Anyone know the connection between Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Obama? How about I add in Nelson Mandela and mother Theresa and it will be obvious to all. They all won a Nobel peace prize!
Now, I mention this because in researching for this talk I was reading about another US presidential winner in Jimmy Carter. Years after he was President he went, almost as a private citizen, to mediate in North Korea where in the mid 90’s there was real fear of nuclear proliferation and war.
So successful and important was his peace-making considered that he was awarded the Nobel prize in 2002.
Yet less than 20 years on we hear of another missile test launch and concerns of war are on the increase.
So even the greatest efforts of man do not last, was this really what Jesus is talking about in the sermon on mount.
I don’t think so but what did he mean when he said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
One of the best explanations is in his letter to the Ephesians where St Paul says, .
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross”.
Peace-making, he is saying, reconciles God and man in Christ.
We all sin and sin separates us from God. We remember that Christ died for us on the cross to forgive our sins and enable us to seek reconciliation with God but how often do we talk about it in terms of making our peace with God which is what Jesus’ invitation is.
And that, says the Bible, is what real peace-making is: it reconciles people with God.
But it also has another dimension: Peace-making reconciles people to each other as they each make peace with God.
Peace-making is first and foremost making peace with God. It is not negotiating peace with foreign countries like Jimmy Carter, it is personal peace with God. BUT … when peace is made between individuals and God, it also makes peace between that person and other individuals who have also made peace with God.
Looking back at Ephesians; it says He “made both groups into one”. He is speaking here of the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews). They had a great prejudice and enmity against each other, like a lot of ethnic groups do. But Paul said when Christ reconciled them to God through His death on the cross, it also brought them together. The early Christians were made up of both Jews and Gentiles and when they made their peace with God, when they came together in Christ they came together with each other.
So our responsibility is not to make peace between people but to help people make peace with God
But peace-making involves a personal cost. Of course for Jesus that cost was death on the cross.
But there is often a cost for us today. In my work with Bible Society I have had the privilege of meeting many people who, to bring Jesus to people through the Bible, have put themselves in harm’s way. Those who have been threatened and experienced violence in Syria and Palestine. Those in the Balkans who in their youth manned barricades in their town as neighbour fought neighbour and friend fought friend are now working to bring different countries and faiths together in reconciliation through Jesus.
And even in what we think of as modern countries like Pakistan anyone who preaches Christianity still risks imprisonment and even death under the law.
So peace-making is active! Being a peacemaker is not just about having a passive personality; it is an ACTIVE quality. In fact the Greek word actually means DOING peace. It is not just a “peaceful disposition”; it refers to a positive activity of bringing others to God. Jesus was active in His peace-making: He left heaven, He went to the cross; He went out “to seek and to save those who are lost.” Making peace between God and men involves action.
I think a great illustration of this is of Paul & Silas being thrown into prison for preaching the gospel in Acts. Once there they carried on preaching to the prisoners and guards. When an earthquake came, and the jailer asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul told him “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved”. That jailer and his family were saved; peace was made between them and God because Paul did not sit and sulk in prison but he carried on preaching for Jesus. He saw his position as an opportunity for peace-making.
We need to have that same perspective. God is going to bring some situations in your life that are opportunities for you to be a peacemaker, maybe not every day week or year but you will have opportunities to share Christ with someone who would not have had the opportunity otherwise.
So as we seek to imitate Jesus in this quality, we need to be active in our peace-making. In other words, we are NOT to just sit around wishing that people would make peace with God. We need to be active, purposeful, and seeking to MAKE peace between others and God. We should actively BRING them to make peace with Him.
So as I said earlier our responsibility is not to make peace between people but to help people make peace with God and it flows naturally from that, that peace between people will follow.
5 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Salt and Light
(Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34–35)
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 5:1–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.