“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9
The Beatitudes contain a well-known phrase: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” What Jesus calls good, and who Jesus calls blessed, is striking because His values seem to be upside down from our own. Peacemaker…what does that mean?
It is not too bold to say there is a great deal of conflict to go around, and the question we should consider is how we Christians should respond to it. Unfortunately, it feels like we have been caught in the same mire as the rest of the world. Peacemaking, I’ve heard some Christians say, is not practical.
Is being a peacemaker the same thing as being a peacekeeper? Many people today pursue a “peacekeeping strategy,” hoping to prevent conflicts and crises that sometimes result. But since conflict is often inevitable, the peacekeeping mission does not always succeed. What we need is a “peacemaking” strategy. Psalm 34:14 says: “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
A peacekeeper simply avoids conflict. When there’s a disagreement, they retreat. A peace-maker is aiming for much more: they’re aiming for reconciliation. And reconciliation is active, not passive. It means working through our disagreements in a healthy way. It means listening and understanding each other’s feelings. It means developing solutions together.
Can you see the difference? There is no name-calling. They talk through the issue, and at the end of the day, learn new things about each other. The people in a conflict may discover they were on the same page. Talking it through brings feelings out into the open and the peacemaking process can go forward.
We need to take Jesus’ words seriously. If a peacemaker is to be called a child of God, we should want to be one. To be one, however, will take some work. The pursuit of meaningful relationships is essential to peacemaking. Many of our divides exist because we do not actually know each other. That’s because we tend to see conflict as something to be avoided: so if we disagree, one must submit, or else the conflict will keep going. But what if all conflict is not win-lose? What if handling conflict effectively means that you each find a win-win? What if the conflict can actually be one of the routes to a reconciliation of the relationship?
Peacemaking will not be easy, maybe not even possible. However, we are still called to seek it. We remember Paul’s words for peacemakers in the Bible, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV)
- What is the difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker in your mind?
- Is it realistic to think you can keep the peace all the time?
- Do you believe that one person has to submit in order to solve a conflict? Does one person have to lose? Why?
- What can we do this week to be a peacemaker?