Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is full of paradoxes. The Beatitudes especially, where he pronounces happy or lucky those in circumstances which we would not describe as such.
But one thing that has long intrigued me is the placing of two pronouncements together:
In Matthew 5:9, He says “Happy the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” In the next verses He says, “Happy those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Happy are you whenever they insult you and persecute you because of Me” (10, 11).
Now it would seem to me that if one is being persecuted and insulted and slandered, he is not a very successful peacemaker. Yet I have to assume that the juxtaposition of these two beatitudes is deliberate. Perhaps it is to help us define what He means by “peacemaker.” It is obviously not one who seeks “peace at any price,” one who is willing to compromise his relationship with Jesus or his basic moral values to gain or maintain peace.
The word “peacemaker” is only used here in the New Testament, yet the idea is found throughout the epistles.
-- Romans 14:19: “So then, let us pursue the things of peace and the building up on one another.”
-- Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
-- James 3:18: “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
-- 1 Peter 3:11: “ … seek peace and pursue it.”
The contexts of these passages make it clear that we are to be pursuing or making peace in our relationship with others. This peace, while it may be more than a cessation of hostilities, it is at least that. It is not just “a peaceful easy feelin’.”
Perhaps the word “pursue” says it more clearly than “make.” We can chase after peace without even attaining it. There are those who will remain hostile to us and the gospel and to our Savior no matter what. Jesus seemed to assume this in Matthew 5:10, 11. In fact He said elsewhere, “Do not suppose that I came to bring peace upon the earth! I did not come to bring peace, but a sword!” (Matthew 10:34).
It would seem that while we are to try to be peacemakers -- making every effort to alleviate hostilities with all and trying to communicate to them the truth about Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace -- we may not succeed. The blessing is not for succeeding, but for being.
Jesus died on the cross to bring men to peace with God and with each other.
Ephesians, 2:14-17: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.”
Not all will take advantage of that opportunity.