blessed are the peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” matthew 5:9

i know i’ve been all over the place the last few weeks & i like to do that here, not feeling pressure to color in the lines but just go with what’s right in front of me.  at the same time, i really do want to finish this beatitudes series!  there are only 2 more to go.

in this beatitude, the word for peacemaker, is eirēnopoios. what’s interesting is this is the only time it’s used in the bible.  the word peace, in the greek, is shalom, which means: completeness, wholeness, safety, soundness, health, friendship in human relationships and with God.

the other beautiful part of shalom is that it is not only about the absence of evil, strive, bad things. it is also the presence of good and positive things. “maker” is an active word. i read it as: “blessed are those who make/participate in/create wholeness, healing, friendship, reconciliation”.

for many of us, the idea of being a “peace-maker” has some big misconceptions.  we may have been taught that keeping the peace means not rocking the boat, not messing with the status quo, going with the flow, doing whatever we can do not to be in conflict, stuffing our own feelings for the sake of others, and a whole host of other not-so-healthy relationship skills.  so, it’s easy when we read this beatitude at face value to think that at yet another turn it’s our responsibility as Christians to just be quiet and tow the line (this is especially strong for Christian women although i know all kinds of men who struggle with being afraid of conflict, too).

i don’t think that kind of “keeping the peace” is what Jesus is getting at here.  he was the ultimate status-quo rocker, oppressive-system-toppler.  at the same time, he was referred to as the “prince of peace” and in this beatitude it says that when we are makers of shalom, we will be called “children of God.”  to me, this is a lovely reflection, that God’s children will be like him, and he is a peace-maker.

real peace-making does not look like buttoning up our lips and just going along with the powers that be.  one look at the gospels & it’s quite clear that is what he was calling us all toward something much deeper than that.  i believe he was and continues to call us to restoration. to not just the absence of evil but to the presence of good.  that despite the obstacles against it (of which there are many), the ways of the kingdom of heaven are available on earth, now, too.

the earth is not crying out for more brokenness. it’s crying out for healing, restoration, connection, wholeness, and healing.

the question is whether or not we’re willing to participate in its creation.  making peace won’t just be about eradicating strife, evil, and conflict but requires us to participate in creating good, bringing love, joy, justice, and mercy to create healing and wholeness in our relationship not only with others but with ourselves & God, too.

to me, peace-making means not only standing against what’s wrong but also actively embodying what’s right.  when it comes to issues of equality and injustice, words are only a start.  actions are what change things.  i think of gandhi & the amazing work that he did on behalf of the poor in India.  one of gandhi’s primary inspirations as a young man was Jesus’ sermon on the mount!  (thisis interesting). through nonviolent action, things changed.  if he just talked about it–or used force–change would have never come.  he says, “violent means will bring violent freedom.”

when it comes to living out kingdom ways now, to me it means i will need to respect the fine line between passivity and violence.  i think it’s finer than we sometimes think.  and because i’m human, sometimes i’ll tip toward one side or the other & it will feel really cruddy.  i’ll be too quiet, i’ll be too pissed off.  but the part i keep holding on to is that the only way to participate in creating the kingdom now is to actually participatestumbling, bumbling, trying, with a heart dedicated to practice and actions instead of words.

i think peace-making is brave.  it’s staying in instead of running away. it’s being vulnerable instead of protected. it’s letting the image of God that’s in us be reflected instead of hidden. it’s practicing love instead of talking about love. it’s risking our pride, egos, money, time to actually create good instead of only talk about creating good.  it’s refusing to participate in systems that oppress others.  it’s creating systems that don’t.

the world may not seem to notice.  the systems may not topple tomorrow. people may get mad at our actions & our courage.  like Jesus, we are sure to be misunderstood, mocked, and called trouble-makers, heretics, liberals, and a whole-host-of-otherthings-that-are-a-lot-worse-than-that.

but in the end, that’s okay.  we’re blessed–and acting like God’s children–when we’re making real peace.  with ourselves, with others, with God, with the world.  when we’re active, living agents of shalom.

God, may we be brave makers of peace, actively participating in creating wholeness and restoration in any way we can.

* * * * *

the other posts in this series that are scattered out the past few months:


 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

19 Comments

  • Something you said about restoration really sparked a thought in my brain about peace making. What about peace making between God and humanity? A ministry of reconciliation talked about in 1 Thes 5 — What if peace making is actually living righteously (right relating to God and to man).

