Matthew 5:1-12 Part 7

“Peace to you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Shalom.  Eirene. Peace.  “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus....”  Hebrews thirteen.  Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, speaks of the God of peace, and prays that his readers themselves will be granted peace by God the Father.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the “Prince of Peace” by Isaiah the prophet.

“Blessed the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” 

Those who make peace are pronounced blessed by Christ.  The ones called sons of God are ones who are peacemakers.  Just the ones making peace are happy, contented, joyful, fulfilled people, and they shall be called sons of God.

I’m going to spend more time next Lord’s day on the structure of this first part of Jesus’ sermon and the interrelationships between the various eight points in it, and that ought to be interesting and rewarding; but for this morning, as far as structure is concerned, your attention is called to the three characteristics of believers which have their special focus on relationships with others.

Four descriptive characteristics are intensely personal concerning one’s sin and his need for the righteousness of God.  But three of them are with respect to others:  Blessed the meek ones, blessed the merciful, and the one which is our text this morning – blessed the peacemakers.

The meek are the ones who have truly seen themselves and know that they have a worthless character, and , therefore, the put away high self-esteem and ego that get in the way.  Whatever hits they take are deserved – and more, so they don’t retaliate in kind.  They are submissive to the Lord and His Word.

The merciful have sorrow, pity and sympathy for both those who are suffering pain and hardship, and those who are deep in the pit of depravity; and they do what they can to alleviate the suffering – being moved to compassion based on the mercy they themselves have received from God.

And, then, blessed the peacemakers – the meaning of which we’ll get to in a minute.

But it was shattering to me when I realized that these three things – meekness, mercy and peacemaking – and these alone, in the words of the King Himself, constitute the nature of His sheep with respect to our dealings with others.  Just these three!

And after the rush of excitement over seeing these things, I began to ask some questions.  Why these three, and these three alone?  Why do these define the new creation in Christ and receive His blessing?  As we test ourselves, and examine ourselves as to our status before the judgment seat of God, why are these three – meekness, mercy and peacemaking – the highest and best expressions of Christ’s redeemed people as they live in society?

There are two superior answers to those questions.

And the first one concerns our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our imitation of Him as we live in His body.  The Scriptures say that Jesus was meek and lowly of heart.  He meekly submitted to every Word from His Father, and He also submitted to the revilings and tortures of those who opposed Him – and did so without retaliation.  The Good Shepherd did that for His sheep.

The Scriptures also say that Jesus was filled with compassion and mercy for God’s creation – but especially for those who belonged to Him.  Even when we were dead in sin, He died for us.  And He’s also merciful toward us in our troubles and in our rebellion and in our weaknesses.

The Scriptures also say that “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”  The Lord Jesus has reconciled on the one hand the depravity and rebellion of man against God – and the wrath and anger of an offended God against man.  And He brought peace where there was only enmity!  He is therefore called the Prince of Peace.

So these three things, meekness, mercy and peacemaking, are the three works of Christ among men.  A spirit of submission, a heart of compassion, and a work of reconciliation.  Peacemaker.

Now – I ask the question again – why does Christ preach these three characteristics of His disciples as being definitive of their nature?  Because Christ is our pattern.  And not only that, but He is the source of the new creation – the new man.  Living in Him we draw from His very character and exhibit that character among men.  That’s why he’s describing His Own people!  Those living in Him are like this!  There’s no way, if we’re in Him, to be otherwise!  His work among men becomes our work – and our work is an imitation of His work.  He is our pattern as we image Him in what we do!

Secondly (and I promised you two superior reasons why Jesus describes His disciples in these three ways as they deal with society), meekness, mercy and peacemaking are the three things that are so absolutely opposite the world’s depraved perversity!  And let me explain that.

Instead of, and in the place of Jesus’ meekness, and ours in Him, the world rejects submission to authority and, in its place, prefers rebellion – elevating freedom from constraints, individualism, self-confidence, and exaltation of the self.  But the meekness that Jesus was, and displayed among men, which is also to be ours among men, is reviled and hated by the world.  This is a nature that is so totally different from natural humanity that it causes us to stand out as queer and odd in the order of things.

