Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
What kind of person are you? Are you someone who fosters healthy relationships, or does conflict seem to follow you wherever you go? Do people feel better about themselves and their circles of relationships for having known you, or do they come away feeling battered and bruised every time you come around?
These are important questions for all of us to consider, regardless of where we are on the calendar. But they are especially important during Lent, when we focus our minds and our hearts on Jesus. Our Lord is clear that one type of person—the peacemaker—is blessed because he or she will be known as a “son” of God. In other words, the peacemaker will be seen as a person who knows God intimately because he or she shares God’s character.
But what is a peacemaker? Our first inclination is think that such people go around diffusing conflict all the time. But the teaching and example of Jesus—the Son of God from whom all other “sons” derive their identity—indicates that this may not always be the case. In another discourse recorded in Matthew’s gospel (10:34), Jesus says, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
When Jesus describes his own ministry, he describes it in terms of violent division. So what does he mean when he talks about the blessedness of being a “peacemaker?” Certainly, Jesus has in mind the reconciling work that the term normally connotes, but I think that he also has something more in mind.. Peacemakers do not just get people to stop fighting. While this is a valuable activity, it often leaves one or both parties in a dispute feeling as though they have been wronged. Real peacemakers go one step further. They use truth to bring healing.
It is worth remembering that Jewish ideas of peace extended far beyond mental placidity or the cessation of violence. For them, peace meant an overall sense of well-being that manifests itself first and foremost in their relationships with other people but which also has implications for other areas of life. Thus, making peace requires us to promote spiritual, emotional, social, and other conditions that make healing possible.
Creating such conditions can be hard work, and it can bring us into conflict with those who feed off of the violent division that is the most obvious symptom of a lack of peace. That is why Jesus can imply that those who genuinely reflect God’s sovereignty in their lives will be persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12). Nevertheless, conflict is not the goal, nor is it the primary outcome, of peacemaking. Personal and relational healing is.