    Since we have been reconciled (made at peace) with God, we are charged to live out the ministry of reconciliation (peace making).

    Lets be ambassadors of God’s character, which embodies shalom, on this earth.

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    • darrell, yes, may we be ambassadors of “God’s character, which embodies shalom.”…so pretty. thanks for taking time to share.

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  • This has stayed with me today … thank you! I love that peacemaking is active a la Jesus and Gandhi. Not a passive allowing of wrongs, but an active right-making. I want to think on this a lot more.

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  • This has stayed with me today … I love that peacemaking is active a la Jesus and Gandhi. Not a passive acceptance of wrongs, but an active pursuing of what is right.

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  • This really struck a chord with me today….our societal conceptions of “peace” are so often one of inaction. I”m realizing more and more that Jesus’s example of pushing back evil was with good. I think an active participant in peace making is what leads to restoration. We so need restoration in our world! Thanks for un-packaging peace a little bit. The beatitudes always seemed so lame to me, like it was for those “other people”. Maybe I just needed a clearer understanding of what God is talking about!

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    • thanks, jenn, for reading & taking time to share. i am glad this has been stirring up some good stuff. it was about 7 years ago when the beatitudes really pierced through somehow, so simple, so short & so powerful.

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  • I’m so loving this series…love the beattitudes…LOVE your thoughts and insight on them. I pray for shalom daily. It’s part of my full armor with the “shoes of the gospel of peace” and after “putting them on”, I ask that He would bring shalom peace to my life with completeness, wholeness, fullness! Love the complete meaning of shalom! Funny thing, I see a sign on my drive to work every morning(pretty big sign too) and it just says, “Peace”! Love it! Love this post! Love my pastor!

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    • thanks, tammy. i love what shalom means, too, so pretty! i am so glad you are here, at the carnival & the refuge, practicing, learning, trying together.

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  • ” i think peace-making is brave. it’s staying in instead of running away. it’s being vulnerable instead of protected” Ah, another paradox. 🙂 In this season, I am slowly learning what that means in relationship with, um, me. Being nice to me is way harder than I ever thought. Yay for the life-long journey!

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  • Thanks so much for writing this! You make such a clear distinction between peacemaking and… politenessmaking? I guess I don’t know a better word for that false peace for which we sometimes strive.
    Quakers sometimes talk about rooting out the seeds of war- the idea being that strife of all sorts is always rooted in something small, something that didn’t seem worth weeding out. Kind of like the current mess in Côte d’Ivoire, much of which goes back to candy bars.

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    • odds and otters – i do think we are masters in politeness making, such a good word (and so sad that is what we have been somehow trained to do). thank you for sharing…

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  • I love this – peacemaking being about real reconciliation not just keeping the surface calm…. Paul wrote that as must as it lies within our power, we should live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18) I have found that sometimes, the only way to be at peace with someone is to turn and walk away from them – and stay away from them.

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  • When I was a child my mother told me I was the family peacemaker. I still am, not only in my family, but also in other relationships. Many people I know see me that way. Therefore they are sometimes shocked when they discover that I can be a “boat-rocker”. I don’t go with the flow. I mess with the status quo. Especially when I was part of the Institutional church.

    Oppressing women, LGBTs, poor people, minorities and those on the fringes of society does not define “completeness, wholeness, safety, soundness, health, friendship in human relationships with God”. Whoever it is that oppresses, even if they do it in the name of religion and claim they’ve got God, the Bible, the holy writings, or the whatever backing them up needs to have their boat rocked and maybe even tipped over. We need to mess with those people and then live our lives so as to bring completeness, wholeness and the whole list to the people in our world.

    Sometimes our voices will not be heard. I’m thinking about the way some churches treat women, your recent experience being a good example. Even if you stand up for yourself to those guys, they’re probably just going to write off what you say because you’re a woman. Would they listen to what men have to say? (I seriously doubt it. They will probably be ready to listen only when their congregations are departing and their paycheck is in danger.) Would those who oppress LGBTs listen to what straight Christians have to say – Maybe, occasionally.

    As you point out, we can refuse ” to participate in systems that oppress others”. We can create systems that do not. Let them call us troublemakers, heretics and liberals. I heard a lot of name-calling when I was in second grade. If the name-callers choose to remain in second grade, that’s their choice. We can choose to be peacemakers.

    Blessings to you, Kathy, one of the best peacemakers I know.

    Reply

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