Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Understanding the Word

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Monty Python’s movie, The Life of Brian, contains a memorable scene where an audience listens to Jesus as He preaches the Sermon on the Mount. The main character, Brian, and his companions are near the back of the crowd, so Jesus’ voice is heard only faintly in the distance. Due to the distance and arguments between several people in the audience, somebody misunderstands when Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers.” They think He said, “Blessed are the cheesemakers,” and question how to interpret this. Is Jesus blessing only the cheesemakers? Do they represent everybody who manufactures any kind of dairy products? Should this be taken literally?

Scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” with the phrase “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”

While Monty Python is not a faithful source for theology, this skit illustrates a problem many people face with Jesus’ teaching. We do not hear Him clearly—especially if we do not draw near to Him or allow other people or things to create distractions. If we do hear or read His words, we might assume He did not mean what He said and interpret His teachings to mean what we want them to mean.

To be a blessed peacemaker, we first need to understand what the Bible means by “peace.” Although the Gospels record it in Greek, Jesus’ sermon was spoken in Hebrew or Aramaic, the languages of the Jewish people at that time. So, we should look at the Hebrew word, “shalom,” to see what He meant.

Shalom is more than the absence of war or conflict. Jews for Jesus offers this definition: “The ancient Hebrew concept of peace, rooted in the word ‘shalom,’ meant wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence.”

Our English word peace comes from the Latin “pax,” which emphasizes the absence of hostilities between groups of people. Most of us, however, use the word “peace” more broadly. We speak not only of peace between nations or peaceful relations within our homes, churches, and neighborhoods. We desire peace of mind, emotional peace, inner peace, etc. Dave Ramsey named his Christian money-management training program “Financial Peace University.” Peace may be between persons, or it may be a state within a person. Most importantly, we need peace with God:

Matthew 5:9. Photo by Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

Thus, peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather, God’s presence during our conflicts or trials. When we have been justified by faith in Jesus, we have peace with God. Then, we can extend that peace to others. This is how we become peacemakers.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (A prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, from The Book of Common Prayer.)

What does “peace” mean to you? What aspects of peace are most important to you? Share your thoughts about this article by clicking the comments link below.

Copyright © 2023 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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