The Beatitudes: The Peacemakers
Passage: Matthew 5:9
Would you please be seated and open in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5, verse 9.
Almost every time I have the privilege to preach to you as a church family, I end our services by giving a benediction. I just love benedictions. And the one I primarily go to is from Numbers, chapter 6. It's a benediction known as the Aaronic Blessing. It's a blessing that Moses gives to his brother Aaron. Surely you've heard it; it goes like this:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you (--what?) PEACE.
I've got to tell you that I've given that benediction dozens and dozens of times. That final word I've always overlooked: Peace. So all this week I've been looking at our text today and thinking about the peace that we've been given with God through the completed work of Christ; the peace that is rightly ours as the people of God, and just been mindful that I far too often overlook the category of peace.
It's difficult to talk about peace today because of the conflict we experience. Conflict is a sign of the times. Each of us feel the instability and the strife all around us that's resonant in the world. There's conflict in our government. We're afflicted with wars. There's conflict in the global church; we see brothers and sisters being put to death, martyred for their faith in Christ. There's conflict everywhere.
Where we feel it probably the closest and the nearest is in our own homes, our own relationships, where we regularly experience brokenness and strife. Our marriages, our close relationships, hindered by our sin. Conflict is the sign of the times.
Psychologists describe this built-in mechanism with how we deal with conflict. Walter Cannon was the first person to describe the two ways of what psychologists call "stress response." That's babble. THIS you'll understand: Fight or Flight. You with me now? Yep, you're with me.
So it's interesting to me how quickly we discern this. Even from little kids. I coach a U5 soccer team. Again, that's crazy. Why would anyone do that? So pray for me on Saturday mornings, that God would be gracious to me; that I would not create conflict with these little people. But even from very early on, you see these little kids. You put a ball in the middle of 8 little boys, and I tell you, half of them are, "This is war!" First to the ball, going to score; and I've got half the team crying with their mother on the sidelines. There it is: Fight and Flight.
Of course they'll grow up, and maybe you've experienced this in early dating relationships that quickly went sour because one of you was Fight and one of you was Flight, and you quickly moved on. Perhaps you're married to someone now (don't squeeze your spouse right now) -- but you're like, "Fight -- that's you. I'm the good one, Flight." Yep. Fight or Flight. Conflict is something we must be trained to deal with, because conflict is inevitable in life.
So when Jesus commands us to be peacemakers, He's well aware of the conflict that's present in the world. Remember what's going on in the city of Jerusalem with the oppression of Rome upon the people of God at the time. So Jesus is aware of all of the conflicts that are happening in the world. And what He's doing here in this Sermon on the Mount is inaugurating the kingdom that has come, and teaching us to live as a people of the kingdom. That's what Jesus is doing. And He's saying, against the backdrop of this war of a world, I'm calling you to be a people of peace.
Later He'll say it this way: Be salt and light in your conduct, in your way of living. He's commanding us, calling us to be peacemakers. Are you a peacemaker? Are you a peacemaker?
Let's read our text together: Matthew chapter 5, verse 9. And Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." We're going to read that again, all together now. Are you ready? "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
So in the Greek, this is just eight words long. But in this very short sentence is this massive mandate, an enormous category for us to be a people of peace.
So here's what I want to do with this text this morning. First, let's look at it theologically, and then we'll see its uses in our lives.
So theologically, I want us to see that we are called to be peacemakers, what that means, and what "sons of God" means, these two identities that are given to us in the text.
Second, I want us to apply this doctrine to our lives as a people who pursue peace with others.
And then finally to apply it to our lives as a people who then promote peace in the world.
So, talking about peace. None of this is possible without the help of the Holy Spirit. Right? You've lived longer than a day. So let's pray. Let's ask God to help us in this, this morning.
