Eugene Peterson couldn’t make up his mind. Writing The Message, his monumental paraphrase of the Bible, he was working on the Beatitudes and trying to come up with a word for blessed.
Eventually, Peterson settled on lucky, as in, “Lucky are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
The publisher of The Message was afraid some readers would think of Las Vegas and slot machines, and blessed it remained. But Peterson’s point is clear. If we are as Jesus described—poor in spirit, meek, merciful—then we’re lucky. If we’re peacemakers, we’re lucky. We’re lucky because, as the verse goes on to say, we’re children of God, and what greater fortune is there than that? As another passage in The Message reminds us, “That’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him” (1 John 3:2-3, The Message).
According to Jesus, peacemakers are the children of God. From this we can infer that non-peacemakers are not children of God, the unlucky ones. Peacemaking, or reconciliation, as St. Paul called it, is our very ministry. Without it, we are not really children of God.
But how does that impact us in practice? How does one go about being a peacemaker? Perhaps we don’t have enemies; no rivalrous in-laws, antagonistic neighbors, or contentious fellow church-members.
Perhaps not. Perhaps we get on well with everyone. However, my guess is that unless we have discovered a little-known utopia, someone somewhere is in turmoil. Soberingly, that somewhere may be closer than we think, and that someone may be living under our roof.
All around us, God’s children are to bring peace, to make peace. Not the peace of a Thomas Kinkade painting, but a peace that, far from ignoring the harsh realities, gets to the root of all harsh realities, including oppression, hypocrisy, greed, ignorance, sexual perversion, and selfishness.
Granted, that’s a tall order. But as Christians we believe that just such a peace is really coming, that it’s already beginning to permeate the universe. The lion will lie down with the lamb. People will come from every corner of the world and take their places at the banquet table of God’s kingdom. All evil will be dispelled. Ultimately, of course, this will happen when Christ returns. But that doesn’t change the fact that he wants us to practice already.
According to a seasoned teacher of mine, wherever Christ’s peace is present, there you will find total goodness, total truth, and total beauty, all of them equally vibrant. Look around you. Look inside you. Do you see God’s rule there in total goodness, total truth, and total beauty? If not, peacemaking is needed. Perhaps beauty is being emphasized but not truth, or truth but not goodness. Whatever the case, we are the ones who must create peace. It is our ministry. It really is, if we want to be children of God.
Peacemaking is not child’s play. True peacemaking, all of which has its origin in God, must be done carefully, in God’s way. The enemy’s methods—flattery, violence, slander, and manipulation—are neither effective nor trustworthy. “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply,” said Hudson Taylor. But it must be done in God’s way.
Sadly though, sham peacemaking abounds. Fisher-Price peace, my friend would call it—fleeting and flimsy. It attempts to make peace using the wrong methods. It wants truth but not goodness; it wants goodness but not beauty, and so on.
I remember visiting some nondescript history museum where a black-and-white film showed Neville Chamberlain getting off the plane in London in 1938 and making his “Peace in Our Time” speech, referring to the peace agreement he had made with Hitler in Munich. You know the story. Despite the truce, less than one year later war broke out, war such as the world has never seen before or since.
Was the scene repeated this past June when a leader from North America met with a leader from North Korea in Singapore? Time will tell. We hope not. We don’t want to prophesy doom and gloom unnecessarily. But the words of Ezekiel, surely a true prophet, echo down through the centuries: “They have seduced my people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace” (Ezekiel 13: 10, NKJV). In other words, beware of those who promise peace without using God’s ways.
Secular governments try to make peace through uneasy truces and peacekeeping missiles (the ultimate oxymoron, as Shane Claiborne has pointed out). Immature Christians insist on dividing over trivial non-issues, and a church that stays intact for 20 years is today the exception rather than the norm, even and perhaps especially among Anabaptists. Still others try taking shortcuts to peace by teaching that all faiths lead to God. Amid all this, Ezekiel’s haunting words persist: “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.”
Amid all this, true children of God are committed to that which makes for true peace. As God once told another Old Testament prophet, Micah, this means 1) promoting justice, 2) being faithful, and 3) living obediently before God—no more and no less. Note that Micah’s words demand action. Peace, never passive, must be a pursuing, an immersion in the Heavenly Kingdom that is all goodness, all truth, and all beauty. It must embrace the second part of the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the courage to change the things I can.
Yes, Jesus’ way of denying self and taking up the cross can seem, at first, as though He is bringing a sword (Matthew 10:34). But counter-intuitively, it brings peace in the end. Unlike Fisher-Price peace, this peace passes the test of time and anchors us in the Prince of Peace, whose children we are if we’re lucky enough to be peacemakers.
|Gideon Yutzy believes Christians should live as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it: “counter, original, spare, strange.” He is addicted to the thrill of encountering new people, new ideas, new skills, new words, and new levels of personal growth. Gideon lives with his wife Esther and their three daughters, Olivia, Charlotte, and Honor, in an Anabaptist community in Ireland.|
 Claiborne, Shane. Irresistible Revolution. Zondervan, 2006.