The Peace of God

These posts are summaries of the messages on Sunday and are put here mainly for the benefit of our regulars who either missed the service, or would appreciate the chance to review the big ideas.

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God'

Matthew 5.9

There is a major peace-deficit in the world. When the Bible says  that we were once ‘passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another’ (Titus 3.3) that may sound (at first) like an unkind exaggeration. But you don’t have to look far to see how true this is. At one extreme we have the obscene evils that are taking place as wars unfold in the Middle-East. At another, somewhat bizarre, extreme we hear stories of abuse on social media that seems to reveal just how unkind people can be. Only recently Sue Perkins was driven off Twitter after receiving death threats on account of a rumour that she was taking over from Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. ‘This morning, someone suggested I ought to burn to death’ she said, and then asked whether they have to go ‘straight in with the fiery death?’ 

What part do Christians have in this messed up world? This particular beatitude captures the bigness of the Christian’s calling in the world, but it can only be understood on a theological foundation, so that is where we will begin.

1. God owns the patent on peace

God is himself the ‘God of peace’ (Romans 15.33). Why? Well, when you consider all of the factors that can cause us to lose our peace, God is not subject to any one of these. We get anxious, but he experiences no uncertainty about the future since he knows it back to front. We feel afraid, but God has no one to fear. We often feel guilty, but God has done no wrong. We experience dis-ease, but God is at rest in himself. 

To say that God is the ‘God of peace’ does not only mean that he experiences peace, but that he is the fountain of peace. It flows from him. Any peace that doesn’t come from him is not real or it is not lasting. Look at how Jesus speaks to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion:

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you’ (John 14.27). 

‘Not as the world gives…’ Jesus is saying that there are fake sources of peace out there. There’s the desperate effort to calm ourselves by visiting spas and getting mud treatments and massages. There’s the addiction to some kind of chemical to help sooth the soul (alcohol, marijuana, chocolate). There’s the escape into the Never Never Land of Netflix. There’s the trendy secular version of the originally Buddhist practice of Mindfulness. ‘Not as the world gives…’ says Jesus. There must be something better.

So when Jesus offers us peace, he’s offering something that he alone can offer since he owns the patent. And that is what we discover in the gospel. Look at all the allusions to peace in this passage:

‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near’ (Ephesians 2.13-17).

This peace that Christ offers is peace with God, peace in ourselves, and peace with others. That is why Jesus is called the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9.6).

2. God has made us his peace envoys

When Jesus talks about 'peacemakers', we probably envisage something fairly ordinary like reconciling a couple of friends. But while this is included in the meaning of the word, it’s much, much bigger than that. In fact, it goes right to the heart of what our calling on this planet is about.

'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5.17-20).

We are ambassadors of peace. We are sent, in the name of Jesus, to preach a message of peace. This is, first and foremost, a call to preach the gospel.

    'How beautiful upon the mountains
        are the feet of him who brings good news,
    who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
        who publishes salvation,
        who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” ‘ (Isaiah 52.7)

We are here to help reconcile people to God and so allow his peace to flow into their lives and effect every nook and cranny of their existence; family life, relationships, work, spirituality, and so on. It is only as people have peace with God that they can know peace in life.

But while our call as peacemakers is primarily about being ambassadors of God’s message of reconciliation, there is an overflow that spills into all that we do. How so? Recall that these beatitudes are descriptions of the kind of people Christ is making us. And if Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is making us into his image then it follows that we (like him) will be interested in spreading peace wherever we go. 

‘But seek the welfare (shalom, peace) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare (shalom) you will find your welfare (shalom)’ (Jeremiah 29.7).

God’s people have a passion for the peace or welfare of the world we live in. This means seeking an end to war, and seeking to promote prosperity and health and joy.

Or to put it another way, being a peacemaker will affect how you understand and go about everything you do. Your work is peacemaking. Your giving is peacemaking. Your loving is peacemaking.

3. Peacemaking is the family likeness

Why does Jesus say that peacemakers will be called ‘sons of God’? Notice that he says we’ll be ‘called’ sons of God, not that we’ll become sons of God. In other words, as people see that we are peacemakers they begin to see the family likeness. 

If our God is a God of peace, and if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and if the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, then it’s simply who we are! We are peacemakers! It’s our destiny and our DNA. And so, ‘Ultimately, God will make it manifest to all the universe that we are his children’ (AW Pink).