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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Admittedly I am not great at making things with my hands. I’m not a “natural” and do not have the patience to practice and get better at it. My wife and I watch those home renovation shows and it’s like a bizarro world to us. Who has the ability and time and patience to do all of that work?
When I think of making something, the last thing I think of is peace. It’s not tangible like renovating a house, making a fire in a fireplace, or scrambled eggs on a stove. It’s not like building a birdhouse or a shed for the backyard. Peace is something intangible, yet we are called to make it.
In Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” He lists peacemakers way up on the list of virtues in the Kingdom of God. While peace can seem abstract, it is vital to our lives. Jesus is Himself called the Prince of Peace. This week we’ll talk about this abstract, often overlooked virtue of being a Jesus follower. When you are building things you need materials. Let’s begin today by asking God to reveal to us in prayer what materials we will need to make peace.
Pray and ask God to show you what it takes to make peace. What was used when we’ve seen other people make peace where it wasn’t before? Make a list of virtues needed to be a peacemaker. (Here’s a hint, a lot of them are the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5.)Share Tweet
And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. - James 3:18 (NLT)
Yesterday we talked about making peace. What’s true is that peacemaking is work. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional effort and time. In the verse above we get the picture of planting seeds and reaping a harvest. Here in the spring, it is easy to see how this works. We moved into a house last summer and our first spring has been really cool. The previous owners planted some beautiful perennials and we have benefitted from their prior efforts.
Planting things takes care and attention. What James knew is that real peace is the byproduct of real effort. Through his work in the early church, he had seen divisions rise up from the earliest days. In the infant stages of the early church, some people felt neglected about how the church was sharing food. It was wise, decisive actions and prayers that helped bring peace and harmony. Even when the first Christ follower was killed for his faith, James witnessed the church grow faster and stronger than ever. It wasn’t through war and strife, but ground was gained through humble and diligent Christians loving others like they truly mattered to God. Seeds of peace were planted early and often in the early church and James wants us to carry on the planting today.
So, what ways can you start to plant seeds of peace? Can you apologize for a mean streak or an offhand comment? Can you smile at someone who appears to be stressed out or frustrated? Can you lend a hand to a young family trying to balance work and life? Can you call or visit an elderly person who doesn’t have a lot of friends and family left? Can you serve a co-worker who continues to be selfish?
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. - Matthew 5:11 (NIV)
Scott helped us understand on Sunday that making peace is not avoiding conflict. (If you missed the message, check it out here.) As a matter of fact, it’s often the opposite. Peacemakers are the ones who step into a conflict and courageously work through the very difficult division and hostility that exists. There is more than enough aggression and fighting in the world today.
Jesus was a peacemaker; He gave Himself up to reconcile men to God, but His sacrifice wasn’t a passive and fearful result of a misguided attempt at messiahship. The Bible says He resolutely “set His face” to pursue His sacrificial calling. He also went into the temple overturning tables and single-handedly disrupting a very profitable but spiritually bankrupt marketplace. He continually countered ongoing verbal attacks from the most powerful religious leaders of His day. He stood toe to toe with men capable of and willing to kill Him. In His life He brought peace, but it was not without conflict.
Great peacemaking requires effort and personal discomfort. A few breaths after Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Of the great divisions in our society today some of the greatest are political, racial, and socio-economic. Each of these has bold thick lines of division marked by anger, hostility, and rage. As Christ followers, we are called to be peacemakers. The problems are large and bigger than each of us, but that doesn’t remove us from the responsibility of working toward peace.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33 (NIV)
The verse above was what Jesus said to His closest followers just before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus knew His time on Earth was almost over and that His personal investment in these men was coming to a close. The stakes were really high. The Kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish was hanging in the balance. If Jesus dies, rises to life, and ascends to Heaven but His disciples give up and quit on the work Jesus started, the church never gets off the ground. As a sports fan, this equates to me as the ultimate pre-game speech. It’s like Jesus is saying, “This is going to be really really hard, but trust me, I’ve got this!”
In this verse is the keyword peace that we have been studying this week. Notice Jesus doesn’t direct their peace to any source other than Him. The bad news is you will have trouble in this world; the good news is, you have Me! Jesus’ audacious claim to have overcome the world is the promise His disciples could cling to when they were persecuted, beaten, exploited, and insulted. Their peace wouldn’t be found in retail-therapy, a peaceful vacation, more money in the bank, Mrs. Right, or their dream job. Their peace was in Jesus alone.
So how about us? Where do we go for peace? Maybe that list above comes to mind? There are a lot of distractions promising peace all around us, but none of them will truly bring sustained peace.
For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
My oldest son Jordan is 10 years old. I know him well. In most any situation I observe him in I can predict how he will act… what he’ll do… how his face will look in a given moment… even his body movements. Right now I can close my eyes and picture him doing his favorite things, right down to the nuanced mannerisms that no one else, aside from his mother, would pick up on.
Having celebrated Easter just a couple of weeks ago I absolutely cannot imagine what God experienced when His son Jesus was on the cross. I can’t wrap my mind around all of my son's expressions, quirks, smiles, emotions, and senses going away and seeing him breathe his last. There are no words in the English language that would describe such a gutting, cold, empty, and painful sight. Yet, God observed this—His son, The Prince of Peace, died in a cruel and painful way at the hands of government officials of the most powerful nation on the earth at the time.
This week we are talking about being peacemakers. Jesus is called The Prince of Peace. It should sober us, stop us in our tracks, to think about the fact that THE Prince of Peace suffered and died a horrific death. His voice was silenced, His senses were nixed, His lungs were stopped, and His heart ceased to beat. The son of God suffered and died. It is clear that being a Peacemaker costs something. The question to end this week is a simple one, “Are you willing to be a peacemaker?”