Things are not always what they seem...
For instance: this seems to be a simple bottle of water! And it is... it’s from Walmart... the Great Value brand... the label reads, “purified drinking water.” But right under that, in smaller script font, the label reads, “with flavor-enhancing minerals.”
So... looking at the ingredients (because, yes, this bottle of water has a listing of ingredients)... we learn that this bottle contains not only purified water... but calcium chloride, and sodium bicarbonate. Not really a big deal... but it does go to show, that things are not always what they seem.
Today, our beatitude is kinda like that! “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It seems kinda self explanatory, right?
I mean... we all know what peace is, don’t we?
To the older couple who live next-door to an aspiring teenaged drummer... peace could simply be the desire for quiet.
Or... to the patient - waiting anxiously in the doctor's office to be told the results of a battery of lab tests... his desire, his prayer for peace is really a prayer for good health.
For most of us... Peace is the opposite of war, of conflict, of strife, of difficulty. One of the more famous, and lasting images of peace... from the Old Testament... can be found in Isaiah 2:3ff, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” We’re still waiting for that peace, right?
But is that it? Or, is there more to peace than the obvious?
The word “peace” can be found some 300 times in God’s Word... which tells us that peace is fairly large and broad concept in the Bible - it’s a major theme - it’s not just a side note, or something we can easily ignore.
Of course, Jesus (the Messiah) is referred to as the Prince of Peace. And Paul wrote, “May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (26:3)
Of course... if we think of all the different ways Jesus spoke of peace... it may give us a hint as to what Jesus meant by peace. Jesus was always saying things like, “Peace be with you,” - “My peace I give unto you.” His references to peace were quite often offered to individuals.
Then... in Isaiah 11... we’re told of a time of peace, when “the wolf with live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion will feed together.” These things don’t just happen! A wolf, living alongside a lamb... a calf and a lion, feeding together? It’s a beautiful expression of the promised, yet not fully realized, peace... that comes from God and God alone.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. It’s a peace that’s much more than the absence of war and conflict and hostility. It’s the peace that’s created among us as we promote goodwill, and friendship, and fellowship... and harmony... among one another... personally, intimately.
So what does Jesus mean when he speaks of peace? And specifically, peacemakers.
I think it’s important to understand, that peacemakers, and peace-lovers, are two different things. I mean, everyone loves the idea of peace. We’d all rather not live in disagreement and conflict and animosity... so-much-so that many times, we choose to “bite our tongues” and avoid conflict at all costs... because we prefer to live in peace... we’re peace-lovers.
But peace-makers are different. Peacemakers are those who actively, intentionally, strive to make this world a place of peace. Peacemakers work to bring peace into places in this life that need it most.
And peacemaking is hard work! If it were easy, everyone would do it. It takes time and energy. Peace-loving can passive - but peacemakers are doers! They’re those who invest in the things that make for peace.
Of course, we do encounter peacemakers everyday. Because peacemakers are everywhere: they’re people (some of us even) who spend time sharing the peace they’ve found in Christ with others. At nursing homes, and hospitals... and with shut-in. With the lonely and lost and forgotten. They’re people who invest their talents and strengths helping young people find their way - they’re teachers, police officers, Boy Scout leaders (and a host of other things)... and little by little - person by person - they’re bringing peace... they’re making peace a reality in the lives of others. They’re making the world a place where God’s peace, God’s shalom, is a little more evident.
The story is told of a woman who had several baskets of strawberries she’d gathered, and she was afraid they were going to ruin. So she spent all day one Saturday, making pies. Her husband asked her what was she going to do with all of the pies… and she said, “I’m going to find people to help us eat them.” So the next day at church she went about inviting people over to her house for a pie and ice cream, that evening.
And as she was inviting... she noticed one rather lonely looking woman… whom she didn’t know, so she was kind of acting on instinct… when she invited this “new” lady over for pie, too. And... later that evening, after the pie and ice cream - they were all sitting around talking, enjoying one another’s company… when suddenly this “new” woman burst into tears.
When she regained her composure, the woman said, “I’m so sorry, I was just so happy that I couldn’t help but crying.” She explained that she’s been through some very difficult times lately… her husband had left her... her life has been anything but peaceful lately. She came to church that day hoping to find friendship and some rest, some comfort - some peace. The woman said, “I prayed that God would give me some new friends, and here you are.” Shalom.
You know it seems to me that the woman with the strawberries, was a peacemaker. She made the world a better place for the woman who was lonely, and probably for everyone else, too!
Of course pacemakers don’t all look alike. They come in different shapes and sizes in ages. But they all do what they can… to make life better for others. They do what they can to make this world different. To make this world better.
And Jesus said that such people are, “the children of God.”
You know in the language of the Bible, there are not many adjectives. And so calling someone “son of” something-or-other was a way of describing that individual. James and John were called the “Sons of Thunder”- their personalities were bold, and you knew when they entered a room! Barnabas, was called “Son of Encouragement” because he was a very encouraging person. To say that peacemakers will be called “children of God” as a way of saying they’re god-like. They’re about doing Gods work in this world.
There was a day and time when it wasn’t uncommon for sons to grow up and join the family business... and one day become in charge, and eventually having their own sons join the business. You’ll see all kinds of signs like “Cook and Sons” Or “Johnson and Sons.”
It’s kind of that way in Gods kingdom, too.
Peacemakers will be called “children of God.” It’s like God‘s asking each of us to join in the family business... as we invest our lives in bringing joy, and fullness, and peace, to others.
It’s personal... shalom.
The fact is... things are not always what they seem!
You and I may never know the absence - the true absence - of war, and hostility, and strive in this life. But we can know peace. True peace. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that’s present, and real, and available in the midst of life’s storms and tribulations.
And we can help others find that peace, too... once we’ve experienced it... once we know God’s shalom ourselves... we can’t help but share it!