We have, for the last couple of months here at EQUIP, been going over the beatitudes alongside the series we are doing on Sunday’s on the sermon on the mount. We are now in the tail end of our beatitudes series, and our “Red Letter City” series on the sermon on the mount will continue over the summer. I hope that you guys have been blessed by the series, I have been getting some really really encouraging reports from people of the ways that the various topics have brought reconciliation to past wounds, as we have dug into the issues that Jesus addressed, some of which have not been easy. The last three messages on Sunday’s were: Anger, Lust, and then Divorce. and I am happy to be on the other side of that trilogy now.
It was definitely the longest stretch of really hard things to talk about I have done yet.
Today’s beatitude has a similar complexity to it that some of those topics we have been addressing lately have had, and the concept as a whole has been one that there are definitely two very opposite sides and understandings of. This verse itself has caused in many people, the opposite of what it has called us to…
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9)
Which, to Jesus’ hearers must have come as a bit of a surprise because, as we talked about several other times throughout this series, everything in that day had been taken over by Rome. Their ways were being forced on other cultures, and essentially they had taken over the entire known world… which is why the first four beatitudes seemed so upside down…
who inherits the earth? The meek?
Wait a minute, it would have appeared that Rome already inherited the earth by being the opposite of meek. They had taken everything over through force. So to the Jewish audience that Jesus was addressing here, if anything, they would get the earth back by building up a military that could withstand Rome and eventually overthrow it.
Peace was not something on their minds.
If anything, they wanted justice.
and understandably so.
and it is not like we can simply say, “Oh, Jesus came to bring peace.”
Because in Matthew 10 Jesus says that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. He said that he would set brother against brother. and he says whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me… and that whoever finds his life will lose but but whoever loses his life for my names sake, will find it.”
and a lot of people use that to say that we shouldn’t work for peace but when I read it, what I get out of it is that working for peace could ultimately cost you, yours.
It cost Jesus’ his.
Jesus in John 16:33 says:
“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.”
He is telling them, in me… you have peace.
But what I am doing and what I have come to do is not going to cause there to be peace on earth right now…
you have to have peace in your heart knowing that the work of the cross has already been done in you.
Out there, you will have trouble.
Because the world is screwed up… and its not going to receive well the people who work to restore it because the unfortunate truth is, the whole thing runs on disorder.
The whole world runs on “this side” vs.”this side.” and one overcoming the other… and someone rising above someone else.
But blessed are the ones who throw themselves in the center of it all and help people work together. Help mend brokenness and end wars…
they make peace on a small scale, and they make peace on a large scale.
Blessed are the ones who help people see that at the end of the day we are all human, we all all flawed, and we all need Jesus.
There is a moment in the book of Joshua, it is probably the best example you will find, when this angel of the Lord appears, and Joshua asks him, “are you for us, or are you for our adversaries”
and the angel says… I am on neither side. I am the commander of the Lord’s army.
And then he tells Joshua to take off his shoes for he is standing on Holy Ground.
The angel tells Joshua, in this moment, what matters is where you are standing, not which side you are on.
You are standing in the presence of Jesus.
Sometimes in our wars and in our fights and in our preferences, we miss out of the truth of where it is we are standing.
and in Jesus what does the bible say? We are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female. (Galatians 3:28)
Can you put your war on pause for a moment, and acknowledge that Jesus is bigger than all of it!
Not everything is us vs. them.
sometimes there is another way.
actually, always, there is another way. That doesn’t mean that everyone will chose it, but it does exist.
Now, we have been saying that each beatitude builds off of the last… the first four essentially show us what salvation is like… it is how God meets us in our brokenness, and then the last four shift into, in a way, what our lives in this Kingdom should look like…
this is how we should treat people in our city…
these are things in us that show others who God is.
and being a peacemaker and being pure in heart are definitely coupled together.
You have to, in your heart, have an understanding of what God has done for you if you are going to begin to bring his perfect peace into our world.
You have to see God, before you can be called a son of God.
And then, from there, the question becomes, “how do I do this in other situations?”
Because there is a very big difference between being a peace keeper, and peace maker.
There is a very big difference between a person who keeps peace, and a person who makes peace. There is a difference between someone who can keep order in a difficult situation, and someone who can throw themselves in the center of a seemingly unsolvable conflict and figure out a way to solve it.