Instead of and in the place of Jesus’ mercy and compassion, the natural world order is inhumane.  Its inhumanity to man extends all the way from a refusal to provide a simple necessity for another in need to an unwillingness and inability to bring the Gospel of mercy to a perverse generation so desperate in need!  A merciful Church in the United States today, or in any other countries of the world, would be strange indeed to the eyes of a watching world.  This world knows very little of men and women showing kindness and compassion – while receiving only hatred and scorn!  Where are the disciples of Christ who do this – rather than when opposed, exhibiting the self-indulgent narcissism so common in the world order?

Instead of and in the place of the Prince of Peace, men naturally generate conflict – everywhere there is humanity there is conflict or antagonism – for that is the nature of man!  And the true peacemaker stands out like a sore thumb, because the world order rejects true peace as it rejects the Prince of Peace.

So these three qualities of Christ’s true followers are here for two great reasons – first, because they were the works of the God-man among men; and, secondly, these are the comprehensive characteristics of all of Christ’s disciples coming after Him which so set us apart from the world with which we must deal.

Now, before I deal directly with the word “peace” and “peacemakers,” let me just reiterate that what’s being spoken of here is an entirely new and different world order.  It is a different Kingdom.  It is the Kingdom of our Lord.  We have to put away old ideas and live lives controlled by Christ rather than trying to control our religion.  Christ doesn’t give way to man’s ideas about life.

And, sometimes, the first reaction to what Jesus says is to become angry rather then seeing the truth about ourselves and repenting.  Christ’s words just don’t fit what we think.  But the outworking in the Christian of the Christian life is altogether different from everything that can be known by any man who isn’t a Christian.  And Christians themselves, by the in-working of our comforter and instructor, must learn to recognize the sin in their own minds and emotions and fight to put it away.

And the crowning glory of these three beatitudes which have to do with our relationships with others, is “blessed the peacemakers.”  And the world hasn’t seen a disciple of Christ unless they’ve seen a peacemaker, “for they (alone) shall be called sons of God.”

O for a Church full of peacemakers!  Biblical peacemakers!  There’s no word more appropriate for our modern world than this.  There’s no teaching of any more prime importance to our society than this beatitude!  And the Church needs it worse than the world!

A third of the world Church is preaching revolutionary liberation Theology – another third has set its heart on environmental issues, the national council of churches and the united nations – and the other third spends its time in ecstasy!

The first third says that the only way there will ever be peace and equality for all is for the structures of society to be torn down by armed conflict; and, somehow, out of the ashes and ruins will emerge peace and prosperity for the little man.

The second third of the Church thinks that the true church will eventually evolve out of great organizations, national and international conferences, understanding between different cultures, and talk!  Groups talk to groups, nations talk to nations.  Everybody talks!  And if people talk, then compromises and solutions can be found to lead us to utopia!  But the problem with that is, that the worst thing pagans can do is talk!  Men do what they are!  And “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, fornication, jealousy, envy, malice” – and all the other things that proceed from that accursed and perverse place.  You see, talk that comes from a dark and evil place always ends up in disagreement, conflict, more separation and war!

I think people need to stop talking and be a quiet people – a Biblical people who adhere to the wisdom of Scripture as it says – “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  Peacemakers are a quiet people.

So, what is a peacemaker?  Well, Christian people are not only to bear injury and offense, and to return them with pity and mercy, but they are also to actively try to bring about a wholesome and pure state of society.  As the recipients of the peace of God in Christ, and as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the believer is to breathe the peace of God, which passes understanding to a society in conflict with itself – to people jangling with their own talk – to a nation deep in law-suits and crime – to a society that would rather divorce than repent – union versus management, state versus people, men versus women, kids versus parents, friend versus friend, brother versus brother!  Reconciliation – God to man, man to man in every area.

God is the God of Peace.  He sent His Son into the world, to take on the form of man, so that He could bear our iniquity and satisfy the wrath and anger of Almighty God.  This reconciled God to us.  In other words, Jesus brought peace between His Father and us.  Where there was only enmity before, now there is peace!

We don’t know why He did that, or even how He did it – it passes our understanding, being too deep for us – but He did it!  And now, living in the body of the Prince of Peace, we, too, become peacemakers as He was.  We must breathe the Peace of God to the world – to bring the Gospel of reconciliation to the lost, and then to bring peace between people.

I don’t think I’m going too far when I say that the cause of all the conflict in the world order is directly due to the enmity between God and man.  And all the conflict between Christians is due to sin disturbances in man’s relationship to God!

