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Peacemakers

We read in Isaiah 9:7 that at Christ’s return, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”

Taking that down to practical reality, it also figures that God places a high value on our ability to be peacemakers. In the Beatitudes Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” His statement begs two questions: How do we become peacemakers, and how do we become children of God?

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We’re working on a series on the beatitudes. This would be the eighth one. It’s about Peacemakers, which is the seventh and last beatitude. How come it is the eighth one if there are seven? Because we had an introduction. Right?

In the introduction to this series we laid out some observations. We said that each one of the beatitudes is the foundation for the one following. So we believe that they are growth steps and you have to accomplish the first one before you can do the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth…. That’s helpful, because if you get stuck in your spiritual development somewhere along the way, you can find out where the problem is and “go back and do the first works,” like God told the Ephesian church. So they are growth steps – teaching us how to grow toward salvation. They are seven attitudes that define Godly character. It’s not about rules; it’s a about attitudes. Each one has a connection to the holy days. We laid that out, too. If that’s true – and you can judge for yourself whether it is or not – that means that the seven steps to our own personal spiritual development coincide with, and are interlaced also with, the seven steps of salvation. So you’ve got micro and macro in this program.

Isn’t that how God does things? You know, you look up, through a telescope at the universe, and then you look in a microscope, and the stuff that’s small looks a lot like the stuff that’s big – things going around each other and all that. So that’s how I think about it.

So we’re going to look at the meaning of the words, today, in this beatitude, and the essence of the attitude, and also to the relationship of the thing before it, and then to the connection to the plan of salvation. That’s been the plan that we’ve used throughout….

So, what do the words mean in Matthew, the 5th chapter, the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers…?” Well, blessed are, as we said six times already, if you have this attitude, you will be blessed. And the word peacemakers…I’ll read to you from Word Studies in the New Testament: The word peacemaker should be held to its literal meaning – peacemakers. The founders and promoters of peace are meant – who not only keep the peace, but seek to bring men into harmony with each other and with God. Then, the words children of God – when you’re a child of God, you’re in relationship with God – and this is pointing toward that time when we become eternally in relationship with God. So there is a kingdom promise associated with this attitude of peacemaking.

So what is that attitude? Well, it’s one of God’s attitudes. God’s a peacemaker. And as we saw already, it tells us that we’re to be one who pursues peace with other people. So let’s read 1 Peter 3:10, where Peter – talking about Christian practice – said:

1 Pt. 3:10 – He must turn from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it. He’s quoting the Old Testament, isn’t he? So this is something that is throughout the Bible.

 

How does God do that? We did say that it’s a Godly attitude, right? Let’s go to Exodus 34, and verse 11, and look at one of the names of God. Here is God telling the Israelites:

Ex. 34:11 – Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you’re going or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah pole. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Now, what kind of jealousy is this? This is not the negative jealousy of insecure human beings. It’s not hatred and envy toward people who have what we want, but a determined, zealous commitment to keep people who have entered into covenant with Him in a covenant relationship. God fights for us! He doesn’t let us slip away. He does not want us to be estranged, nor enemies. He doesn’t want us to be captured by the devil, like Adam and Eve were, once again. But He wants friends who are at peace with each other and with Him. That’s the kind of God that God is. And that’s the kind of people that we need to be.

I have a client that I’ve been working with, who is a young woman. And she has a child. She came in because she had been traumatized by the father of the child, who strangled her unconscious and beat her black and blue while she was trying to hold the baby and protect it. Fortunately, he is now in prison. But she told me that she finds herself getting extremely impatient with her small child and that she gets angry at the drop of the hat – not only with her child, but with other people. She thought, somehow, it was connected with what had happened to her. Well, it is, but it is also connected with her parents, who are both addicts and have treated her terribly all her life. Her mother said one of the meanest things that I’ve ever heard a parent say to a child. I wouldn’t bother to repeat it here, but she has been really, really mistreated. And she is deeply unconsciously angry about it. Yet, the reason she came was because – not so much for herself, but because she didn’t want to hurt her child. She said, “I don’t want him to grow up angry like I am.” Isn’t that quite an amazing thing to say?

I see lots of families where the kids are really angry with the parents and the parents are really angry with the children. They’re like enemies. She wants to make peace with her son. She wants to be a peacemaker, instead of a troublemaker – instead of a problem.
We’re to be that kind of a peacemaker. When our own problems separate us from our children, and our mates, our friends, then we need to be able to do the inner work and resolve those problems, so that we can be at peace.

Paul said to the Philippians:

Philp. 1:3-5 – I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this: that He, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we get discouraged. We think God is going to give up on us. Do you know what we’re doing when we do that? We’re projecting ourselves onto God. We’re the ones who give up on people. God does not. Once He enters into a covenant relationship with us, He does not give up. He may lay back a little while, if He thinks that will help, but He’s always going to come back. He’s fired up about us. He does not give up on us. He’s a peacemaker. And He goes toward the relationship instead of away from it. Now we know there are some people who are going to thwart God’s efforts on their own behalf, but that’s not God’s doing. That’s theirs.

