Peacemaking — Expensive Hobby
Matthew 5:9 NIV
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called
sons of God.
It is a fact: most of us are up for a good fight. When the
human species finally begins to consider peace as a desirable thing, is usually
in the context of peace with somebody. We don't normally think of ourselves as
wanting peace with everybody; we just want peace with the guy who's beating us
up now. But the Christian lifestyle is that of a peacemaker and that of a
peaceful man. Therefore, we should consider with who we should be at peace at
Most importantly, we should be at peace with God. This is the
foundation on which all other Christian peace is built. Like beauty, peace
proceeds from within. It is therefore not possible to be at peace with anything
outside yourself if you are not at peace with God within. You understand this
by observation; have you ever seen a man who just couldn't avoid an argument, a
fight, a brawl? If you know the man, you know that there is no peace within —
and therefore there is no peace outside, either.
Almost as important is peace within the church. Surprisingly,
this necessary for the salvation of others. It is a fact that the world knows
that we are Christians by the way we love one another. This is one of
the great ways in which it is seen that being a Christian is a desirable thing.
People who are unimpressed by apologetics are sometimes stunned by the way we
love each other.
In the outer circle there is peace with the world. In general, it
is not given to the Christian to be a bickering man. We must sometimes
disagree, but even this can be done peacefully — if you practice it.
The source of peace, simply, is Christ:
Ephesians 2:11-17 NIV
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called
"uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the
circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— (12) remember that at that time you were separate
from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the
covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far
away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (14) For he himself is our peace, who has made the
two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, (15) by abolishing in his flesh the law with its
commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man
out of the two, thus making peace, (16) and
in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which
he put to death their hostility. (17) He came
and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
The source of war is the sinfulness of man; the solution to
war in all its forms is the grace of Jesus Christ.
As we have been taking the Beatitudes rather slowly, we
sometimes forget that they are all connected. The previous three Beatitudes are
the prerequisites of peacemaking.
Righteousness — if your hands are dirty it is difficult for the
world to see you as a peacemaker. Rather, they see you as one who has a hidden
agenda and not to be trusted. Let your righteousness shine before men, if for
no other reason than this will help you to make peace.
Mercy — would you like the supreme example? Robert E Lee said
that he surrendered as much to the mercy of Abraham Lincoln as he did to
Grant's armies. This is why he considered the assassination of Lincoln to be
such a great blow to the South. Even the prodigal son knew he would be welcomed
Purity — especially if you are trying to mediate a dispute,
purity is essential. That both parties understand that you have no hidden
agenda, just the desire for peace, is essential to their trust of you.
Peacemaking — an Example
Let me give you a great example of peacemaking. Her name is
Abigail; you can find the story in First Samuel chapter 25. Put briefly,
Abigail corrects her husband's churlish behavior by acting behind his back. She
forestalls David taking bloody vengeance by doing what her husband should've
done in the first place. May I point out three aspects of this?
She was swift to act. So many of us are willing to make peace,
but only after we fret for a few weeks. She understood the urgency of the
situation, and knew that it was only going to get worse as time passed — so she
She knew that her husband was in the wrong; so therefore she was
penitent on his behalf — both in word and in deed. There are two things that
are important here; the first, of course, is penitence. If you are wrong, admit
it and make amends. But notice that she does this on behalf of her husband (who
disagrees). Sometimes you have to be the penitent for someone else. Peacemaking
is an expensive hobby.
When she puts the matter to David, she does so in terms of David
and his relationship with God. She does not plead her own case, much less that
of her husband. It reminds me of my mother, who often began her arguments with
the phrase, "if you consider yourself a Christian…" Peace begins with
your relationship with God.
Persecution for Righteousness
Matthew 5:10 NIV
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of
righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Reaction to Righteousness
Consider what I call the "cockroach principle."
When you turn the lights on, the cockroaches scatter. Spiritually,
righteousness is light – and the cockroaches don't like it. Usually they
scatter, but sometimes they fight back. We need to examine the reactions that
the people of the world have to righteousness.
One the oldest examples concerns Cain and Abel. Put shortly,
Cain kills his brother because his own sacrifices were not acceptable God, but
Abel's were. He didn't like the competition, so he got rid of it. He was a
little surprised when God was upset with him about it; we seem to think that
our self interest is sufficient as justification for practically any sin. From
the Christian perspective, it's a warning. Just being confronted with
righteousness — not an in your face righteousness, but just day-to-day
righteousness — people have a tendency to strike out and destroy. You need to
More commonly today, however is the art of intimidation. We
live in what purports to be a civilized society; putting a bullet in your
neighbor's head tends to involve the police department and great deal of legal
bother. So if you keep that righteous person shut up by intimidation, you get
the same effect without the bullets. Most Christians understand this very well.
If you are the only Christian at your workplace, expect to be ridiculed for
your faith and criticized as "holier than thou."
A more recent development — at least in our society – is
that of the fake martyr. This is the poor, courageous homosexual who knows that
every Christian is just waiting around the corner with a lead pipe to beat him
or her to a pulp. Of course, they go on righteously and in a self-deprecating
manner point out that courage. After all, with all those villainous Christians
out there, a lesbian just can't be too careful. You can see this in the
newspapers pretty much every day; a homosexual who speaks out against
Christianity is called "bold"; a Christian who replies is called
A Good Thing?
It would be extremely convenient of Christ not to have
brought this subject up. Most of us don't like the idea of being persecuted;
most of us don't like the idea that it's going to happen to us whether we like
it or not. And practically all of us start with the impression that there is no
real benefit to it. That makes it surprising when Christ starts his words with,
"blessed." So what possible benefits are there to being persecuted
for the sake of righteousness?
