One of the things that Christians are supposed to be is makers of peace. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). The question is, for all of us, are we doing a good job of that? Do we bring with us a "gentle spirit"? is it know to "all men"? (Philippians 4:5). Are we seeking peace, or do we barely rise above the ways of the world?
I would suggest that all of us could do a better job at being the peacemakers Jesus would have us to be. Let's consider some practical points on how we can be better peacemakers.
God's Way to Peace:
President Theodore Roosevelt described his foreign policy as "speak softly and carry a big stick; you'll go far." Ronald Reagan said that "we maintain peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression." Both quotes, spoken over a century apart, show how the world thinks of making peace. We may speak softly, but we need the strength and firepower so overwhelming that the other person is afraid of starting anything. This is the mindset that gave us M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) for over half a century and the reason why children had to run nuclear bomb drills in school.
However, this idea of peace through strength is not God's way to peace. Jesus taught that it is peace through humility; that is God's way to peace. Consider the first few beatitudes in Matthew 5.
- "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" v.3. – Those who know their actual spiritual condition before God. Spiritual bankruptcy. That takes humility.
- "Blessed are the gentle (humble or meek) for they shall inherit the earth" v.5. It is the humble that shall inherit the earth.
- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" v.9. Peacemakers then are to humble people.
Abigail, A Woman of Good Understanding:
A great example of peace through humility is found in 1 Samuel 25:18-35. Here we read of how Abigail, who the text tells us was a "woman intelligent and beautiful in appearance" (1 Samuel 25:3), she made peace between her foolish and dumb husband Nabal and David. I want us to note how Abigail made peace between these two men.
We read in 1 Samuel 25:23-25 that she came not with anger or with overwhelming force but in humility and self-sacrifice. This was not her conflict, it was not her affair, but she saw that it was within her power to make peace between these two men. And this was noticed by David in 1 Samuel 25:32-35. David said that it was indeed God who had sent her. David concluded this because of her discernment she "kept me this day from bloodshed and avenging myself by my own hand" (v.33). Abigail's peacemaking impressed David so much that he returned and took Abigail as his wife when God struck Nabal dead.
What Peacemaking Is:
What are we talking about when we talk of peacemaking?
- Peace is not the absence of hostility at all costs but avoiding vengeance at all costs.
- There are times where hostility or conflict may be necessary.
- Solomon acknowledged such in Ecclesiastes 3.
- And Jesus said that conflicts would come by the very nature of the Gospel (Matthew 10:34-36).
- However, that is the exception, not the rule. Because we are commanded that "if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). Paul continues with, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
- Peace is not the absence of suffering or persecution.
- The very next beatitude after blessed are the peacemakers is, "blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil because of Me" (Matthew 5:10-11).
- Peace is the very essence of godly wisdom.
- James 3:13-18 – James' point here is that you cannot do things the world's way (vv.14-16) and bear God's fruit (vv.13, 17-18).
We want to conclude with some biblical principles that will make for practical peacemaking in our lives. Now, these principles are not easy to apply, but they are essential. We cannot say we are Christ-followers if we are not striving to be peacemakers. I say this to underscore this point because peacemaking is hard, but it is worth it.
- The world, more than anything else, needs our Gospel, not our sword.
- Far too often, we want to respond as the disciples did in Luke 9:51-56. We want to pull out the sword (John 18:4-11) and wage war when we should really seek to save the very people who slander and mock us.
- Again, we turn back to Matthew 5:11-12. Blessed are you when you are persecuted—the same "you" who is supposed to be a peacemaker.
- We need to strive to be a Steven and not a Saul.
- Saul was convinced the right course of action was violent big stick "peacemaking" to achieve the will of God. We see this in Acts 7:54-60, where Saul was in agreement with killing Steven (Acts 8:1).
- Note Steven's words in Acts 7:60, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Steven was a peacemaker until the end. I like to believe his actions that day helped prepare Saul to receive the Gospel later in his life.
- Because the very man who persecuted the church of God, who thought the way to peace was by force when he converts, says this in Romans 12:14-21, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…."
- We need to be contrite when wronged and quiet in anger.
- When we are wronged, it will happen; our first response is to want to lash out in defense with a big stick. This is not the way. When wronged, we need to be willing to suffer the wrong for the other person's sake. One of the things loves is supposed to be or do is that it "does not take into account a wrong suffered" (1 Corinthians 13:5b).
- And when we have anger at a situation, we've been wronged, etc., we need to be quiet in our anger.
- Ephesians 4:26 "BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity."
- James 1:19-20 "This you know my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."