One of the four attachment styles babies learn has been called the avoidance style. These children have learned early that their emotional needs will not be met. And since the relationship with caregivers is not helpful or healthy, they become independent. So they call them avoident – they avoid their parents. When they grow up, the language, used in the literature to describe them, is dismissing. They dismiss people. If they get disappointed in someone, they just write them off. And, of course, there’s lots of disappointment, because the underlying belief is that “I’m always going to be disappointed by people, because I always have been.” So they do it easily, because that’s what their expecting. So they dismiss other people.

We’ve been called the dismissing society in Western culture, because so much of that has happened to people. Our parents are so busy. Or we’re so busy that we don’t have time to take care of the needs of children. We were talking about that in Bible Study – about everybody is after stuff – money, whatever – and we don’t think about our kids.

I have another client. Her mother and father were really not present for her – never have been. Finally, her mother committed suicide. And before she did, she sent her to live with relatives – her cousin and her husband. I, early on in the story, thought that these people were kind of like a last resort – nobody else to take her – but I found out later that they had had this child when she was very young – like two years old – and they had her for a couple of years. So they were very attached to her. But then mother wanted her back. So she has been shuffled back and forth and around for years – all through her teenage. She was sent to live with them before her mother committed suicide and is with them now.

She did something that caused them to be upset with her. I was talking to him – talking to her cousin – the person that is taking care of her now – and he told me this story that she was talking to him about what she had done, and he was kind of telling her how it was going to have to be – you know, laying down the boundaries – and she started crying, and said, “You won’t send me to Florida, will you?” That’s where her estranged grandmother lives. He said, “What? Of course not! We took you because we love you! We’re in this for the long haul. There isn’t anything you could do that would cause us to stop loving you.” See, he is one of those people who are not far from the Kingdom of God – in that way – is he? God likes that. And He is like that. And we need to learn how to be like that.
So, when I heard that story, I realized that she was in a lot better hands than I thought. She doesn’t realize that they love her in that way. She’s having a hard time figuring that out, because she has never been loved that way, as far as she knows.

I’ve started talking more to this guy and he’s just gung-ho and totally committed to take care of this kid. And so is his wife, who is the blood cousin to her. And it is quite a commitment, because their oldest child is in the fifth grade, and she is fifteen or sixteen. That’s how God is with us. He is fiercely jealous to draw us into, and keep us, in relationship with Him. And He’s going to take care of us. And He’s not going to give up. Sometimes He does have to lay back for awhile, but He doesn’t quit.

I met a man one time, when I was…he was probably in my first pastorate. He told me that he had not gone to church for twenty years, but he had heard the radio program for the church and had re-engaged. He asked me if he had committed the unpardonable sin. I said, “You’re here, so that means you haven’t given up on God. And God did not give up on you! He was just waiting.”

So God is a peacemaker. He is always seeking peace with us. He wants to pull us into a healthy relationship. So, if we’re to be like God, we need to seek peace and pursue that with others.

Let’s read Colossians 1:22 and notice where we all came from. Paul said to the Colossians:

Col. 1:21 – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind, because of your evil behavior. After Adam and Eve succumbed to the devil, they have passed on to their children what the devil gave them, and that’s been happening ever since. I know mainstream Christianity believes we’re born fallen. Fallen is not a biblical term applied to people. The devil is the one who fell. We were captured. We were deceived. Those are biblical terms. All he did was talk to them. And all we do is talk to our kids. And that’s sufficient to twist and pervert – you know, the pulls that we have for self-preservation and all of that. That’s how I believe about it. If I’m wrong – we’re all born of an evil seed…if you can look at a baby and tell me that baby is rotten to the core from the get-go…. If Jesus Christ will tell me that, I’ll change my mind. But I just don’t think mainstream Christianity has that right. But, at some point, we all do become alienated from God – just like everybody else has – and we become enemies because of our evil behavior.

But then, in verse 22, it says:
V-22 – But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body – so we stop becoming outsiders and come into the body of Christ – through death – to present you holy in His sight – without blemish and free from accusation.

“Reconciled us by Christ’s physical body.” Right? And then, jump with me to 2 Corinthians 5, and verse 17:

2 Cor. 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. All of this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

So, once God draws us back into relationship with Him, He begins to include us in His work of reconciling everyone else. People tell me, “Oh, I don’t know what my ministry is.” Oh? It’s right there. We’re to seek peace with all people as best we can, and to exemplify what a life looks like that has been reconciled to God. That’s what we’re to do. There are all different permutations – variations on that theme. There are a lot of different things that can happen to cause that to happen, but that’s what we’re to do. That’s our job. I mean, that is the attitude. That’s what it’s all about.

How does it connect to the previous attitude? How does it connect to being pure in heart? How does being a peacemaker grow out of being pure in heart?

