealots fighting the Romans was like fighting a super power that had nuclear weapons with shotguns. There wasn’t any way that the Jews could win but I guess some believed they could. They didn’t take kindly to this peacemaker gospel of Jesus, yet Jesus was adamant that the way of peace was superior to the way of war.
In enjoining His followers to be peacemakers, Jesus was basically asking them to be like Him, to be Godlike. He came to earth to make peace between earth and heaven and to remove the hostility that separated man from his Father. It seems to me then that the peace that Jesus is primarily addressing in Matthew 5:9 is peace between God and man. “Blessed are those who strive to bring peace between God and man,” those who are engaged in bringing lost humanity to Jesus. At the same time I also believe that the blessing that Jesus speaks about here extends to those who work for peace in other ways – peace in the family, peace in the community, peace between nations, peace between tribes, peace between ethnic groups.
Most of us will not have the opportunity to influence the foreign policies of governments. We will not be Secretary of State or work in the diplomatic service but God still desires that we be peacemakers. How then can we be peacemakers? We can be peacemakers in our ordinary walks of life – in our homes by seeking to resolve conflicts that could easily break up the family; in our communities by bringing those who are vulnerable and feeling ostracized to the community table; in our workplaces by working for understanding and harmony among colleagues.
Wherever we find ourselves there will be conflict. This is part of sinful human nature. But as people of God’s kingdom our job is to be messengers of peace. We are to do what good we can where we find ourselves and walk through the doors that God opens for us. This week we remember the atrocities of 9/11 twelve years ago and inwardly groan. Something very important was broken in our world on that fateful day. We mourn with those who mourn the loss of loved ones but perhaps one of the most effective ways in which we can mark this tragic event is by working for understanding, reconciliation and peace where we find ourselves.
It is to be noted that the blessing that Jesus promises is not for peace lovers. Nearly everyone I know loves peace, which is a good thing, but the people for whom the blessing is reserved are those who get out of their comfort zones and make peace happen. You and I can be recipients of this blessing.