And the fact is, that no one can give to any other segment of society that which he, himself, doesn’t possess.  And, so, I take you back, one more time to the foundations – poverty of spirit, without which no one can be called the son of God; the mournful lamenting of one’s perverse nature, without which no one can be called the son of God; meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, mercy, and a pure heart – all without which no one can be called the son of God.  And all of which are prerequisite to being a peacemaker – without which no one can be called the Son of God.

Society needs peacemakers!  The Churches need peacemakers to disciple the nations with he mercy of God – to bring the Good News that God is reconciling the world in Christ.  We don’t need Churches that whip their congregants into frenzies to make them fling themselves into movements and causes – we need men and women and children to go and carry to others the great message of a reconciled and a reconciling God, bringing peace between men and God.

In addition to that, and flowing from it, are the things that we are all bound to do to carry the quiet, tranquil, soothing influence of the Gospel and the example of the life of our Lord into the more mundane things of life.

And, you know?  Any fool can light the flames of animosity with this torch called the tongue.  We all seem to delight in promoting strife.  And we also all love to fight that flame with more flame.  Peacemakers are quiet!  Thinking before speaking, slow to speak, not starting conflicts.  

And there is no nobler office in all of Christendom than to dampen the devil’s flames of envy, jealousy and mutual animosity, or antagonism.  But the peacemaker doesn’t fight fire with fire – he seeks to overcome evil with good.  With the reconciling peace of God, a quiet spirit, and the wisdom of Christ, the disciple of Christ places himself in the middle – receiving blows from each side – in order to bring peace.  As much as it is within you, be at peace with all men.

And to accomplish that goal it is necessary for the peacemaker to humble himself, be poor in spirit, mourn his sin, practice the meekness of Christ, hunger for the righteousness of the case, practice mercy, and be pure in heart!  Otherwise, he will bring no peace!  The one who places himself in the middle, if he hasn’t gotten rid of self, will more than likely fan those flames into a conflagration of injury and offense!  He must not stand on any fake dignity, false pride, position of office, but he must bring the Prince of Peace to the table.

Christ’s disciples are made to be new men – made after the image and pattern of Jesus our Lord – seeking the glory of God among men.  And we can’t do that by being defensive, by shielding our own egos, or by taking up for ourselves.  When we receive hatred, whether in the middle or just dealing one on one, we must return with good.  When we receive gibes and digs, we return mercy.  When we receive scorn and evil words, we must refuse to return it – understanding that this person is overcome by a spirit of disobedience.  You must relieve him by bringing the peace of God to him.  Anger and bitterness and hatred are very difficult to deal with, but they are opportunities to exhibit the nature of Christ and push back the gates of hell a little more.

But please be aware that this highly visible Christian characteristic will win you no accolades from men.  More than likely your attempts to diffuse peace into all parts of your realm of activity will bring more scorn and verbal abuse.

But we’re not looking for the accolades of men, are we?  We’re not asking for men to call us sons of God, are we?  Nobody’s going to be casting bouquets of scented flowers your way for bringing the Prince of Peace to the table!  It’s more likely to be stones!  Many times we have to separate from the situation and walk away!

But, you see, it is God who calls us sons!  Blessed the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God!  God owns the person who lives what Jesus says here.  He owns him for His child!  Manifestly sons – for we take on the image of God.  “Be therefore imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love.”

Those who go about the world proclaiming the Prince of Peace, and making peace, bear the image of the Heavenly Father, and are owned by God as His sons.  And the Holy Spirit, by Whom we cry “Abba, Father,” will open our eyes and ears to hear Him say, “Thou art my beloved son.”  To put that in plain English, there’s no surer way by which we can come to the calm, quiet, happy, continual consciousness of being the child of God than by this living in Him and like Him – spreading the peace of God over His creation!

One final thing.  The apostle Paul says, “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”  He must make us sons before we can be called “sons of God.”  He must give us the peace of God, and peace with men and peace in our circumstances before we can go out and effectually bring the Prince of Peace to others.

And if He’s given us these things, then we are bound to give it to others!  And even if we breathe peace to others in vain – no matter how many times, we will be kept in perfect peace – even in the midst of strife!  For we are called sons of God.  Joint heirs with the Prince of Peace.