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The Blessedness of the Peacemakers

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation.—ISAIAH 52:7.

If the peacemakers are they who do not contend one with another, but reconcile those that are at strife, they are rightly called sons of God, seeing that this was the chief employment of the Only-begotten Son, to reconcile things separated, to give peace to things at war.—ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.

The peacemakers are pronounced blessed, they namely who make peace first within their own hearts, then between brethren at variance. For what avails it to make peace between others, while in your own heart are wars of rebellious vices?—ST. JEROME.

The Hebrew word for peace is derived from a root meaning “wholeness.” So peace, in the Old Testament, generally means more than the absence of war or civil strife. It is the condition of well-being in which men and nations live when they are fulfilling the law of their being. So the usual greeting “Peace be with you” means “may you prosper and be in health” (3 St. John 2). Peace is therefore regarded as a gift of God to the righteous. “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence for ever.”1 Among the blessings of the Kingdom of God none is more to be desired than peace. The covenant of God with His people is a covenant of peace, and the title of the ideal King is “the Prince of Peace.” “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” So the song of Zacharias proclaims the coming of One who shall “guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Peace is, first of all, a right relation with God. The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, garrisons the hearts and thoughts of those who trust in Him. The great enemy of peace is sin, because sin means alienation from the God of peace. The harmony of the spiritual life is broken, and the civil war that St. Paul describes in Romans 7 begins. Jesus came to reconcile all things to God, “having made peace by the blood of His cross.” He abolished the enmity between Jew and Gentile, creating of the twain one new man, so making peace. He was the great peacemaker, and in this Beatitude He invites all the children of the Kingdom to follow His example. He may have been thinking of the herald on the mountains, bringing the message of peace to Zion. For the highest kind of peace-making is the preaching of the gospel of reconciliation. God wants to be at peace with you, is the message that every Christian man is charged to deliver. There will never be peace on earth till men recognize and respond to the goodwill of God. The peace of God is the source of all well-being; without it, all the deepest needs of our nature remain unsatisfied. How much of the restlessness of modern life is due to the fact that men have missed the way of peace, and are trying to find in external things the satisfaction that they cannot give.

But peace with God is only possible on terms of unconditional surrender. We entrust our whole selves to God, making His will our will and His service our supreme desire; and so, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the task of the peacemaker to show, by example as well as by word, that all the gladness and glory of life comes through surrender to the purpose of God. Unless we can carry into the common ways of life the atmosphere of peace, we shall preach peace in vain. This Beatitude therefore follows naturally on the last, for purity of heart is the singleness of mind and purpose that gives peace in the inner life; and the man who has entered into that peace is now called to go out and carry the gospel of peace to others.

The peacemaker has another task; for the peace of God must be reflected in the conduct of men to one another. So St. James says, in a remarkable phrase, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace.”1 What He means is that the man who sows peace among men, setting himself against the “bitter jealousy and faction” that lead to “confusion and every evil deed,” shall reap the fruit of his labour in righteousness. Even if his efforts at reconciliation fail, his peace shall return to him again. It is a great mistake to regard peace-making as an easy thing. Look at the qualifications enumerated by St. James. The wisdom from above—the wisdom that the peacemaker needs—is, first, pure (that is, single-minded, as in the sixth Beatitude); then peaceable; gentle (that is, generous in its judgment, as in the fifth Beatitude); easy to be entreated (that is, meek, as in the third Beatitude); full of mercy and good fruits (that is, its conduct must correspond with its professions); without partiality; without pretense. Who is sufficient for these things?

There are several spheres of activity in which the peacemaker can find work to do. Family life has its discords, and even children need to learn that it is nobler to make peace than to encourage strife. And when we pass to the life of the Church how significant is St. Paul’s constantly reiterated exhortation to the Churches to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. “Be at peace among yourselves.” “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” “God hath called us in peace.” How comes it that a community founded by Him who said “My peace I give unto you,” has throughout its history been distracted and weakened by “wars and fighting”? St. James answers that the spirit of the world has invaded the Church; and, in words that seem an echo of the Beatitudes, he pleads for the meekness that subjects itself to God; for the purifying of men’s hearts; and for the sorrow that mourns over the strife that has banished peace.1 The humble, the single-minded, the sorrowful, are those who attain to the blessing of the peacemaker. If we could cure ourselves of conceit, of the double-mindedness that seeks our own ends as well as the glory of God, and of the carelessness that finds nothing particular to mourn about in the quarrels that sometimes make our Church life “a byword to the heathen,” we should enter into the blessing of the peacemakers.

