Summary: Those who seek and find peace discover their true place in God’s family.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
June 26, 2005
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Eugene Peterson’s “Message” renders that verse, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
In the Hebrew Bible, the word for peace is “shalom” and suggests serenity, prosperity, happiness, and peaceful relationships between people. The Bible is clear, I think, that the person who works for peace is engaged in the very work which the God of peace is doing.”
The Bible speaks time and time again of peace. Before his arrest, Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). After his resurrection, he greets his followers with the words, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). Paul begins his first letter to the church at Corinth with these words, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:3). To the Christians at Rome, he says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15). Ephesians says “For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of enmity” (Ephesians 2:14). Colossians teaches that Jesus “has reconciled all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1:20).
You have no doubt noticed that I generally end the benediction with “Go in peace” because we have all been afforded the privilege of worshiping our Lord together. Following worship we are returned to the world from where we came as ambassadors of Christ’s peace among many who don’t know him.
This is an interesting time to be preaching on the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is an interesting time because we are at war in the Middle East. Some will say that we are at war in order to restore the peace which has been shattered by terrorists. Others will say that war is never a way to bring peace, that it’s an oxymoron.
Serving the church in Shipshewana was an interesting experience during the run up to the Iraqi invasion a couple of years ago. Almost two thirds of the churched people in LaGrange County are members of either the Mennonite Church or of the Old Order Amish. These historic peace churches have made their stands through the generations by opposing war and violence of any sort. We had a number of interesting and passionate discussions in our weekly Bible study. I remember that we had one fellow in our church who had served in the army during the late fifties. When his tour of duty was completed, his local Mennonite Church told him that he was no longer welcome.
I also got to know a local Old Order Amish bishop by the name of Casper Hochstetler. Amish youth don’t join the church until they are in their late teens. Casper went against his parent’s wishes when he was younger, refused to join the church and joined the army instead. He served as a Military Policeman.
I remember a conversation he and I had one day. He told me that after he got out of the army, he came to a decision that God had placed him in an Amish home for a reason, and he had no right to question that reason. So he came home, asked for forgiveness from his parents and community, was baptized and joined the church, and now serves as a bishop. So even historic peace churches differ in how they treat their own who go against church tradition and teaching.
Our own United Methodist tradition is confusing to some. Our Social Principles affirm:
We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of all disputes among nations…Some of us believe that war, and other acts of violence, are never acceptable to Christians. We also acknowledge that many Christians believe that, when peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may regretfully be preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny and genocide. We honor the witness of pacifists who will not allow us to become complacent about war and violence. We also respect those who support the use of force, but only in extreme situations and only when the need is clear beyond reasonable doubt…We support and extend the ministry of the Church to those persons who conscientiously oppose all war, or any particular war, and who therefore refuse to serve in the armed forces or to cooperate with systems of military conscription. We also support and extend the Church’s ministry to those persons who conscientiously choose to serve in the armed forces or to accept alternative service” (excerpts taken from The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. Section V. “The Political Community” sub-section I. “Military Service.”).