Father, we confess our need. There is war that is pent up in our hearts. There's conflict coursing through our veins. And yet we who are in Christ are a trusting people, that You have made us new, and that You are making all things new. I pray that the peace of Christ would guard our hearts and our minds today as we look at Your word. We want You to be glorified in our lives, and we pray to that end. Amen.
All right, first let's look at this text theologically. And the first thing I want us to see this morning is that a peacemaker experiences peace with God. A peacemaker experiences peace with God. So we'll go word by word, phrase by phrase, through this little verse: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” And we'll break it apart: looking at blessedness; what peace is; the work of the peacemaker; and this phrase, "Sons of God."
First, let's look together at the source of our blessedness -- the source of blessedness. So our source of blessedness, our source of peace, is Christ. Christ is the Peacemaker. Christ the Peace Giver. John 14:26 says "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
Now there's a spot in McKinney called Adriatica, where they took Croatia and rebuilt it in the middle of Collin County. Have you seen it? Let me describe it to you. It's like they took Croatia and rebuilt it in Collin County. And this Brazilian sculptor -- we would sometimes take him coffee and get to watch him work -- carved this massive dove in the middle of a roundabout -- there's a roundabout there by this pond. And after getting coffee sometimes, I'll just get my truck and go around the roundabout (which is not a normal Collin County experience). And on this marquee they have carved in stone, this very verse. I love to think of this verse: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you." Christ is the Peacemaker.
So before we can think about being peacemakers ourselves, we must be people who have experienced, and are experiencing, the peace of Christ in our hearts, in our lives. Let me be honest with you: This is something we are terrible at. This is something I am terrible at. This fleshes itself out by, how many of us spend time just grasping for things we have no idea what they are, looking for peace?
When the peace we're promised has already been given to us in Christ, and it's not enough for us, so our hearts are restless, so we chase after things to bring us peace, when Christ IS our peace. Christ is the Peacemaker.
Let's think for a moment how we've been given peace with God. So God, from the realms of eternity, perfect in holiness, in love, and in joy, chooses out of that joy to create all things, as expressions of His own glory. He places man and woman as the crown of this creation. And it's in God that all things live and move and have their being. And in those first few chapters of Genesis, man experiences peace with God -- perfect communion, unhindered friendship. But what happens is, war is pent up in our hearts. And we trade (Romans 1 says), we trade the truth about God for a lie, we trade peace with God for enmity with God and wage war on the King of the universe.
So when we talk about the coming of Christ, the coming of the King, inaugurating this new kingdom, that is a frightening reality. Because the King is coming, and we have rebelled against Him. So the only good news of the gospel is that God has come to make peace with us. THAT's good news! Because from birth we are war-torn, in rebellion against a God who is filled with love and perfection.
So God chose to show us His kindness, to show us His mercy. Long before this day of rebellion happened in the garden, God had a plan of redemption for this people whom He knew would sin, in order to bring them back to Him again. Colossians 1:20 says that "Jesus has made peace with us by the blood of His cross." That is the war that was fought on our behalf: God making peace with us by the word of the cross of Christ. The Prince of Peace bearing the punishment for us. Rebels. Treasonous people against our Maker.
Friends, this is the source of our happiness. God has made peace with us. That's good news.
Let's look at this word, peacemaker. This strange compound word. Christian, now that you've been given peace with God, you're called to be a peacemaker. Weyland and I were talking about this yesterday. So what Jesus is NOT doing here is making a prophetic statement about the movie "Tombstone." Where you see Wyatt Earp's gun, and the camera makes a ten-second pan of the "Peacemaker." Are you with me? Do you watch fine films? Okay, that's not what's happening here.
But when Jesus uses the word "peacemaker," this is the only time we see this word used in the entire Bible. And it carries with it this connotation that since you are blessed, since God has made peace with you, so now you will be a peacemaker. So I want us to look, to tear this word apart, looking at peace, then see what it looks like for us to make peace.
