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3 minutes

The Biblical Peacemaker

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I’ve often come across the following scenario; I’m sure you have too. Two people are arguing about a problem. One person is a peacemaker. The other person’s solution is aggressive, even destructive.

For example, today, we face a difficult situation as ISIS continues to terrorize nations and peoples. Many are supporting the stance to ban refugees’ entrance into the country because some might be disguised ISIS terrorists. Others support bombings of cities and strongholds where ISIS lives, even though there might be innocents living in those areas.

The response of many Christians is to quote from Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9

Not all situations are as extreme as the handling of ISIS terrorists. However, whenever two people debate solutions to any problem, it seems the default response for Christians is to quote Matthew 5:9 to oppose any action that might call for forceful behavior.

As Christians, we all want to do the right thing. We want to be Biblical. So the question we need to answer is, “What exactly does it look like to be a peacemaker?”

To start, let’s recognize that most Christians take this at face value, using the term “peacemaker” to mean someone who makes peace by removing all violent solutions to bring two sides together. For example, from Christianity Today:

But now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaking of Christians in The Cost of Discipleship

No one has ever been converted by violence. – Jim Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Let’s dig deeper. The Greek word used for peacemaker is found only in Matthew 5:9. There is a similar word used once in the New Testament in Colossians 1:20

and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

When we look at the context of these verses, we find that the Bible is not speaking of making peace in the way the secular world does. It is speaking of something much bigger. It is not a physical peace but a spiritual peace.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. – John 14:27

There is a peace that comes from the world. It is the peace defined above. It is the peace that most Christians think about when they are debating solutions to their problems. Undergirding this worldly peace is a lack of violence.

However, Jesus explains that there is a different type of peace. It is not the worldly peace. It is a peace that only comes from Him.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

This is the peace that Jesus is speaking about when he tells us in the Beatitudes that peacemakers are blessed. From my upcoming book, “Rethinking Some Biblical Christian Teachings”:

Those who have Jesus, have His peace. When we share this peace with others, we are being peacemakers. We bestow this peace by telling others how they can receive this peace – by receiving Jesus. Peacemakers live a life of sharing Jesus with others. Those who do this are called children of God, heirs of His kingdom.

While non-violence is always a preferred method of dealing with any conflict, Christians need to stop using Matthew 5:9 as a basis for being a pacifist. God is not a pacifist, evidenced by all the commands to war in the Old Testament. Jesus is not a pacifist, as will be seen when he destroys his enemies prior to His Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-21).

While we desire peaceful resolutions to every situation, we need to recognize that there are times when God Himself uses violence to resolve a crisis. This does not mean every resolution should be antagonistic. It means not every resolution is pleasant.

Yet none of this is Jesus’ meaning when he spoke of a peacemaker. His aim was to define the heart of a Christian as one who shares the Gospel.

If every Christian quick to quote Matthew 5:9 were to be the peacemaker Christ actually intended, we might have half the world evangelized in a moment. Peacemakers are those who proclaim to the world the source of True Peace: The Person of Jesus Christ. They are called Blessed. They are the children of God.

Your Turn

Next time you hear someone talk or write about being a peacemaker, explain Jesus’ true intent. Let me know any experiences you have had with Matthew 5:9, positive or negative, in the comments below. God bless!