"Blessed are peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." -Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." -2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NIV)
"For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace." -James 3:16-18 (NRSV)
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This phrase brings to my mind two completely different images. The first is a gut reaction back to the movie Miss Congeniality...the perfect answer to any pageant interview question.
But the second image is one of sorrow - of all the horrifying displays of hate in our world. There seems to be so much going on right now: refugees, riots, shootings. Definitely not peace. So instead of chuckling at the phrase, I now beg of it. Lord, bring us peace.
So how does this come into play with our passage today. Peace seems so far out of our grasp, how can we possibly make peace?
Peace seemed far from another group of people. Throughout the Old Testament, peace was not found often. There were many battles and periods of unrest for God's people. There was also constant sacrificing of animals to atone for sins. Much blood has been shed in the history of the Bible. I'm sure many of those who came before us prayed for peace just as we do today. God promises us peace, but it is through Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Oh, how those of old longed for the peace that we are now able to know through Christ!
Jesus was the first peacemaker. The Old Testament was marked by discord but the New Covenant brought everlasting peace. Jesus created for us peace with God through His blood shed on the Cross.
"In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them..."
We lived at war with God. Our sin made being with the Father impossible. We acted out of desire and lived apart from Him. Until Christ. Through Him we have been unified with God. Through Jesus we have been given eternal peace with God and have been spared from eternal wrath. Our wrongdoing is no longer held against us, but is replaced with Jesus' righteousness.
It is through being found in Christ, the Prince of Peace, that we are called children of God. We have been adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven through His perfect sacrifice. He brought peace to the eternal family of God. It is through the first Peacemaker that we can be called sons and daughters of God.
And now, we take on the character of Jesus, being made in His likeness. We have the opportunity to become peacemakers ourselves because of the Peace working within us. So how do we do this?
First of all, being a peacemaker does not just mean having a peaceable personality. It does not mean to just "go with the flow" or be happy all the time. This word promotes action. It promotes doing something for the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not sit around trying to make everyone happy. He stood up for injustice. He created peace where there was none. He strengthened peace where it already stood. He repaired peace when hope seemed lost. He was active in making peace.
James has some practical actions for us to follow Christ's example. He implies that wisdom, purity, and peace all go hand in hand. Wisdom is being pure towards God and peaceable towards man. We must think before we act and act out of pure intentions.
First we get a glimpse at what is NOT peace. He explains that disorder and wickedness come from envy and selfish ambition. It is the pride of our flesh that so often gets in the way of creating peace in our world.
He then gives some explanation to what it means to be peaceable: "gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy."
I think there are three main peace making actions we can do.
First, the ultimate peace is Jesus. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We have the ability to share Christ with others so that they can be reconciled to God. This should always be on our minds and hearts. Who in our world needs to hear of the wonderful news of Jesus today?
Second, look at some areas in your life where there is not peace. Maybe it is a personal relationship or a community issue. What is the discord stemming from? Is it envy, selfish ambition, or other forms of pride? Getting down to the real issue can create a sustaining peace rather than trying to placate outward results. We are called to restore peace.
Third, what are some areas where I can be more peaceable? Maybe I am showing favoritism and it is causing others to feel left out and looked over. Maybe my first reaction is to be stubborn and never look at an issue from another's perspective. Maybe I am quick to judge and not quick to give mercy to those who need it.
We have been given the authority through Jesus to be peacemakers, let us then partake in creating world peace today.
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Kate, Declare Glory