The life of the State is another sphere of activity in which the peacemaker finds an opportunity for his work. At any given moment, war may seem to be the only possible solution of a collision of interests or ideals between nations. But the real causes of war are never the immediate circumstances that lead to the actual outbreak of hostilities. They lie much further back, and belong to those false ideals of life that Christianity has not yet been able to destroy. To call the condition in which armed nations watch their frontiers, distrusting the strong and despising the weak, by the name of peace is a misuse of language. Why has the Christian Church failed so completely to make war impossible among nations that profess to accept the Christian ideal? Partly because the Church is at variance within itself and partly because it has been content to wear soft clothing in king’s palaces and has sometimes forgotten that “the friendship of the world is enmity against God.”

So the Church has condoned national aggression, the tortuous dishonesties of diplomacy, the oppression of the weak by the strong. It has too often been afraid to suffer the loss of all things and bear the reproach of Christ. But let us beware of the self-complacency that says, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them.” If many churchmen are trying, by their support of the League of Nations, to build up fresh safeguards against war in the future, the reason is not that we are better than our fathers, but that we have just had a tremendous object lesson as to what war is under modern conditions. For the present, the best security for peace is the recognition that the next war will mean the destruction of civilization; but when we have rebuilt the ruined cities, and when the

Graves, that true love had bathed with tears,

Are left to heaven’s bright rain,

the old illusions will reassert themselves, and Thor will rise again to challenge the empire of Christ. There is no real security for the peace of the world except in the influence of the Christian ideal of the brotherhood of all men in Christ. Democracy will not help us; for a democratic constitution is no adequate safeguard against the waves of passion and greed that sweep over nations, or against the sterilizing blight of materialism under which all high ideals perish. The only kind of democracy that is safe for the world is Christian democracy, founded not on hatred but on love; not on selfishness but on service; not on rivalry but on fellowship.

The question whether it is possible for a nation to act on Christian principles in dealing with other nations that do not recognize them is too large to enter on here. What is certain is that every Christian man is bound to throw the whole weight of his influence into the scale on the side of the Christianizing of international relations. When war has actually broken out, the soldier may be a truer peacemaker than the “conscientious objector” who refuses to share the sacrifices that other men are making. The peacemaker is not the man who is too proud or too virtuous to fight, but the man who, like Wordsworth’s Happy Warrior,

Is placable—because occasions rise

So often that demand such sacrifice;

More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,

As tempted more; more able to endure,

As more exposed to suffering and distress;

Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

“They shall be called the sons of God.” Sonship, in Hebrew thought, generally implies more than mere lineal descent; it includes the idea of resemblance of character. The peaceable man is a “son of peace”; the sympathetic man a “son of consolation.” So Jesus taught that the name “son of God” only belonged in its full meaning to those who are like their Father in heaven. The peacemakers shall be recognized by God as His children because they share His purpose. The promise points on to that future manifestation of the sons of God for which the earnest expectation of creation is waiting; and to the invitation, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

The Jews thought of the Messianic age as the time when Israel’s privileged position as standing in a filial relationship to God would be vindicated before the world. “In the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”1 But Jesus broke down all national limitations when He promised that the peacemakers should be called the sons of God. Indeed, He may have had in view the restless nationalism that was perpetually stirring up strife against the Roman authorities; and part of the meaning of the Beatitude may have been an invitation to lay aside merely national ambitions and recognize the larger fellowship of all who were seeking to substitute goodwill for hatred as the basis of international relationships.

But why is the blessing of being acknowledged as sons of God attached to the special characteristic of peacemaking? Was it not because peace was to be the special characteristic of the Kingdom of God? The kingdoms of this world are often the outcome of the acts of the war-makers. But Isaiah foretold a time when “all the armour of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire.” It is not the makers of war, but the makers of peace, who are preparing the way for the Kingdom that shall endure. Of them God will say, “Behold my sons; the men who in lowly places and with humble hearts have sought the way of peace and kept alive the ideal of fellowship.”

The word peacemaker is liable to call up to our minds the picture of a well-meaning but interfering busybody, constantly intrigued about the quarrels of his neighbours. But that is not the kind of peacemaker that Jesus meant. We think of the thorn-crowned figure, fainting under the weight of His cross along the Via Dolorosa that leads to Calvary. The way of peace may be the way of the cross; the cost of peace may be the oblation of life itself. What if peace-making be the aspect of the Christian character in which we follow most closely in His steps, and share most deeply in His suffering? So we shall be called the sons of God in sharing the glory of His manifestation, when “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

1 Isaiah 32:17.

1 St. James 3:17, 18.

1 St. James 4:8–10.

1 Hosea 1:10.

Masterman, J. H. B. (1921). Aspects of Christian Character: A Study of the Beatitudes (pp. 95–105). Longmans, Green and Co. (Public Domain)

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