I wonder what “peace” looks like—I mean REAL peace. We know the “pseudo-peace” of living in the US. We don’t have to take cover from overhead drone strikes or remotely-launched missiles.
We are far removed from the Blitzkrieg of World War II, the constant shelling of the West Bank in Israel and the guerilla raids of villages in Sudan. We have no idea what it is like to live in a subway tunnel in Kiev with no food or running water while bombs destroy our city. It is unimaginable to many of us to live in an immigration camp in southern Texas having walked hundreds of miles to save our families. Most of us have never experienced a dictator’s rule, military oppression, government-led deprivation. Very few of us have seen war “up close and personal.” Even discrimination and injustice are things we’ve only seen in history books, on the news, or on YouTube.
But we DO understand “emotional turmoil.” Feelings of anger, mental upheaval, stress and uncertainty that put us on edge and leaves us anything but peaceful. We DO understand the inner conflict of good versus evil, faith versus doubt, right versus wrong. The media headlines remind us of the constant assault on our mental stability, sense of security, physical and emotional “peace.” I daresay every person within the sound of my voice yearns for the peace of God, which transcends all understanding 2 that Paul told the Philippians was part of God’s plan for them.
The seventh Beatitude seems to be quite simple. But how do we go about “MAKING peace” when it is such a foreign concept to us? Paul’s words to the Ephesians can give us some direction.
Remember Whose You Are
We need to remember “Whose” we are. The Ephesians were Greeks—non-Jews. They were Gentiles, uncircumcised and unclean. To Paul and his companions with Jewish upbringing, they were equivalent to the Samaritans. They were “those people” their fathers warned them about as they were growing up.
Paul even pointed out to the Ephesians their unacceptable past. Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth…were separate from Christ…without hope and without God in the world.4 In those days and in that place, those could be “fighting words”—they were words of division, separation, discrimination, even hatred. They were definitely NOT words of acceptance and peace!
BUT, Paul says—that isn’t the case anymore. In Christ Jesus you…have been brought near…HE is our peace…has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier—the dividing wall if hostility. 5
It’s the same message he gave to the Galatians. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus. 6
When we recognize who we are in Christ Jesus and realize that in God’s eyes we are all equal, then we can be at peace with one another. And if we are at peace with one another, we can become the “peacemakers He expects us to be.
Remember Christ Unifies
Paul writes that Jesus’ purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two—thus making peace. And in this one body [His purpose was] to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.7 We are all the same in God’s eyes. ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.8 We are all sinners—sinners in need of God’s grace or sinners saved by grace. And if we are all cut from the same cloth, and share the same character flaws, there is a kinship that comes from being in the same boat!
In the cross of Christ, those raised in the ways of God have been brought closer to Him. And those who have wandered away from God’s will for their lives have been reintroduced to their Creator. At the foot of the cross, both the faithful and the rebel, the believer and the unbeliever, the devoted and the doubter are brought together on level ground. Beneath the cross of Jesus, there is no room or an “us” and “them” mentality—no division between “God’s family” and “those people.”
As Jesus hung dying on the cross, He prayed for the soldiers gambling for His clothing as well as the criminals dying beside Him, for the holier-than-thou Pharisees and His shaking-in-their-sandals followers. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.9
At the cross, Jesus unifies us. He brings us together under the blanket of His forgiveness, gives us His mercy and His grace. Jesus makes us one with God, one with each other, and one with ourselves. He unifies our broken spirits, brings peace to our fractured personalities and peace from our differences. He creates a family—the family of God.
Remember You Are a Peacemaker
Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians is plain. You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.10 If there are no foreigners, no aliens and we are no longer enemies and we are all one in Jesus Christ, then it falls to us to be peacemakers in our world.
Our world is easily divided these days. Instant access to news, rumors, both truths and lies makes it easy for us to be split apart—divided from each other based on our belief systems, backgrounds and mindsets. Camps of “us” and “them”, clubs of “right” and “wrong”, groups of “progressives” and “conservatives”, black and white, “red states” and “blue states” abound.
Far less common are gatherings of uncommon friends, unlikely allies and “strange bedfellows” working together as a team to reach the finish line, achieve a mutual goal and find common ground.
“Peace” is not an individual accomplishment. It is a societal goal and an essential requirement for all humanity. Communities need it…nations need it…our world needs it.
We are challenged—we are “called”—to be peacemakers in the Sermon on the Mount. The Message Bible puts it this way:
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.11
Sy Miller and Jill Jackson put it well in their familiar song. Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with ME. Peace begins with us. With you. With me. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God.3