Peacemaker

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

- Matthew 5:9

We find this challenging promise in the middle a long set of instructions Jesus gave His followers. It’s surrounded with other familiar promises like “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” and “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” None of these are easy to live out, but that first one is particularly vexing.

Peacemaking Amid Chaos

In order to be peacemakers you and I have to go into a place of open warfare. Peacemakers are only necessary in the midst of chaos, strife, deeply-rooted hurt, and even hate. There are no peacemakers where all is well. There is no need for them. As peacemakers, our territory is the war-torn land of broken marriages and families, of failed friendships, and tense office meetings filled with a thousand implications behind every passive-aggressive verbal jab. In short, for us to be the peacemakers God has commanded us to be, we have to live in the land of the unsettled and uncomfortable.

Our premiere and highest example of this is Jesus Himself. He left the glory, splendor and joy of heaven for a sin-ravaged war zone where all men hated God and lived in open rebellion against Him. Yet through His obedient life and death, we find that Jesus has become the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:29). In being the perfect peacemaker on our behalf, Jesus revealed His power and supremacy as the First and True Son of God who has made a way for others to be at peace with Him. The result and extent of His gracious work causes us to grasp for the right words to describe it. But the road to that glorious end – the redemption of men and women as sons and daughters of God – was filled with agony, discomfort, and pain. It was the road of a peacemaker.

Let’s be honest, we struggle with this call. It is no easy task to live in the spaces where life is not neat and tidy, where every action or word could ignite a powder-keg. Even in Scripture we see hesitancy among Jesus’ first followers to live out their call as priests and leave their comfort zones in order to tell people about how they could have peace with God. If it was difficult for those who had walked with Jesus, how much moreso for us?

Peter: Peacemaker to the Gentiles

Peter was a Jew by birth. This upbringing influenced his whole word. Certain days were sacred and could not be defiled by work. Certain foods were special, while others were unclean. Certain trades were more highly esteemed, while others were morally repugnant. Certain deeds were virtuous and righteous precisely because they honored and revealed God to others while others were dishonorable and wicked because they perverted God’s plan for the world. This very particular outlook on life (detailed extensively in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament) meant that from a popular Jewish perspective, anyone who was not Jewish – Gentiles – was taboo.

This may seem crazy to you and I, but if we put it in a 21st century context, it really is not all that unfamiliar. How many of us would be eager to hang out with a guy who owns a seedy bar, or an exotic dancer, or even someone who lives in a rundown mobile home park and has a tendency to drink too much beer after a long day? In our insulated, suburban lives, we have areas we don’t like to go to because they are uncomfortable.

In Acts 10-11 we find Peter in a similar spot. He’s at a tanner’s home and seems somewhat unsure of his lodging. His hesitance comes from his Jewish upbringing. Tanner’s and leatherworkers were considered unclean because they came in constant contact with dead animal hides and carcasses. While waiting for dinner, Peter seems, at the very least, uncomfortable with bringing the message of grace to an unclean Gentile tanner. Yet God reassures Peter of his life’s call to be a priest and a peacemaker through a vision (Acts 10:9-17). With a strange vision to reassure him, Peter goes inside for dinner, if not confident, then perhaps a little less uncertain.

The next morning, Peter’s call to enter into an uncomfortable spot reemerges. Greeted by Roman soldiers, Peter is asked to go and preach the Gospel to a Roman military leader, Cornelius. The internal calculations must have been stomach-turning for Peter. He had just had a reassuring dream that God would send him to all people, despite ceremonial cleanliness or defilement, as a messenger of peace. But at the same time, the messengers at his door were asking for him to go speak with a Roman official. Rome – the oppressor of the Jewish people. Rome who had overthrown the Hasmonean Jewish dynasty and destroyed the hope of a renewed kingdom less than a 100 years earlier. Rome – an empire marked by pagan worship, wealth built by oppression, and military cruelty.

For a Jew, this request was an invitation to a fight. The conflict of religion, culture, and recent history alone would have created a tense meeting. Confident of his call to be a priest and messenger of God’s peace, Peter agrees and goes to see Cornelius.

The rest of the story is brief in Acts. Peter arrives, shares that through Jesus we can have peace with God, and Cornelius, along with his family, believe and are baptized.

Our premiere and highest example of this is Jesus Himself. He left the glory, splendor and joy of heaven for a sin-ravaged war zone where all men hated God and lived in open rebellion against Him. Yet through His obedient life and death, we find that Jesus has become the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:29). In being the perfect peacemaker on our behalf, Jesus revealed His power and supremacy as the First and True Son of God who has made a way for others to be at peace with Him. The result and extent of His gracious work causes us to grasp for the right words to describe it. But the road to that glorious end – the redemption of men and women as sons and daughters of God – was filled with agony, discomfort, and pain. It was the road of a peacemaker.

Let’s be honest, we struggle with this call. It is no easy task to live in the spaces where life is not neat and tidy, where every action or word could ignite a powder-keg. Even in Scripture we see hesitancy among Jesus’ first followers to live out their call as priests and leave their comfort zones in order to tell people about how they could have peace with God. If it was difficult for those who had walked with Jesus, how much moreso for us?

In order for all that to happen, Peter had to enter a metaphorical war zone. It is the same challenge of following Jesus and being priests that we face. Our message brings reconciliation with God, but for it to spread peace we have to go to places that aren’t peaceful. Places that are uncomfortable. Places that are at war with God. Places like our neighbor’s home after a difficult divorce. Places like the football stands next to a dad who puts too much pressure on his son to perform. Places like the office where we share a cubicle wall with an overwhelmed single mom. These places are brimming with tension and can implode with a single misstep. But these are also the places where peace is needed the most. These are the places where God sends His priests to do His work. And these are the places where the God who makes peace with sinners warmly reminds us:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

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