I hate to tell you this, but suffering is a part of this world.
You are going to suffer. But your heavenly father knows that you can only
handle so much suffering. He has also provided you the choice in why you will
suffer. If you decide to be a bank robber, you're going to suffer with prison.
Do you not see that it is better to suffer for being righteous than for being
wicked? You do have some choice about it; choose wisely. Suffering is a form of
practice in the Christian life. Practice is painful — make it count.
Suffering perfects you, in the biblical sense. Remember that
the word "perfect" doesn't mean that you are sinless; rather, it
means that you are polished and suited for a particular task.
Finally, there is the promise of reward. Yours is the kingdom of
heaven — or, to put it in a sports metaphor, you made the team!
Courage-the Foundation of Virtue
Most of us shy away from the talk of persecution because we
don't think we have the courage to face it. We look at the great martyrs of the
church, we admire them, but we don't think we have what they had inside.
Perhaps we are wrong:
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love
and of self-discipline.
I would point out to you that our reactions are based on the
courage we think we have. Christ tells us to react on the basis of the spirit
he will give us. It is a spirit of power; so there is the sense that we
actually can do the job. We can face the persecution; the courage will be
there. But it is also a spirit of love. That means that we must bear that love
even to those who are persecuting us. We cannot react in hatred, but we must
remember that those were persecuting us were designed to be children of God
just as we are. The war is not over when you have defeated the enemy in battle;
the war is over when you have made your enemy your friend. To do this we shall
require self-discipline — and he will give us that too.
We might take our motto of the Royal Navy: fear God and
dread naught. For if you fear God, what else can you possibly fear?
Persecuted for the Name
Matthew 5:11-12 NASB
"Blessed are you when people insult you and
persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
(12) "Rejoice and
be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What the World Will Do
It sometimes comes as a great surprise to new Christians to
find that the world will attack you and persecute you just because you have the
name "Christian." You don't have to do anything; all you have to do
is bear the label. Here's what you should expect:
They are going to insult you. If you haven't heard, "they
are all hypocrites", you just haven't been listening. The world has a way
of doing this so that sounds like it's behind your back — but they want to make
sure you're listening. You're also going to get, "wild eyed right wing
fundamentalists." There are several variations on this. Remember, you
don't have to do anything to deserve this; all you have to do is be a real
They're going to persecute you. This sounds a little difficult in
modern America, but persecution is a little more subtle than it was in the
early Roman Empire. It is most common on the job. People who are real
Christians suddenly find themselves "not to be trusted." It's a
curious thing. If you're the person who walks into the room and all the
obscenity stops, those who just stop talking the one we get you back. This
applies even if you didn't say anything about the obscenities — and usually,
you don't have to. There may be a reason you're getting all the dirt job is.
Most commonly, however, you will be the recipient of false
accusations. Often enough these will be whispered behind your back, taken as fact
by the management, and dealt with severely — leaving you to wonder what on
earth you did wrong. Expect it. (This, by the way, is a good reason not to
believe the rumors you hear about your fellow Christians at work. Judge not.)
Sharing the suffering of Christ
The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. We often
forget that the word "martyr" originates in the Greek word for same,
which means "witness." So when you suffer for the name of Christ,
even to the point of bloodshed, you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
Most of us are not "great men." But does not mean we cannot imitate
such a man. Most of us are small people; if you're going to be great, it's
going to be in a small way. But we should not neglect the chance to be great in
that small way. For the Christian, this means sharing in the sufferings of
Think about it: most of us are not smart enough to become
great theologians; most of us are not disciplined enough to become great
Saints; most of us are just us. But there is one thing we can do which we have
in common with those who are great: we can suffer nobly. Suffering is something
that comes to you, not something that you create — at least, if you have your
sanity. But when it comes we have a choice about our reaction to it. We can
whine and complain, or if we are suffering for the name of Christ we can accept
it, thank God for it, and endure it as Christ would endure it.
He knows that you need to be rewarded for that. Here's what
he promises you:
Romans 8:16-17 NASB
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, (17) and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and
fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him
so that we may also be glorified with Him.
2 Timothy 2:12 KJV
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:
if we deny him, he also will deny us:
He promises glory and dominion; heady stuff.
The problem most Christians have with this is that the
reward seems to be one which is entirely heavenly. It could hardly be
otherwise, if you think about it. If suffering for the name of Christ caused
you to suddenly glow-in-the-dark, so that everyone would know what a great
Christian you are, can you imagine the effects? But he does understand that you
need reward; he also understands that you need the acknowledgment of suffering.
Let me point out two passages to you.
1 Peter 4:14 NASB
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit
of glory and of God rests on you.
You should at least have the sense that suffering for the
name of Christ means that you are on the team. Those who have played any kind
of competitive sport understand this. The practices are often grueling and
painful. It's like the Marines say: "pain is weakness leaving the
body." It's more than that for the Christian. Suffering for the name means
that you have made the team, the only team that counts eternally.
This will be more apparent when our Lord returns.
Matthew 16:27 NASB
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory
of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS
God is just; he is fair. When people ask me why I believe
that Christ will return and judge the living and the dead, I usually answer
something like this. "Do you believe that Adolf Hitler got what he
deserved?" Most people don't think he did. "Do you believe that God
is righteous and just?" Most people do. So the choice comes down to either
God is not just, or God is not powerful enough to straighten out Adolf Hitler
as he deserves, or God isn't finished yet. Christ explicitly tells us that God
isn't finished yet — but the day is coming when he will bring justice. In that
day your suffering for righteousness sake, for the name of Christ, for the
kingdom of God will be rewarded as only God can reward. Hope is still a virtue.