Living Peaceably Together

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)

What a great topic for us to look at together this morning: peace! Who doesn’t want more peace in life? And if peace is desirable, then aren’t you glad you are here this morning to talk about peace? Jesus does not just say, “Blessed are those who have peace,” although those who have peace are blessed, but in our passage this morning He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

What is a peacemaker? One commentator says this, “Peacemaking is the work of reconciling two alienated parties, of taking two enemies and bringing them into a relationship of unity and harmony.” So peacemaking is not just stopping a war, but it is starting a relationship of both unity and harmony. Many wars have been stopped throughout history while both parties remained at odds with one another. Peacemaking is more than that, God’s way of peacemaking is more.

Peacemaking for the Christian has its roots in the peace we have been given as believers through Christ with the Father. God is the chief peacemaker, the peacemaker of all peacemakers. God is the one who demonstrates the most radical peace available. I say that because in our fallen nature as human beings we are about as far from God’s holiness as is possible. With our fallen nature as sinners, up against God’s holiness, what is normal is that they would repel one another. Our nature and God’s nature ought to repel one another to opposite ends of the universe. In the Bible God makes it clear that we were the enemy, His enemy. That is a scary thought to consider that we were the enemy, alienated from Him.

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)

This reconciliation that’s taken place between every believer and the Holy God is about peace.

Ephesians 2:3 says we were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” That’s the repelling that I’m talking about. We were children of wrath, enemies of God, but what did God do? What did He do for His chosen children? He brought us peace!

Ephesians 2:5 says, “by grace you have been saved, and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He brought us peace, He gave us peace, He made us a seat in the heavenly places with Him. We aren’t just former enemies; He has made us His children! He has brought us into the family.

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

What has happened is, you have magnets and, when you turn them the wrong way they repel one another, but they’ve been turned the right way. Instead of being repelled, we are held closely, not just as former enemies but as children, part of the family.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

As His children, not just former enemies, as His Children, family members with God, we will dine at His table, not in fear but in peace!

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

This peace between us and the Father came at great cost, not cost to us but cost to Him, cost to our Savior. 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

That’s the cost. This peace with God came through the murder, suffering, bleeding of our Savior, it came to us at the cost of the life of the perfect One, Jesus Christ, as He paid our price, as He died for our sins. He paid the price. Peace with God did not come easily, nor was it cheap. It came at a high cost, it came at a price, but it did come. 

When Jesus hung on the cross and said, “It is finished,” when He breathed His last breath, our peace with God was secure, and we can now have peace with God. We are no longer those outside the gate, as we read in Ephesians 3, but we have been brought near to God.

God is a peacemaker, the greatest peacemaker. It is no wonder then that the chief peacemaker would call us to be peacemakers as well. If we are to glorify Him, represent Him, be His image bearers on this earth, then we too must be peacemakers! We who have received peace from God ought to be about making peace with others in this world. And to that very thing we have been called. It is no wonder if we think about it that way. God is the great peacemaker and so His offspring, you and me, ought to be like Him, to image Him as a son images his father, we should also be peacemakers. As others hear about God bringing peace in relationship with His children and see us encouraging peace, others may say, “I can see that they are image bearers of God, they must be sons of God. He looks and acts kind of like his dad.”

Having then received peace with God as His dear children, in what sense are we to become peacemakers? We can look at this in two ways. First we can think of peacemaking in relation to our relationship with other people, and secondly we can think about being a third party in the peacemaking process. In that sense there may be two parties who are not at peace with one another, and we can come in and help bring peace. So the first one is very personal, because we are the ones living in conflict with another. The second may not seem as personal because it is about two other people or groups of people in conflict.

Ken Sande, who many of you may be familiar with, has written a book about peacemaking in the Christian sense. It is a very helpful book, I recommend it to you. I really like what he says about peacemakers in the introduction of his book. “Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they bring His love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life. God delights to breathe His grace through peacemakers and use them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice, and encourage repentance and reconciliation.”

Don’t you want people like that around you? People who breathe grace, who continually draw on the goodness and power of Jesus, who bring the love of Christ with them into relationship with you, with others, who bring mercy and forgiveness to daily life. I want people like that around me. He is describing those who are living in Christ, loving Christ, who are being matured into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ Jesus. These are peacemakers!

Who are these people who exhibit such grace? Well, it is interesting to me to see the intertwining that takes place between many of these beatitudes. None of them were written to stand alone. Many of them flow together very easily. They all point to the heart of a person, they all require the strength of Christ in us, they all should drive us to the Savior to depend on Him every moment as we live out His Word. But some seem to be tied together very tightly. I think with this one, with peacemaking, we have to take it with being meek. Remember, Jesus had said, “Blessed are the meek.”

The meek become peacemakers. How? Think about two people in conflict with one another, and one is meek. The meek person knows that he is undeserving of anyone’s kindness or goodness. The meek know that in themselves they are without merit. They know they are truly lowly. They don’t sit around and think about how anyone or everyone owes them something. They know they’re owed nothing. They aren’t owed things like respect, special attention, or favors. The meek are not into self-promotion, whether overtly or covertly. The meek have stopped grasping for privilege and recognition. When all this happens in the meek person, they stop demanding their way from other people, which paves the way for peace to emerge. For most people, strife flows from self-assertion – “I want what I want, and you had better give it to me.” That is an attitude that will certainly hinder peace.