So the word used in the Greek is the same word, same connotation that is used in the Hebrew, a word we probably know: The word Shalom. Shalom is an enormous Jewish category of thought. Because when we say peace, we might mean just the absence of war, right? This is like world peace, like what beauty pageant contestants say. Like you have one wish, what is it? "World peace."
I want one time to hear them say, "I want the crown! That's the only thing I want in this life." And I think we should say, "Give the woman the crown -- she told the truth."
So this is not world peace; this is not John Lennon peace. Peace signs, you know, you wore them on T-shirts in the 80's. Anybody else? No, of course you didn't. East Texas living, right there. Okay, so, that's not what's happening here. Nor is this the Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling."
What's going on here with this word Shalom is a comprehensive, robust, inward and outward peace with God -- the right ordering of all things. Peace, God's peace given to us. And so now we're being welcomed into this work of making that peace -- building that peace, fighting for that peace.
For us to understand what peacemaking is, we must understand what it is NOT. It's not closing our eyes to conflict, making peace in our subconscious, pretending things didn't happen. No, it's rightly acknowledging all the tensions in life, and still having confidence and trust in God as His people who are kept.
Peacemaking also doesn't mean that we must become pacifists. Sometimes fighting a war is the only way to accomplish and protect peace. You need not look any further than the war that God waged on satan, sin, and death in order to rescue us. Or, if you even pull back and look at the scope of redemptive history, for the price that was paid, the war that was waged on sin and every enemy of God, that God might be worshiped, that His name might be hallowed, and that His people might be rescued.
There's three kinds of peace, three kinds of peacemaking that are in view here. Two of them -- I've been spending time with the father of English Puritans, William Perkins. But he left out some stuff, so I'm pulling from Spurgeon as well, organizing these three things. And here they are, if you're taking notes.
Number one: Peacemaking is first, being a vessel of peace PERSONALLY. That's what peacemaking first is. After we've experienced peace from God, our first action in this category is then being a vessel of peace personally.
The second is then to help others who are at odds and in conflict -- for them to experience peace, and for them to be reconciled. First step: You be a person of peace. Second step, help others know peace.
And the third category is this: To then be active in helping other people find peace with God through Christ. There's the three works: Personal peace, helping others be reconciled, and then helping our lost friends and neighbors be reconciled to God.
That is what peacemaking is. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Sons of God. What Jesus is doing here, He's teaching this doctrine of Adoption -- one of the most precious doctrines in our Bible. Because we were a people born at odds with God. Sinning, because we are, from birth, sinners. And God in His kindness has chosen to reach into our death, to reach into our depravity, and to draw us near. He's the God who's filled with love. And He calls us not just to save us. But then look at the identity he gives us -- Our Father. This doctrine of adoption is a precious jewel to us.
I was reading J.I. Packer's "Knowing God" this week. I like to work through it every couple of years. He has a chapter in it called "Sons of God." How he starts it is by asking this question, "What is a Christian?" What is a Christian? I want to read you how he answers this. He says,
"The question can be answered in many ways -- what is a Christian? But the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he thinks of the thought of being God's child, of having God as Father. If this is not the thought that prompts, and controls his worship and prayers, his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all."
I think the first thing we should do with this text as far as our response is to marvel anew that we've been given this gift of adoption. Oh, my goodness.
I'm married to a girl who was adopted once. I tell her she's been adopted three times. She was adopted by God; she was adopted by her parents; and then I adopted her as well.
We have a comprehensive adoption that we've been given, by a Father filled with love.
So now Jesus is saying, the reward for being peacemakers is that our inheritance is everything that's due to us as sons and daughters of God. The Bible says that everything is now ours IN Christ Jesus. He's saying that, because we are the sons and daughters of God, because we will do what we see Him doing, we will be like Him. We're literally sharing in His character, and then bearing forth His image, the character of God to the world around us. And because of this, God will be glorified. God will be glorified.
