Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Unity of the Christian Life

“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).

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

The Beatitudes are intricately woven together. We can read them as a series of distinct blessings or admonitions, yet they are a united whole. Some authors claim that the Beatitudes build on one another as a series of steps to spiritual maturity. I do not think this is completely accurate, but rather, that the Beatitudes are like a series of brushstrokes that paint a single picture. To be truly pure in heart (Matthew 5:8), you must be poor in spirit. Purity in heart, poverty in spirit, mourning over sin, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, etc., will inspire you to be a peacemaker.

While studying Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart…,” I saw how closely it was related to “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). They go together. The New Testament rarely seems to mention God’s peace without a connection to another spiritual virtue.

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

We need sanctification (Hebrews 12:14; some translations use the word “holiness”) and purity in heart (Matthew 5:8) if we want to see the Lord. Both qualities are connected with the call to be peacemakers.

The Bible calls us to pursue peace, not merely hope and pray for it. Yes, we can and should pray for it, but we will often need to make an effort to see it come to pass. God will use us to bring peace to our surroundings, but we will need His power to do it.

Photo from Max Pixel under a Creative Commons Zero – CC0 license.

The same verse tells us to pursue peace with all men or people. To the original readers of the book of Hebrews, that would include pursuing peace with their persecutors. For us, it means pursuing peace with people who might not always make us feel peaceful: those who disagree with us, dislike us, or mistreat us; it will include people whose lifestyles are far from a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is easy to enjoy peace with people who think and act like us and with whom we find it easy to get along; it is hard to pursue peace with the godless, the immoral, criminals, etc.

Hebrews 12 goes on to illustrate some hindrances to peace:

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Hebrews 12:15-17).

To be a peacemaker, we need to be holy and forgiving. We cannot be peacemakers if we harbor bitterness, resentment, immorality, godlessness, or greed, or if we take God’s blessings likely. Esau, the brother of Jacob (who later became Israel, the ancestor of the people who share his name) epitomized such godless attitudes. Jacob could con him out of his birthright because Esau was short-sighted, preferring a single meal over a blessing that represented God’s covenant blessings. Jacob was later able to steal their father’s blessing.

While Scripture paints a negative picture of Esau, Jacob was not innocent either. His name meant “supplanter, one who grabs the heel,” and he lived up to it. After years of alienation from one another, an attempt at reconciliation fell short, perhaps because both were guilty of lingering distrust and continuing personal shortcomings. Hostilities between the descendants of Jacob and Esau continue to this day. One can only wonder how history would have changed if Jacob and Esau had sought full peace that day, agreeing to live as brothers under the covenant between God and their family.

Only the pure in heart can truly share God’s peace with others. His peace demands purity; we cannot share it with impure or selfish motives. Our mission is to pursue peace with all men as emissaries of the Prince of Peace.

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.)

How have you been a peacemaker in the past? How has God used others as peacemakers in your life? Share your thoughts about this article by clicking the comments link below.

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

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