Monday, February 27, 2012

Be a Peacemaker….Cause an Uproar!

The fifth chapter of the book of Matthew records what is traditionally referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”. Contained in this discourse is what is known as the       “Be-attitudes” (emphasis mine). Jesus lays out a blue print for us here to build upon if we wish to be blessed. Today, I want to focus in on the final Beatitude; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

One can imagine that the role of a peacemaker is both an admirable and a challenging one. Throughout history, we have seen individuals who have brokered peace agreements between warring parties. These men and women have received praise and been held in high esteem as the results of their efforts. Now they may even be awarded special honors such as the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their accomplishments. Is this what Jesus had in mind? I don’t think so.

Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus as “the Prince of Peace”. That being said, we can easily consider Him an expert in this matter. As the foremost authority on the subject of peace, Jesus had some thought provoking, and at first glance, seemingly contradictory things to say about this.

Speaking in Luke 12:51, Jesus said: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No I tell you, but division.” He went on in the next two verses to describe how He would be a source of contention and dispute that would penetrate all the way down on a family level, separating fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and so forth. Speaking again in Matthew 10:34, Jesus stated: “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” I don’t know about you, but these kinds of words make me squirm in my seat. I’m not sure I like the sound of this.

What seems contradictory appears in Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? On the surface it may look that way. Let’s did a little deeper and find some answers and possibly some “peace”.

Throughout the books of the Old Testament, a picture of the coming Messiah was developed. Messiah would come and free the Jewish people from captivity. He would restore them to their land, give them payback for their losses, subdue and punish their enemies. This is true, and this aspect of Messiah’s appearance has yet to be fulfilled. There is another portrait of Messiah which is neither grand nor glorious. It is the exact opposite. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Messiah as the “suffering servant” and the “man of sorrows”, who would be rejected by His own despite the sacrifice He would make. These two different descriptions are polar opposites of each other and the rabbinical teachers could not reconcile the two. To relieve the tension, the prevailing teaching was this; the “suffering servant” is a description of the nation of Israel. Now the concept that Messiah would come as conquering hero was retained and became the expectation of the Jewish people right up to this point in time. Leave it to Jesus to stick a pin in that balloon.

When Jesus said that He was not coming to bring “peace on earth”, He was stating, that at that point in history, He was not coming to establish His Kingdom here on earth. He probably ruffled a few feathers when He did not take a stand politically against Rome, and even admonished the people to pay their taxes. Our IRS agents would be considered cookie pushers compared to the tax collectors of that time. On one occasion we know that Jesus purposely removed Himself from a situation because He knew there would be an attempt made to make His a king. Some bible scholars believe that the real reason Judas betrayed Jesus was to force the Lord to establish His Kingdom. Jesus did say he would bring a sword, but it was not like the weapon of that day. While He did not come to instigate the revolution that so many were looking and longing for – He did turn the whole world upside down and radically change the course of history.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means, nothing missing and nothing broken. If this type of peace was in full force in all of our lives, there would be no need for cease fires, truces and treaties. Jesus was talking about receiving a quality of life where every area in our life that had experienced brokenness would be repaired. Anything missing would be replaced. An individual could be made completely whole in every area of their life: spirit, soul and body. This would not happen automatically. When Jesus talked about “bringing” peace in Matthew 10:34, bringing has the connotation of throwing something out without caring where it fell. Peace was not going to be scattered around like “pixie dust” (although it would be much easier if it was). Repairing a broken object takes work; finding a missing piece or part takes time and effort. Both are worth whatever we spend in order to get the job accomplished. This is the role of the peacemaker.

Did you say you are not qualified; you lack the necessary skills needed? Not a problem. There is no reason to feel compelled to “fix the world”. There are three people that you can spend the rest of your life working with who will provide you with more than enough practice. Let me introduce you to: me, myself and I!

Working through the peace process in our lives can be very far from calm and soothing. It can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. Jesus never subscribed to the band aid method of wound treatment. He is always about opening it up, cleaning out all the junk, dressing it and nursing it back to complete health. There may be a scar. There may not. Either way, the crippling effect of the injury will be gone, and healing will have come. As we allow Him to pinpoint areas in our lives where we are lacking peace, and follow his prescribed treatment, our lives will dramatically change. Our circumstances may or may not improve: they may even become more difficult and trying. No matter what happens, we are now operating on a higher level of stability and calm that we have not experienced before. We become more and more peaceful.

We may be surprised to find that this puts us in an excellent position to help others who are working through their “stuff”. We can afford to be more patient with those who do not even realize that they have “stuff”. We understand, we have been there. We are relieved of the need to jump in and fix things. We can go the extra mile to smooth things out on the surface, temporarily. This is not an attempt to sidestep conflict or to avoid making waves. The purpose is to build a foundation for future resolution. If and when the time comes, we can help that person through their peace process.

Will pursuing peace always be smooth sailing and all pie-in-the-sky? Probably not. Can it get messy and unpleasant? More than likely. Will it ruffle some feathers, cause misunderstandings and even hurt some feelings – probably. After all, Jesus expected those same reactions and a got them. That never stopped Him; don’t let it stop you. Be a peacemaker – cause an uproar! You will be blessed and be a child of God.

1 comment:

  1. This was a very helpful article for something I am going through right now. You dispelled the fallacy that being a peacemaker always feels peaceful even though peace eventually will manifest. Thank God for His peace which passes all understanding ---- above our emotions.