Dawn will tell you this. She can tell you many stories of times that I have been a peace keeper, when I should have been a peace maker.
Sometimes in my home my objective merely rests on being a peace keeper… if I can just keep everyone happy then their will be peace and quiet and there will be no stress.
But a peace maker doesn’t do that. A peace maker knows that sometimes you have to go through the crucible and then separate the dross from the silver, like we talked about last week.
A.W. Argyle says this of peacemakers, they are“not appeasers, but those who actively overcome evil with good.”
They overcome fear with love. They overcome hate with compassion.
They figure out solutions to problems that are bigger than themselves.
They are willing to do whatever it takes.
Peace makers are very rare.
A peace keeper, they may have the ability to see a problem arise and even be able to diffuse it before it explodes. It can be a good trait to have (not always). But a peace maker can enter a war zone where the bombs have already gone off, and be able to stand in the middle of a war and be able to show both sides that they are wrong… and show both sides that the other is right.
They are both right. and they are both wrong.
Because most of the time, our differences aren’t as off balanced as we think.
there is a quote I want to give to you, I read it in the book by R.T. Kendall but the quote is from a man named Clyde Narramore, and he says this:
“Every person is worth understanding.”
and I think that is really important as we work to even just engage our community in better and more practical ways. They are not all going to be the same as us, they are not going to have the same upbringing necessarily… they may not have the same needs, or the same beliefs.
But what our community here at Courage must be about, is throwing ourselves into other peoples worlds and learning what it is that is going on… why do they do the things that we don’t understand?
Because maybe there is some good in there that we can’t see from the outside, and if we stay away, and distant, and inside this building with the doors closed all the time, only spending time with people who are just like us, and who can remind us of how right we are all the time because they think the same way that we do…
we will never reconcile the people who think differently.
And we will never learn from them either.
The moment you think you know it all is the moment your life begins to end because there is always more to learn, and God has us, in the places that he has us so that we can grow together with the people he has put us in community with.
Last summer, in “the fruit of the Spirit” series, we did a whole teaching on the word “peace.” I made Emily and the worship team play “White Flag.” They were mad.
Peace is one of the most fascinating words of the fruit of the Spirit, especially in Hebrew.
It is the Hebrew word “Shalom,” and the big idea behind this word is the “completeness.” It means that all things are “whole” or are in their fullest state, what they should be.
So a person who makes peace would be someone who can enter into a situation where things are “not as they should be,” and you can bring some restoration to that situation.
It could be a conflict. It could just be a lack of wholeness. It could be that something has fallen short of what it should be.
Now, in Hebrew, as we have talked about on numerous occasions, the letters are read backwards, and each letter originally was a picture.. it was basically a stick figure type of image, which later became known as “Hebrew word pictures” or “Hebrew picture graphs.” Or if you are looking it up online you could search the “Paleo Hebrew alphabet” I love doing these but always want to acknowledge that word pictures NEVER take the place of the bible.
Sometimes they can really illuminate a concept, and I wouldn’t show you them if I didn’t think that they helped explain something that otherwise is more difficult to understand… but I find it absolutely fascinating that before we had the word Shalom in Hebrew written out the way we know it to be now…
those same letters were stick figures and stencil type of images:
They don’t look terribly different do they?
from the right the first letter is:
“Sheen” and the picture is of Teeth, which symbolizes to consume or destroy. The second letter is Lamed (la-med), it is a shepherds staff which represents authority. So if you were to look just at the first to letters of the word peace, it says “destroy the authority”
The third letter is the letter “vav” and it is a nail or hook, it connects things... It means To hook to, connect to or to establish, and the last letter is “mem” and the image represents crashing waves of water. In the book of Genesis “mem” is actually translated as the word “chaos.” - Think about a Hurricane, or a Noreaster… and just the unbelievable chaos that large waves can cause to people in the water and on boats.
What the word picture is saying is this, to find shalom… to find peace, you must first “destroy the authority that is establishing chaos.”
Now I am not talking about a war.…
though at the heart of most peace movements is the concept of anarchy, or some sort of revolt against a system that is being abused and does need to be brought down.
But I want us to see this from a bigger perspective.
I am not talking about destroying people. I am talking about diagnosing what it is, first of all, in you, and in your life, that is robbing you of your peace… what is it in your life that is making it so feel like nothing is as it should be.