So there's our theological look at this text. We've been blessed, we've been given peace with God, we've been called to be peacemakers, and now this beautiful title: "Sons (and daughters) of God." The word "sons" is the right use here, but it includes all the children of God.
That's our theological work. This is a theological church. I don't want that to scare you. If you go to a church that's not theological, you should leave! That word "theology" just means the study of God. If that's not happening in a local church, something is very broken. So that's all that word theology means. It's not meant to be a weapon. It's meant to be a tool.
But all of our doctrines, all of our right thinking about God, is meant to be kindling in our hearts, to ignite and stir the flames of worship, so that Jesus is treasured and known and loved.
So what I want I want to do, now that we've talked about this doctrine, that we have obtained peace with God through His work of adoption. Now as His sons and daughters, these image-bearers of God, we are to be a people who do two things: Pursue peace, and promote peace. So for the rest of our time, we'll look at those two activities of a peacemaker.
So point one is, a peacemaker experiences the peace of God.
Point two, peacemakers pursue peace with others. This is our right response to God having made peace with us, that we pursue peace with others. And when we think about being a people who pursue peace, I want us to start with our closest proximity: Our home, and then right here in the local church.
When you think of yourself in the context of your home, is peacemaking a priority? Isn't it interesting that the people we love the most and who love us the most are oftentimes the most difficult to live with? If no one's name just came to your mind, people are thinking of you right now. YOU are difficult to live with!
Is your home filled with the peace of Christ? Is your home filled with the peace of Christ? If you want a real answer to that, ask your spouse. So, on Wednesday I was meditating on this text, and I thought, well, there she is; I should ask her. This is us laying on the couch. I'm looking at Jamie (she's the redhead).
And so I ask her, "Hey, do you experience me as a peaceful person?" And this is her quote: "Aaaahhh . . . sometimes." And right there I want to put fig leaves on all the ways that I don't make peace in our home. But there it was, the honest truth. Now I'll take "sometimes." Oftentimes I'm not a peacemaker in our home. I need help in this. To be honest, my first reflex is not always to make peace. I like war. War is okay with me. We can have a little bit, and then make peace later. Couples love to do that.
And so, there was the truth laid bare: Sometimes I'm a peacemaker. But let me tell you, by God's grace my desire is to be a peacemaker in my home. And I'm inviting us as a community of faith to pray that God would be worshiped in our homes, and that we would experience His peace in our homes. Every day we are creating a culture. With our words, with our actions, every day we're creating a culture in our homes.
So like when Paul's writing to the church at Ephesus, and he says, "Wives, submit to your husbands," it's because he wants there to be peace in the home. And when he turns his attention to husbands, and he says, hey, toward your wives, you should die -- lay down your life so she might flourish, for her good, it's because he wants peace in the homes.
Hey, kids, listen to this. Ephesians 6:1 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this us right." Why God tells us that is so that there might be peace in your home. God wants to be glorified in our homes. So when I sit down with a couple to do any kind of marriage counseling, whatever it may be, to start our time together, I know I've got to pray that God's peace would be known in this home. And then we talk through whatever the issue is. And I've got to pray again, God, would You give us peace in this home.
Because it's not natural for us to live at peace with one another. It's evidence of the grace of God, to live at peace with one another.
So here's one thing you can do to promote peace in your home: Apologize regularly. Apologize regularly. Fight to be the first to say "I'm sorry." Don't let things stew for moments and hours and days. Just be humble and say "I'm sorry." At the beginning of marriage, I was terrible at this. I was Stonewall Jackson. And over the years, I remember Jamie and I early on having to say, Hey, we're on the same team. And we need to be reminded of that, that we're on the same team here. And what that does, we say, Oh, we have peace already, so let's just live in that.
