Distrust, hurt, and hostility seem to be in great abundance in our world today. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown describes it this way: “The world feels high lonesome and broken to me right now. We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology. We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage. We’re lonely and untethered. And scared. So damn scared.”
Into such an environment of hostility and fear, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons and daughters of God.”
We tend to think of peace as the absence of tensions or as the avoidance of conflict. But Jesus seems to have a different concept of peace.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jesus spoke these words shortly before He was arrested, beaten, and crucified, so the peace He is speaking of is certainly not the avoidance of conflict.
What is peace from His perspective?
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines shalom as “completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person.” So a peacemaker would not be a person who is skilled at avoiding conflict but a person who contributes to the completeness, soundness, and well-being of others.
In his commentary on this verse, William Barclay suggests that peacemakers are those who are “engaged on the very work which the God of peace is doing,” then he adds that peacemakers are “those who make this world a better place for all men [and women] to live in.”
In his beatitude Jesus stressed that peacemakers will be known as sons and daughters of God. It is no accident that Jesus links these two matters together: peacemaking and identification as a son or daughter of God. A son or daughter will reveal the family likeness.
When we are engaged in the “very work which the God of peace is doing,” and when we are involved in making “this world a better place for all…to live in,” we reveal the family likeness—we become recognized as being the sons and daughters of the God of peace.
When I take a genuine look at myself, though, I recognize that I like to avoid conflict. I tend to think that blessedness or contentment will be found in the absence of tensions.
But Jesus says something else. Jesus says that contentment is found in the work of peacemaking—even though peacemaking sometimes involves facing conflict.
Could it be that God is calling us to become “engaged on the very work the God of peace is doing”? Could it be that God is calling us to be involved in making “this world a better place for all…who live in it”?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Die when I may, I would like it to be said of me, that I always pulled up a weed and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.” Wouldn’t that be a good goal for each of us to set—not so much in the world of botany but in the realm of relationships? ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.