You have to pinpoint it.
You will always have chaos, until you identify the areas of your life that are causing the chaos. That are keeping you from peace.
But what does that mean for a peacemaker?
One of of the really sad truths about our world is that there are always two sides. We said it earlier.
War would be impossible without sides.
everybody seems to take a side, but what we miss is that somewhere in the middle, between us and our sides that we think are totally different, there is an authority that is establishing chaos between us.
There is. There is a oneness that has been divided. The bible says in Genesis that in the image of God we were all created… But somewhere along the line one person went one way, and another went another way, and one thought that their way was right, and the other thought that their way was right…
and pride became so consuming that it became worth killing over.
So now we have people killing other people made in the same image of God.
There is a story not often told in 1 Samuel 25 about a woman named Abigail and her husband Nabal.
And Nabal is a jerk. The bible says “he was harsh and badly behaved.” (1 Sam. 25:3)…. but his wife was discerning and beautiful.
So Nabal is very wealthy… and David, who at this time is still on the run, because King Saul wants to kill him… he hears that Nabal and his men were out shearing sheep and so David sends ten men to greet Nabal.
They are very friendly in their approach.
and they tell Nabal “Peace be with you…” and then they ask for favor from Nabal and ask that he provide a feast for them.
They asked for his help, and of course, Nabal, whose name by definition means “fool” and who is described as “badly behaved” in the bible… behaves badly.
And he tells the men, “Who is David the son of Jesse?”
“Why would I give you guys who I don’t know, any of my food. Absolutely not.”
So David and his army greeted him kindly, and he responded in harshness. And when the men get back to David and report what had happened, David apparently gets a little bit upset about this, and he says “Every man strap on his sword!” (v. 13)
and so David and 400 men essentially went to take what they wanted by force and to wipe out Nabal and his people.
Now, you don’t have to read all that much about David, to know that you do not want his army coming after you. It makes for a very bad last day of your life.
But the word gets back to Nabal’s wife, Abigail.
and they tell her, “David’s men were so kind… they were respectful, we suffered no harm at their hands and they took nothing of ours.”
“They were kind, but Nabal railed them! and sent them away.”
And basically what the servants told Abigail was, that because of the way her husband acted, it could cause a whole lot of harm for their family and everyone nearby..… something needed to be done.
and a peace keeping wife who just wants to keep the peace in her home would have just went along with what her husband had done, and remained peaceful and not gone around him and rather, let him take care of the entire thing. But she didn’t have peace keeping in mind, she had peace making in mind.
So she goes out and she greets David and his men, and David says some things that make it pretty clear that the army was on its way to wipe out everyone…
And Abigail falls at David’s feet and says “On me alone be the guilt.”
We all know that NONE of the guilt belonged to her.
But not only is she willing to take the fall for the entire thing… but she pleads with David, saying that there is only one in this entire situation who has done evil and there is no reason to take it out on everyone else.
Without saying it, and totally respectfully, she showed David, that both sides were wrong.
There is no sense in destroying other people for one man’s mistake. and that was the path David was currently walking toward.
The same thing happened in the book of Esther, a man named Haman gets mad at a Jewish man named Mordecai for disrespecting him, and then Haman decides that he is going to commit genocide against all of the Jews because of it, and the King naively signs off on it.
But Esther, who was married to the King, found a way to make peace from a central place… She was a Jew, not wanting her people to be killed,
yet she was married to the King who had signed off on the plan for genocide.
If you have never read the book of Esther, read it. It is such a fascinating account of what it means to make peace. and we don’t have time to get into her story any more today…
but Esther was a peace maker.
Abilgail was a peace maker.
Abigail pleaded with David, and even said to him“that had she known what they wanted she would have given it all to them.” And so David turns around.
He is moved by her intervention and he acts favorably toward her.
She was a peace maker.
And in her case, in order to be a peace maker she had to give up being a peace keeper.
Because she jeopardized the peace in her home for the sake of the greater good.
Jesus never kept the peace. That is not what he did. In fact his entire ministry was about turning the world and its religious belief system on its head… because it was about all the wrong things.
but what he did will ultimately make peace and reconcile the broken back to him.
and, as we have said over and over and over, reconciliation is our goal as Christians.