So just apologize quickly. And then when someone's repenting to you, telling you they're sorry -- I don't know if you may do this, or your kids may do this, but they say, "Well, do you really mean it? You didn't seem very sincere when you just apologized." I had that with my boys yesterday. So they sit in a room together until they can be reconciled. If you have kids, you should write that down. It's a good method. "Boys, you'll be in here. You can come see me when you're reconciled. And I'd better believe it."
Quickly apologize and let your heart be soft and responsive, moving toward your spouse.
Let me just say, regardless of your state of life, pray for the peace of Christ to fill your home. Pray for the peace of Christ to fill your home. And pursue peace in your home.
The second environment I want us to pursue peace in is right here, in our church. In our call to worship this morning, Psalm 133, we read, "How happy is the place where brothers dwell together in UNITY. And then there's this beautiful poetic language like oil dripping down the beard of Aaron (this is what a follicly challenged man does when he mentions the beard). And what that is, is saying that there's an oil of anointing, an oil of gladness that drips from this place where unity is experienced. Psalm 133 ends with saying in that place is this commandment of life everlasting. Joy, life, where we get together in unity.
The church is the place where would see that. Local churches should be the most peaceful places on earth.
Praise God. So I was meditating on Psalm 133 this week and praying it over us as a church family, praising God for the unity that we all share. What a gift this is. This is a place not free from striving and conflict, but if you step back and look at the whole, we are a peaceful people. What a good time for us to talk about this, how to deal with conflict.
A few years ago, we took our staff through a book called "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande. A fantastic book, a couple hundred pages, on the steps to go through in pursuing conflict resolution. And here we are this morning, just spending time in God's word, allowing it to teach us that when conflict does come, how should we rightly respond?
If you just look further down in Matthew 5, if you just take your attention down to verses 23 and 24. Jesus clearly tells us how to address conflict. He says, "if you're offering your gift at an altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." So what Jesus is doing here is combining this act of worship with reconciliation. Let me say this: A healthy church is one that asks forgiveness regularly. They're not a people who just sweep things under the carpet.
If you're here this morning and you saw someone that you have conflict with, and so you just had to make a quick bathroom run, something's broken. That's the Holy Spirit prompting you to come and be reconciled, listen to this, as an act of worship! That's what reconciliation is: God's people pursuing unity, regularly apologizing. Receiving and offering forgiveness. Can I just say this? Can we just give each other the benefit of the doubt? What a great practice that would be. Just give one another the benefit of the doubt. Maybe someone didn't mean to sin against you. Maybe you've been carrying something around for weeks, months, years that another person's totally unaware of. Would you not let another day go by before you pursue reconciliation?
Let me give you two steps in this. One, read Matthew chapter 18. It's where Jesus walks us through how to pursue conflict resolution. It's what we use as a church. This means you don't go to someone else and talk about that person. You go to THAT person and pursue reconciliation. If nothing is fixed, then you go to the elders. That's my step two for you. In your pursuit of reconciliation with someone in our church, bring it to the elders. Look, we want this to be a place of peace. We will help you through this.
Reconciliation looks different. It doesn't mean you're going to be besties with them from now on and go on vacation together. That's not the only expression of reconciliation. Reconciliation has many stripes, many colors, many expressions. Be reconciled. Let your hearts be at peace with one another.
So in the same way that I challenge you to pray for peace in your home, I'm inviting us as a church family to pray for the peace of our church. Pray for peace within our elder body. Pray for peace within your community group. Pray for peace in these areas of service. Pray for peace in our walkers class. Oh my goodness. Pray for peace here in our church.
So a peacemaker pursues unity with others.
And the third thing is, a peacemaker promotes peace in our world. A peacemaker promotes peace in our world. This is our final section.
And I want us to see that this does not just mean, create peace in these contained, safe, sterile environments of our home and in the church. But no, we're called to be a people who are bearing the image of God with a world that has no love for Him. That's our task.
