Perfecting Peace: “Blessed are the Peacemakers”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
November 6, 2016
We are three-quarters of the way through our sermon series on peace. We began with a lesson on the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Then last week we learned about the peace that surpasses all understanding – the kind of peace that is experienced when we fully surrender our will to God’s will. Once we get that, I mean, really understand that personal peace is perfected when we turn over control to our creator, we are ready to put our peace into action. And that is our topic for today: Blessed are the peacemakers.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, may the words I am about to share be pleasing to you. Open our ears to hear, and our hearts to understand your message today. Amen
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” We have all heard this dozens of times. But what does it mean? What is a peacemaker? Let’s start with what it isn’t. “Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who have peace,” although we come to God longing for some peace in our hearts.” Many of us experienced that lasting peace when we surrendered our lives to Christ. Right?! “Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who prefer peace, wish for peace, or await peace,” regardless of how fond we may be of peace. What Jesus says is, “Blessed are the peacemakers, those who make peace.” The Greek word literally means “doers of peace” or “makers of peace.” The people Christ says will be called children of God are those who are actively working for peace in their community and in the world beyond.
This idea of being a peacemaker takes peace and moves it from being a thought, to being an action. From a noun (peace), to a verb (peacemaking). From thinking to doing. Now when you hear the word peacemaker, you may imagine someone who has signed up to work for the Peace Corps, traveling abroad to immerse themselves in a global community, motivated by the desire to be a change agent, working with the local leadership to bring a positive change to the community. That might be one kind of peacemaker.
The bible has stories about peacemakers. One of those stories is of Gideon in Judges chapter 6. “The story goes that the Israelites were being terrorized by the people of Midian because they had offended God. For instance, as soon as the Israelites had finished sowing their fields, the Midians would swoop in and destroy the produce and even the livestock. The Israelites were left with nothing for food, and they were reduced to misery. They turned to God for help. Here’s where we meet Gideon in a surprising twist. God sends his angel not to a great warrior or a famous leader who could save the Israelites in a single bound.
“No, God sent his angel to Manasseh, the lowliest family of the Israelites. And God chose Gideon, the youngest and most insignificant member of the family, to save Israel from the Midians. After much protest, Gideon listened to God, for God promised that he would be with Gideon and would give him strength, saying “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” (Judges 6:23) Gideon built an altar to God and called it Yahweh-shalom, which means “the Lord is peace.” Gideon came face to face with the God of peace, the one who could transform the lowest of the low into a great leader. Gideon went on to save Israel from the Midians and to bring peace to the land.
“This story tells us not only how the Israelites came to realize that God is the source of peace, but that God empowers us to be bearers of peace. Sometimes we might feel insignificant like Gideon, especially when the problems we face are huge: a relationship in conflict, violence in our communities, or problems of poverty and hunger. There are no easy answers to these problems.
“Think about your family, your coworkers, anybody, everybody. Christians never, ever settle for warfare and tension. They doggedly make peace. As Christians, we must never settle for the bogus kind of peace that pretends, or politely nurtures old grievances, or privately harbors piercing criticisms. We seek out the other person and strive valiantly for peace. Christians never settle for peace by mere force. If dad shouts and waves a mighty fist, and his wife and children cower silently, there is no peace in that home.
Genuine peace is deeper, richer, giving life to those in the home, and in the world, letting them be free to be the people God made them to be, not walking on eggshells but dancing in the streets, clenched fists opening, receiving the once clenched fist of another, a veritable Virginia reel of joy. Peace, when we labor to make peace, opens a faucet that lets a poison run out of the soul, and in the emptied place, deep joy, calm hope and God’s Spirit gather and thrive.
“I suspect that very many of us need to do some peacemaking during this season when the angels will be singing of peace. With whom are you not at peace? How do we make peace? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “There can only be … peace when it does not rest on lies and injustice.”
“For peace to be made, anywhere, any time, some shift in power relationships has to happen. For a tall, muscular guy with a 20-inch sword to be at peace with a little scrawny guy with a pebble in his hand, the big guy has to relinquish his bigness, he has to decide not to tower in intimidation; and the little guy has to decide not to run, not to be a sneaky guerilla in jealousy over the big guy’s sword. When the strong befriend the weak, dignity and strength are imparted to the weak—although the dignity and strength flow both ways, don’t they?
“Peacemaking is all about love, which isn’t an emotional mood, but a tangible action. Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” and “Love your neighbor.” Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of hostility. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up.”
This past year we have witnessed one of the most contentious political seasons I have ever witnessed. I am sure you would agree. I hardly know what to believe, which “side” is telling the truth, when it appears that no one values truth any longer. Part of me wants to bury my head under a pillow and ignore it. It would perhaps be easier to do that, to pretend that as a Christian I’m not supposed to be of the world, so I’ll step back from the political process and just pray.
That’s not what God calls us to do as peacemakers. We are to become engaged in the issues of our society, not bystanders, complaining about how awful things are. We, sisters and brothers are change agents and we must respond to the needs of our communities and of our nation by doing what we can, to bring peace.
When you go to the voting booth this week, or perhaps if you already have, I pray that you voted through the lens of Jesus Christ. What is Christ calling for us to do, be and say? How can Jesus Christ best reach the lost and alone of our world? Which candidates represent the values we hold as Christians? We must be the ones who are fighting for peace! Man, that’s an oxymoron, fighting for peace?! Let me change that, we must be passionate for peace. We must educate ourselves to the issues and chose candidates that support our views, our Christian views. What if our political climate was dictated more by the words of Jesus, than by the hurtful barbs and lies that have been tossed around like grenades.
As people of faith I know that we don’t all agree on which presidential candidate will be the best for each of us personally, nor for our country as a whole. You know that God doesn’t take sides, right?! Many in this room this morning are sure that if their candidate doesn’t win, the world as we know it will end. That’s democrats and republicans thinking this. My prayer this morning is that we each do the best we can, to make the best decision, with the best information and trust that whoever wins the election, they will be able to unite our country and bring healing. If your candidate fails to get the vote, take comfort in knowing that God is bigger than the democrat or republican party. God is the God of peace and love and with people like you and me continuing to be peacemakers we will survive the next four years. We must then be the peacemakers to bring our country back together again because our very future depends upon it.
Let us pray: God of the universe, as we approach the new week we are anxious about the future of our nation. It seems we have a difficult decision to make and neither candidate for president is a shining example of a Christian leader. We beg for your discernment and guidance. Help us to make the best choice and to live with the outcome of the election on Tuesday. Give us hope that you are in control and we must always look to you for the answers. Give us grace to accept the outcome of the election and remind us that we must remain united with one another to promote your kingdom here on earth. Amen.