Do you remember what it means to be pure in heart? Unwavering. Right? Single-minded. Unwavering in profession – no room for doubt, no waffling – but of steady, solid belief in God. Do you think you can help reconcile people to God if you’re not completely sold on the program?

I was watching this movie, The Pursuit of Happyness – maybe you’ve seen it – with Will Smith. He made this mistake. He bought a whole bunch of these machines, called bone density scanners – and he was trying to sell them to doctors. After he got into it a ways, he realized that they were very expensive and only provided a minimal amount of information, so he wasn’t as excited as he was when he first bought them, because he realized that, while they did work, they weren’t that helpful. So it wasn’t as easy to sell them after that, because he had mixed feelings and ambivalence about the product he was trying to sell – no longer single-mindedly enthusiastic about the product.

Many years ago I was asked to run a softball tournament at the festival in Big Sandy. I learned that, in New Orleans, there was a highly skilled softball umpire that was a member of our church. So I called him up and he was very happy to help umpire some of the games. I was watching him work one day at the tournament. He made a very close call and one of the players that was involved got irate with him – made a complete fool of himself. I mean, it’s just a church tournament – we’ve having fun! And this guy just goes completely off on him. So I watched and wondered why this skilled umpire just listened and started the game up again without a word. I would have tossed the guy in a heartbeat! So, after the game, I went up to the umpire and I thanked him for his generous service, and told him that I wished he had tossed the guy, because he didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. I felt bad that I had asked him to do it and this guy was…“in fact, I’m going to go talk to him right now….” He said, “You know, a few plays earlier, the same guy was involved in another very close play and I hesitated on that call. If I had made that call authoritatively, he would have had more confidence in me this time.”

So when we present ourselves to people and engage them as peacemakers for God, we can’t waver, we can’t waffle, we can’t be uncertain, we can’t shrink back, we can’t have doubt, we can’t wring our hands – “Oh, I can’t know if God loves me or not. I don’t know if He blesses me or not. I don’t know if He listens to my prayers. I don’t know if He forgives me or not. But you should try…maybe, if you want to…possibly…or something.” I mean, that just doesn’t get it!

What Jesus say to that guy that He healed of the demons – the one that was bound in chains? He said, “Go and tell your friends what I have done for you.” Do you think that guy had any equivocation? He’d just been set free! He was captured and he had been set free. So have we! That’s how it relates to the previous beatitude. You can’t be a peacemaker for God if you’re not gung-ho for the program.

How does it relate to the salvation plan? Well, that should be patently obvious by now. What is the festival of the plan? The Eighth Day – right? That’s the last one. We call it the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s actually a separate festival that falls the next day after the last day of the Feast.

So why is the seventh holy day called The Eighth Day? Well, it’s another one of those deals. The seventh holy…it is the seventh holy day, but it follows the seventh day of the Feast, so they call it The Eighth Day. What does that day represent in the plan of God? The number eight is associated with purification, isn’t it? You can check that out for yourself just by typing eight and eighth into your Bible program and you’ll find out what that means.

But I want to read you the step that goes with this holy day and with this attitude.

Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth – for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Okay, so everything that we know is gone now, right? Gone! And there was no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city – New Jerusalem – coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. So the holy city – New Jerusalem…. The Jerusalem of old – the one that we know and that has been around ever since way before King David – that city was just a picture of an idea that is now coming to the earth. And I heard a loud voice coming from the throne, saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people. And God Himself will be with them and be their God. God Himself will be with them and be their God – forever in relationship with God – no longer any war, no enemies of God. Everybody there will be at peace with Him – members of His eternal family. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. For the old order of things has passed away. So, when all the crying is over, then there is going to be peace, isn’t there.
V-22 –  I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon – that’s a good thing, because they are gone – the universe is gone. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will the gates every be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

So God has included incredible diversity in His creation. And that’s going to carry over to His Kingdom, as well. All the kings of the nations will finally be at peace with God. He will have made peace with them. He’s the Peacemaker.

I don’t know what it is, but the first part of verse 25 is the thing that really gigs me – the gates will never be closed – always open, always welcoming, always a place – a home – for peacemakers.

V-27 – Nothing impure will ever enter it – verse 27 – nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. No troublemakers allowed. No bullies. No liars. No politically-motivated power mongers. Only the peacemakers will be there.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. That’s where it’s all headed.

I’m so excited about laying out this simple plan related to the beatitudes, but I find myself somewhat frustrated with the series. We recently reduced the length of our presentations to accommodate a thirty-minute radio program. So, in that time, I was able to lay out the framework for each beatitude, but I had to leave out a really important section. At LifeResource, we don’t just preach. We teach how to do things. We’re about getting up off our backsides and being different people than we’ve been. So, I’ve decided to give another series on the beatitudes showing how to put on each one – what you have to do to become a peacemaker, for example, or poor in spirit – not just preaching, but showing how. I’m not sure when we’ll get to it, but stay tuned, because we’ll start on it as soon we can.