Matthew’s Beatitudes hold the well-worn saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV). What Jesus calls good, and who Jesus calls blessed, is striking because his values seem to be upside down from our own. Many affirm this blessing with their lips, but in tumultuous times, we have tended toward the pragmatism of the fight.
It is not too bold to say there is a great deal of conflict to go around, and the question we should consider is how we Christians should respond to it. Unfortunately, it feels like we have been caught in the same mire as the rest of the world. Peacemaking, I've heard some Christians say, is not practical.
Take Jesus’ words seriously though. If a peacemaker is to be called a child of God, we should want to be one. To be one, however, will take some work. The beauty of this compound word is that it mashes up the word peace with the word for doing or practicing. It is active.
The Peacemakers' Commitment
The first thing is that the peacemakers must commit. Peacemaking is not being nice. Peacemaking may be kind, but it is not passive. It demands that we step into conflict. Peacemakers in the Bible would step between two warring parties. The peacemaker initiates reconciliation when others have wronged them. The peacemaker is quick to repent when they have wronged others.
In a world, where we have been discipled to avoid conflict, peacemaking takes a commitment to move toward it. Today, our points of conflict are political, racial and religious. Conventional wisdom believes we make peace by avoidance. The peacemaker knows there is no peace without healing, and there is no healing without tough conversations and work.
Truth for the Peacemakers
Second, the peacemakers must be committed to the truth. We have just been through what some have called “The Great Meme War of 2020.” As the tensions of 2020 ramped up, so did the use of the meme. We lobbed attacks and insults at our rivals using these modern-day propaganda posters.
Through our snarky posts, we took our stands by making the other side into caricatures who were ignorant, gullible or evil. The trouble is the memes were almost always untrue in whole or in part. We engaged in warfare by passing on false quotes, false statistics, exaggerated claims and stereotypes all to prop up our side.
For years, we denigrated the truth. We claimed there is no truth. This last year we realized our error. The truth matters. Think about all that is related to peace that depends on truth. Justice, functional government, reconciliation, accountability, trust, humility and love all evaporate in the absence of the truth. To achieve true peacemaking, one must be committed to seeking and speaking the truth.
The Peacemakers' Relationships
Where will we find the motivation for this commitment? How can we open our eyes to the truth? In his book "The Color of Compromise," Jemar Tisby, speaking specifically of the peacemaking to be done along the fault line of race, puts it succinctly: “No matter how aware you are, your knowledge will remain abstract and theoretical until you care about the people who face the negative consequences of racism.”*
The pursuit of meaningful relationships is essential to peacemaking. Relationships help us to see the humanity on “the other side.” Many of our divides exist because we do not actually know each other.
Peacemaking will not be easy, maybe not even possible. However, we are still called to seek it. We remember Paul’s words for peacemakers in the Bible, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV).
Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies.
*Tisby, J. (2020). The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. Zondervan.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.