Today, as it was two millennia ago, the Sermon on the Mount is the closest thing we have to a Jesus manifesto. It’s probably the most recognized of his teachings and also the most misunderstood. We’re looking at each beatitude separately to see what Jesus could possibly have to say to us today. To see what we’ve covered so far, check out: You Say You Want A Revolution , Out of the Abyss, Meek and Mighty, A Place at the Table, Mercy Me and Heart-to-Heart.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:1-12).
Most people, in Western culture at least, have heard of the Sermon on the Mount. Many are also familiar with the phrase the beatitudes, even if they don’t really know what they are. Most Christians will quote parts of the Sermon on the Mount and are even able to identify most, if not all, of the beatitudes. But something gets lost between knowing the beatitudes and absorbing the beatitudes.
The beatitudes are pithy statements. Jesus drew upon his Hebrew faith tradition and added a twist for his followers. They’re guidelines for a Jesus follower’s character. Note: character cannot be legislated, coerced, or forced on anyone else. It is an individual, inside-out, lifelong project. Jesus was really starting a movement – a counter-culture movement – that was to be different from from anything that had been before. Followers were called to be different from the religious and the non-religious, different from the nominal church and the secular world.
Blessed are the peacemakers exemplifies just how challenging Jesus’ call really is. The choice of the word peacemakers should catch out attention right away. It’s one of those little twists Jesus uses. Jesus isn’t talking about loving peace or thinking peace is a good idea. He’s talking about being a maker of peace.
The word peace is used all throughout scripture. Hebrew culture uses shalom. Arab and Muslim cultures uses salaam. The meaning wasn’t just an absence of trouble or conflict, but also the highest good or the enjoyment of all good things. Peace isn’t the evasion of issues, but the active facing of issues even when it involves struggle. In other words, peace can be unpleasant or difficult. Often the biggest conflict is with oneself because when you’re engaged in a peacemaking activity, you’re being challenged to do something you very likely don’t want to do!
The rabbis Jesus learned from loved dwelling on shalom and Jesus was probably making this connection when he was speaking to the crowd. The rabbis held that the highest task for humanity was to establish right relationships: a right relationship with God and right relationships with one another. We see this influence in this beatitude and other teachings of Jesus.
There are people who are always stirring up strife and conflict. We see them in the church, in our jobs, in our families, among our friends, in our politics. They’re either involved in the quarrels themselves or are the instigators of quarrels among others. They are not peacemakers.
Jesus tells us the peacemakers are blessed because they’re doing God-like work. God doesn’t show favoritism or endorse certain groups. A peacemaker doesn’t make peace with only a select group of people. True Christians can’t be peacemakers with other Christians and not be peacemaker with Muslims. True Christians cannot be peacemakers with Israelis and not Arabs. True peacemakers are always peacemakers.
Being called to be a peacemaker is definitely counter-culture. We are bombarded by constant messages stirring up strife between political parties, faith groups, economic and immigration status, national loyalty, neighborhoods, gender-bias, sexual orientation … the list is endless. The challenge is to be a peacemaker in the midst of that chaos. Peacemakers are blessed because they are doing God’s work. Amen.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it is to examine how you are a peacemaker in all of your relationships. The challenge will be to be completely honest with yourself!