Summary: The fifth part of Sermon on the Mount Series, how we bring peace to those around us.
The year was 1938, the date was October 6th the place was London England, the speaker was Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and this was the message "We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot believe that such a programme would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators."
It would appear that Chamberlain was the embodiment of the seventh Beatitude, where Christ said Matthew 5:9 (NIV) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Another warm fuzzy beatitude. Stopping trouble should make everyone happy, am I right. Yet the word that is used here by Jesus is Shalom which is the word that all good Hebrews used in greeting one another. So if we were Jewish and met on the street I would say Shalom, actually I would say, Shalom Aleichem and you would respond by saying Shalom Aleichem. But this word Shalom which we translate as peace is totally unlike our concept of peace.
You see our concept of peace is an absence of trouble whereas Shalom meant everything which makes for a man’s highest good. When the greeting is used it does not simply mean that you wish a person absence from bad things, but it also means you are wishing him all possible good things. In the Bible therefore Peace means not only freedom from all trouble it means enjoyment of all good.
And so we need to be very careful to realize that the blessing in on peacemakers, not necessarily the peace lovers. A person can love peace and through his actions cause more trouble then peace, taking us back to our opening quote by Neville Chamberlain. In his First inaugural address Richard M. Nixon said "The greatest honour history can bestow is that of peacemaker."
But it isn’t with honour that Neville Chamberlain is remembered as a matter of fact he is seen now as a compromiser and the blame for a good portion of the Second World War is often laid at his feet.
When Chamberlain gave into Hitler’s demand for Czechoslovakia, he thought he was a peacemaker, when in reality he was a peace lover, and ultimately he was simply trying to avoid conflict. You see you can either win your peace or you can buy it: You win it, by resistance to evil; You buy it, by compromise with evil. And it’s your choice. The peace spoken of in the Bible is not a passive acceptance of wrong, but the ultimate triumph of good even if it involves conflict.
Too often we see peace as non aggressive coexistence where you leave one another in peace. A judge once asked a fellow he was sentencing, "Does your conscience ever bother you? Have you ever thought of what God thinks of your actions?" to which the criminal responded "I’ve always been at peace with God, he don’t bother me and I don’t bother Him." Jesus though had an entirely different concept of peace, not a détente, but instead reconciliation. Peace is "We" not "You" and "I". Even with the cold war over international peace is still maintained by what is referred to as "The Balance of Terror", but that isn’t peace. Married couples do it through a communal relationship but that isn’t peace either. They think that peace means the coexistence of two separate entities. But peace will never be gained until all sides have found peace with God.
To say that we can declare peace while others are committed to aggression is a hopeless task. As one person so aptly put it "There is little use in the sheep passing a resolution in favour of vegetarianism while some wolves still like mutton." If we are truly going to be peace makers it will be a result of introducing people to the peace of God. And introducing our world to the Kingdom of God.
And the result of being a Peace maker? Jesus goes on to say "They shall be called the sons of God" God is the supreme peace maker and to be singled out as a peace maker is to be singled out as one who shares the characteristics with our Father, or as Jesus said in Matthew 12:50 (NIV) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
The next beatitude isn’t nearly as easy to comprehend as the first seven, compared to number eight they were down right self explanatory, Matthew 5:10 (NIV) Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, Not only does Christ say happy are those who are persecuted but he adds happy are those who are punished for doing right. Now I think the is only one thing that would bug me more then being persecuted for doing wrong. Hey we may know that we need to be punished but we don’t have to enjoy it, do we? What would really bug me is being punished for doing good.