So literally, if we ask the people of Collin County to describe their experience of us, would they say that we are a peaceful people? In your home, in your life, the way that you parent, your social media conduct. Let me just tell you, you don't just get a pass for things you say on Facebook. Be wise. Many of us are so quick to sow seeds of discontentment, seeds of hatred. I can't even go on Facebook without feeling dirty, polluted. But still I go. That's just a very tangible way for us to be people who promote peace in the public market.
How about at work? How about on your kids' sports teams? How about in your circle of single friends? Are you known for promoting peace with God? This is what Spurgeon brought in, this third category of being people who reconcile the lost to Christ.
Two things are in view here: Numbero one, by our reputation, and Two, by our proclamation. One, by our reputation, and Two, by our proclamation. Notice Matthew 5:9 again: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be CALLED sons of God." This is the reputation of the people of the kingdom, that so as we see God's holiness and joy and love, when we see His people, this is what we experience as well. The reputation of a peacemaker is imaging the character and the nature of God to an onlooking world.
But it's not just that. It's not just that we're good citizens, that we just help each other with chores, and we pay our taxes and so forth. That just makes you a good Texan. Okay?
The gospel must be proclaimed. Saint Francis is either attributed or accused with the phrase, "Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words." What a dumb saying! That is impossible. Think about Romans 1. It's not like an onlooking world can see all of creation's glory and God's manifest presence and His handiwork and everything, and come to salvation. They must be proclaimed to. They must HEAR the good news of the gospel. This is why the scripture says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the gospel. The gospel must be proclaimed, and the gospel must be demonstrated.
The most recent example of this came from the girls in our community group. We lead a community group up in Celina, with mostly people from our neighborhood and around there. And Melissa Teague and Lindsay Walker, two of the girls in our community group, befriended a Muslim woman who is a single mom. And for the twelve days of Christmas, that's a thing that women like to do -- for the twelve days of Christmas we would go and put gifts and toys and food and movies and all this stuff on their doorstep, and ring the doorbell and run away. I did that as a kid, for other reasons. But see how God redeems that practice?
And so we did this for twelve days straight, and then all of a sudden, this woman is now aware of what's going on. And she reaches out to these two ladies, and she says, "I've gotta have you over to my house. You've shown me such love and kindness." And what we have here is a woman who worships Allah, inviting a group of Christians, because of the love that she's seen, into her home.
And the girls -- I don't know if they bought it or made it; I was not involved -- they got this sign that says "God is good all the time." And this is like a Joanna Gaines shabby chic sign; it's super-hip. And so we give it to her. And her living room has this picture of Mecca over her fireplace. And all of a sudden, we give her this thing and we leave, and she texts the girls this picture of this new shabby chic sign, "God is good all the time," next to a picture of Mecca.
And then she texts them later, and she says, next week I'm gonna take Mecca down and just put that as the centerpiece.
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! THAT is peacemaking. This group of women are aware of a need. Their hearts are burdened for this woman who does not know Jesus. It's out of love, to share their lives and to share the gospel with her. You can pray for our friend, that she would come to know the peace of Christ.
Let me invite you, if you would, to bow. Let's spend just a couple of moments responding to God's word.
So for Christians hearing this word today, pray that God would help you walk securely in your God-given identity as sons and daughters of His. Praise God that He's given to you His Name. You are known. You are His possession. Come and revel in this reality. You've been chosen by the love of God, purchased by the work of Christ, sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. You've been given peace with God. So now pursue peace with others. And promote peace in the world.
If you're here this morning and you don't know the peace that I'm talking about, I PLEAD with you, don't wait another day before you know this peace. This peace can be yours, by repenting of your sin and trusting in Christ. Don't stay an enemy of God. There are two kinds of people: Those who are at war with Him, and those that love Him. There's no third category. So today, lay down your weapon. Be reconciled to God. You can know peace with Him. Don't wait another day.
May the Lord bless us; keep us; may God be gracious to us. May God lift up His countenance upon us and give us peace. We pray these things in Christ's name. Amen.