I love this quote in Simon Tugwell’s book on the beatitudes… he says this:
“To be a peacemaker is not, then, to come and patch things up, to arrange a settlement with balanced concessions all round, to try to find a compromise. It is to declare the truth of God and the truth of creation; it is to announce that a fallen world can be remade. It is to proclaim that the oneness of God has taken possession of the fragmented world of sin.”
Blessed are those who live their lives as a reflection of Jesus, who the bible refers to as “The Prince of peace.” but who we all know during his time on earth stirred up just as much as he brought together.
Because in order to destroy the authority that is establishing chaos in our world he had to call it out.
Sometimes to ultimately bring peace you have to stand up to both sides and remind them that there is a third way, a better way, and his name is Jesus.
There is this song by the band “Gungor" that came out a little while ago, and it really powerful. The concept of the song is that God’s judgment is love…
Which so often is the opposite of what the churches judgment tends to be… but it is God’s judgment.
if it wasn’t, then why would he send Jesus? If Jesus didn’t love us, he wouldn’t have let himself be judged for us.
Jesus ultimately said, I will make peace between the two sides by taking the fall for both of them.
and as scary as this can be to live up to, as followers of the way… Jesus’ is our King but he is also our example for the way that we reconcile the world back to God. Sometimes peace will come at the expense of ourselves.
Abigail was willing to take the fall for her husband’s stupidity if it meant the rest of her people would have peace.
and in this song, One of the lines says this, “if it is us or them, it is us for them.”
and the first time I heard that, I just felt something in my spirit… it was just this conviction, of what it actually takes to live like that. To live in such a way that if life comes down to you or someone else, you make the call that it will be you losing it, on behalf of someone else. and most days I don’t know that I could honestly say I would honestly make that call.
But nothing else could possibly look more like Jesus.
What does Jesus say? Anyone who loses his life for me, will gain it. (Matthew 16:25)
It is so so so upside down.
and it made me wonder this when it comes to the beatitudes… and maybe you have had a similar thought before…
Have you ever wondered, who is calling them sons of God?
It is just a little food for thought… I think that the automatic assumption is that it is God who is calling them his sons. And it could be that… I am sure there are plenty of arguments that would say that… and that is fine. But if that is the case, then it is definitely not the only way in which God would call us his child…
Paul says in Romans 8:14 that “For all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God”
John 1:12 says that “all who receive Jesus, and believed his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
Being a peace maker is certainly not the only way to become a son of God.
Merely receiving Jesus… merely having the first beatitude gives you the right to become a child of God…
But remember, the beatitudes are about the Kingdom of heaven just utterly and completely invading this earth. and could it be that when you are a peacemaker, at least from the perspective of everyone standing on the outside, looking in… that this is what makes you look the most like God? Could it be, that from the perspective of man, whom we are supposed to be a reflection of God too, that us being a peacemaker is the clearest way that they will see that God is in us?
Could it maybe be that it is other people who will call us children of God?
Because as far as they can tell, we are doing the work of the Lord even though they have no idea what the work really even is?
They see Margie and David out there cutting down trees and leveling the land across the street so that a soccer field can go there and kids can all come together and share in what they have in common, instead of always standing on opposite sides and fighting over what makes them different.
and then what do they think when they hear that they are Christians, who they don’t even know… but that are doing that for them?
If I had to guess I would guess that they think something like this:
“I don’t know what Jesus looks like… but I bet it is something like that.”
When the team goes out and feeds the homeless, and Justin notices that one of them doesn’t have any shoes on… and he thinks to himself, “how is this man going to have any peace in his life if he is always walking around these streets filled with broken glass everywhere in his bare feet… and Justin shakes his head and says “no no no no no” and he takes off his shoes and gives them to the man right there in that moment…
When he identifies it. Shoes. Lack of shoes. It is causing chaos… “and I can fix it!”
“I don’t know what Jesus looks like… but I bet it is something like that.”
We aren’t going to solve all of the world’s problems. But we can declare Jesus everywhere we go through our words, and our deeds because he is the only one in whom true peace can be found.
and so Jesus arrives on the scene, and stands in front of an enormous crowd of people who were thirsty for vengeance, and who wanted their land back, and who wanted their rights back, and who would do anything it took, if they had the power to fight back against what Rome was doing… and he tells them:
Blessed are the peacemakers.
For the shall be called sons of God.