Summary: A look at Jesus beatitude about peacemakers in the context of possible war with Iraq but focusing on what it means for us.
v9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
"If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee."
-- Lady Astor
"If you were my wife, I’d drink it."
-- Winston Churchill
Conflict we all recognise it is a fact of life and try to avoid it, yet none the less always seem to be involved in it.
This week we moved a stage closer to war with Iraq. Both Tony Blair and George Bush are saying that war is all but inevitable. Yet as the prospect of war grows ever closer, the support for the war seems to be in decline. People in this country seemed to be more and more opposed to a war. So what does Jesus teaching “Blessed are the peacemakers” have to say to us who are thinking of going to war.
The beatitudes are one of the most common passages in the Bible. I’m sure you’ve heard of them before. However, what often escapes our notice is that the beatitudes were written in a context. While we often regard them as timeless principles they were also written to a particular context although this does not mean that we can;t get timeless truths from it. So what was the context. Jesus was the Messiah come to the Jewish people. But again this did not happen in a vacuum. There were certain expectations for the Messiah. To most people of the time, the Messiah was supposed to be the one who would come and bring the people freedom from the Romans and a Jewish state. It is in this context, where the people were expecting a warrior leader to lead them against Rome that Jesus comes and says blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God. In a context where zealots and rebels were everywhere and while not every Jew did take up arms against Rome, almost all supported an armed uprising. Indeed this is precisely what happed between 30 and 40 years after Jesus death and resurrection. And into this context Jesus comes and says blessed are the peacemakers. It wasn’t what the people wanted to hear.
But what about the reward, they will be called sons of God. While we now may view this as a new relationship we have with God, where we can call God Father and we are adopted into Christ’s relationship with the Father, this is probably not what is primarily meant here. That’s not to deny that this relationship exists for Christians, it does but rather to suggest that there is another meaning to the phrase “son of”. At the time of Christ it could mean more than just a biological relationship but it was used as a common metaphor, to mean like. For example James and John were called the sons of thunder, to mean they were like thunder. Or to put it another way, they lacked a way to turn a noun into an adjective, you can tell I have a girlfriend who’s a linguist can’t you, unless of course your an English teacher in which case you can probably tell me the correct term for what I’ve just described. Thus to be a son of God was to be like God, we would say godly. What is ironic here is that the zealots and the others who were for active rebellion against Rome, might refer to themselves as the “sons of God” for being the godly zealous ones who were willing to risk their lives for what they thought was a godly cause. Yet Jesus comes along and says blessed are the peacemakers. They are the truly godly ones. They are the ones who are really like God.
So who exactly was Jesus referring to when he talks about peacemakers?
Just about everybody prefers peace. All other things being equal we would rather live in peace than at war, I don’t think anybody would disagree with that, except perhaps some arms and military equipment manufacturers. Growing up in a stable country where people don’t need to fear for their properties or lives. We would all love world peace. For their to be an end to terrorism, an end to the need for terrorism. At present the news is filled with talk of weapons of mass destruction. We would all no doubt rather live in world without them. You get the picture. Peace is a good thing, especially in a society which faces the prospect of its armies being used to fight in a war and faces the threat of terrorism. We love peace. But Jesus did not say not say blessed are the peace-lovers.
There are others in our society, how do their best to live at peace with everyone. They don’t use violence to achieve their goals. They try to do everything possible to avoid fights. They try to get on with everyone. Then there are those who go further and reject violence. No matter what the provocation they will not retaliate with violence. They live their lives without restoring to violence for any reason. When faced with aggression or opposition they do not resist even to their own hurt and detriment. But Jesus did not say blessed are the peaceful.