Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9In my day job I am a History teacher. In the last few weeks I have taught my pupils about King John allegedly killing his nephew, Arthur, Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years’ War, and King Charles and the causes of the English Civil War. If you took these few weeks as indicative of history, you would think that the past is a very violent place. You might not be wrong. History is chock full of records of battles and wars, and of leaders killing others in order to secure their own position. This, it would seem, is the way of the world. War, violence and death are the way to secure greatness. Those who love peace are destined to be a footnote in the records of history, and probably found themselves weak and helpless in the face of stronger, more forceful leaders.
Once again, here in this beatitude, we see Jesus being totally counter-cultural in his teaching. If you told any of those powerful leaders of the past that the way to ultimate success lay in making peace, they would have laughed you out of the room. Yet this is the expectation that Christ has of those who dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, he says.
It’s not just the powerful kings, queens and military leaders of the past who might struggle to comprehend this beatitude. I wonder if you have ever felt yourself embroiled in office politics? Have you seen one of your colleagues consciously trample over others to gain a promotion? Maybe you have been tempted to do this yourself. This attitude might lead to short term gain, yet if we take a long term view it is not helpful. We are just as guilty as those military leaders of the past if we take this attitude. Instead we need to be more Christ-like in our approach. Whilst the Messiah was envisaged as a strong, dynamic military leader who would defeat the enemies of the Jewish people and lead them to freedom, Jesus turned out to be a rather quieter figure, who told his followers to turn the other cheek to anyone who slapped them, and to offer their coats to anyone who tried to take their shirts. Jesus was more interested in love than hatred, in peace rather than war.
Interestingly we are not called to be at peace in this beatitude, although that is implicit within it. Instead we are called to be peacemakers. Jesus expects us to further his kingdom by bringing peace to the world around us. This might be within our own families or friendship groups, it might be between rival factions in our offices, or it might be lobbying our governments to work for peace on a global scale. Jesus, the son of God, sought to bring peace to the world. We, as his followers, as his co-heirs are called to do the same. If we do, we in turn will be deserving of our place as children of God.
Let’s all pray for peace in our world today. Let’s pray for peace in our cities. And let’s pray for peace in our homes. Above all, let us all strive to work for peace where we are, to aim to be peacemakers where peace is lacking. Let’s strive to be true children of God.