Just think about that for a moment in relation to us and God. Think about if God carried that attitude. Think about if God demanded from us, not from His Son, but from us holiness. That is what He wants, right? He loves holiness. What if He was unwilling to move toward us through His Son in peace. What if it was all dependent on our holiness? Then there would never be peace between God and man. God moved first. God made the way. God entered our world. He brought peace to us. But how many times have any of us said, “But they hurt me. That person doesn’t deserve peace with me because they hurt me.” And we refuse to be peacemakers. Pride keeps us from peace. A high view of ourselves and lust for our desires too often trumps peace. And so we settle, and we choose to live as enemies with our fellow man. We forget what Jesus has said, “Blessed [happy] are the peacemakers.”

James really gives us insight on this, insight regarding peace and meekness, and what it is like when they are absent.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 3:13-4:1)

James is speaking here of ending conflict between individuals, that is the context. He had been talking about envy, selfishness, and so on. So peacemakers here is referring to estranged individuals who need to come together in meekness and in peace.

Are you living in a state of conflict with another person? Think about that for a moment. Have you been there a while? Why are you in conflict with them? What have you done to move toward that person in peace the way God moved toward us in peace? I don’t mean move toward them to set them straight, or to hear them say you were right, but move toward them in peace. This is not a small matter with God. Living in peace does not mean you fully agree with another person on every issue. What two people do agree on everything? You would have to be a part of the Trinity for that to happen, and none of us are. Have you elevated yourself in that conflict to a place where you don’t belong? Have we raised ourselves up so we’re looking down on that other person, those other people? Or are we just waiting for them to come to us, thinking they are the main problem? We can be the aggressor for peace, we should be the aggressor for peace. We don’t have to wait. God didn’t wait for you or for me!

There are two other things I want to say about peace from the Bible. First, peace does require some cooperation from the other party.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)

That verse may sound familiar to you. In fact, I hear it quoted quite often regarding a conflict. It’s one of those verses that we might hear in the sense of, “I tried peace but it didn’t work, and that’s okay because remember what it says in Romans 12:18? The Bible says we can shoot for peace, but we can only go so far without some cooperation on the other person’s part.” That is true, very true, but looking at verse 18 in context, I don’t want you or me to use this verse as an excuse to give up quickly. Like, “Oh well, I tried and it didn’t work.” Here is what I mean. While we cannot on our own create peace with someone else, we can go a long way toward peace, we can be long-suffering as we move toward peace. Maybe we can go much further than we have ever gone before in the process of peace. So take Romans 12 and read just prior to getting to verse 18, and notice how we should live with others in an effort toward peace. Here are some things we can do to move toward peace.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:14-18)

I wonder in our relationships with others if we have first been diligent to bless them, rejoice with them, weep with them. Those last two are both very intimate things. Have we strived for harmony? Do we see ourselves as lowly next to them, see ourselves as unwise, capable of wrong, often wrong in thought and deed? Never repaying with evil in any way, always giving thought to do what is honorable in their presence. Have we done all of that regarding those we are in conflict with before we give up and say, “Oh well, I tried, and it didn’t work.” There is much to do in the peacemaking process. And it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on after verse 18 to continue to describe how we are to live among each other, all of which promotes peace.

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

If we made it our aim to live out all of these verses in our relationships, then we may be closer to peace than we had been prior to that. When the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” We must realize that the striving of which he speaks may be much more involved than what we have thought before. But it is worth it. It is working in the strength of Christ, doing what only He can do through us, it is trusting Him to meet our needs, not other people. It is representing Him well, imaging Him on this earth, being more conformed to the image of Christ.

I’m afraid that we more often just assume there won’t be peace, and so we walk away for days, week, maybe years, and for some even a lifetime.

If I could just say further, that for believers, two believers that are in conflict, there really is no excuse for living in that way with each other, living in a way that is not peaceable. 

The last thing I wanted to mention is that we are not talking, Jesus is not talking about peace at all costs. Jesus is not promoting a superficial peace that may come as a result of ignoring all the rest of His teaching and character. I would call that a false peace. There is a type of peace that is unbiblical and not pleasing to the Lord. There are people, and even many in the church, that might raise peace to a level above many of God’s other commands to us. They may say that peace in the church, peace among people is the most important thing, period. But this could be to ignore sinful behavior among fellow Christians, or to excuse those who might misuse God’s Word for their own benefit. Peace at all costs would be to ignore what God has said in many other areas.

If we think of being a peacemaker from the beatitudes’ standpoint, then we must see it as relating to and being consistent with all the other beatitudes and not excluding them. For instance, the fourth beatitude said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” the fifth, “Blessed are the merciful,” and the sixth, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” These all have to do with holiness, with living God’s way in Christ. If to keep peace requires violating any of the other beatitudes or any other Scripture, then that is not the peace that we are to keep. If someone says, “I’ll live in peace with you if you sin in a particular way,” then that is not the peace God has for us. 

Many will choose to turn their back on living in righteousness to appease another person for some kind of peaceful experience, but that is not what Jesus is advocating. We don’t get to pick and choose what we follow from God’s Word. We are here to live according to His entire counsel. We don’t worship at the altar of peace, we worship at the altar of God who loves peace, yes, but who also loves righteousness, holiness, and purity, and desires that for His children.

Are we living at peace with our neighbors? Are you a peacemaker in your relationships, are you a peacemaker in the circles in which you live? Do people look to you and say, “That person is a peacemaker!” Have we done all that we can to pursue peace, to strive for peace, or do we too easily give up and say it’s not possible? Have we humbled ourselves, walked in meekness, lowered ourselves in our own estimation so that we can pursue peace with others? Do we love peace as much as God loves peace, and are we willing to initiate peace with others the way He has so graciously initiated peace with us?

Jesus says those who are peacemakers will be happy, truly happy in Christ, and will be called sons of God!

Will we all commit to pray, to rely on Christ, and to make peace?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)