Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"Beatitudes 316: Blessed Are the Shalom Promoters"

Matthew 5: 9

Ephesians 2: 13-22

Psalm 122

      Now on the other side of Easter, we return this week and next to our study of the beatitudes of

Jesus as recorded in the 5th chapter of Matthew.  We come this morning to the 7th beatitude in

which Jesus claims this: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” 

The first issue to be considered is: what does Jesus mean by “the peacemakers”?  Who exactly are

these “peacemakers.”  What do “peacemakers” look like?  What is the profile of a maker – not

merely a lover or a keeper -- of peace? 

      In our modern usage, peace is generally used to describe absence of conflict; cessation of war;

an end to fighting.  When we speak, for example, of that illusive peace in the Middle East, many

dream of the day when Israeli’s and Palestinians, Shiite’s and Sunni’s, Lebanese and Syrians lay

down their guns and bombs.  It’s a dream articulated by the prophet Micah when he wrote: “they

shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift

up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  Is this the sort of peacemaking

of which Jesus is speaking in His beatitude?

      A young girl was asked what “peace” meant.  She responded, “My mom says peace is when my

brother and I aren’t in the same room.”  In light of this narrow juvenile understanding, the peacemaker is the mother

who sends the kids to their respective neutral corners.  We big people may

think of the peacemaker as the one who gets between two persons fighting and admonishes them

to break it up.  Or the peacemaker as the arbitrator who mediates between two sides in a labor dispute, or the

diplomat who steps in when nations are about to declare war.  In a situation in which a

land is war-torn; in which cities lie in ruins; in which men, women and children are left starving, if

the conflict has come to an end, we might be inclined to say that peace has been restored to that

place.  But is that really so? 

      These things may represent our understandings of peace and peacemaking.  But I submit this is

not the understanding of peace Jesus would have had in mind as a Jew speaking to Jews. The Greek

word for peace used in Jesus’ beatitude is eirhnh (eirini), which derives from the Hebrew word for

peace which is [would anyone like to make an educated guess?]Shalom has two basic meanings in

the Hebraic sense, neither of which necessarily square with our conventional definition of peace.

First shalom describes a state of perfect welfare; serenity; prosperity; a general sense of well-being.  A

common way to greet one’s neighbor in the Middle East is to say “Shalom;” ie. “I wish you not merely

freedom from conflict and trouble, but I wish for you much more.  I wish for you everything which

makes for your contentment, happiness and well-being.” Second, shalom describes right personal

relationships marked by intimacy, fellowship, cooperation, and uninterrupted good will between two

parties.

      So we need to bear in mind that peace in Jesus’ view didn’t necessarily have to do with absence

of strife and conflict.  It goes deeper to fulfillment and joy, and to human interaction and relationship at its best. 

In Psalm 122 from which we read earlier, the Psalmist prays that shalom should be

within the walls of Jerusalem.  He is asking that every good blessing would descend upon that city

and its citizens; not so much about absence of conflict, but about presence of contentment, and

prosperity, and well-being, and good relationships.

      Another important aspect of this 7th beatitude is to distinguish between peacemaker and peace

lover or peace keeper.  Mom may be a great peace keeper; surely a peace lover.  But is she a peace

maker?  An individual could be a peaceful person [most of us are]; a lover of tranquility and harmony. 

 

And in the Jewish sense, a lover of contentment and well-being.  That’s all well and fine.  But Jesus

doesn’t say here, ‘Makarios are the peace keepers or the peace lovers.’  He explicitly says, ‘Makarios

are the peacemakers.”  Let’s try to break this down.  There are folks who may know there is something wrong

in a given situation – in a marriage; in a family; in the workplace; in the community; in

the church; a situation wherein a person is a member.  Moreover, the person knows that something

ought to be done to rectify the situation.  Yet he or she takes no steps in that direction for fear of

difficulty, conflict, sacrifice, which might be a part of resolving the problem.  That person says or

does nothing for the sake of “keeping the peace.”  Are we describing a peaceful person?  Probaby.

A peace lover?  Most likely.  But a peacemaker.  No.  An historical example of this is the tragedy of

holocaust.  I’m sure the vast majority of Germans were peaceful and peace loving, as were the vast

majority of Americans who were aware of what was going on in Europe.  But for their own reasons,

the majority said nothing.  The majority did nothing.  It was easier to turn a blind eye or deaf ear.

      The peace of which Jesus speaks is not the superficial peace which comes from evading an issue

and maintaining a spuriously peaceful status quo; turning a blind eye or deaf ear so as not to rock

the boat, along with every rationalization.  Jesus speaks of peace which arises from confronting an

issue, and being prepared to toil and sacrifice in whatever way necessary that things like justice,

equity, well-being and righteousness be brought to fruition.  So again, what is the profile of a peace

maker?  What does a shalom-promoter look like? 

      “Blessed,” blissful, divinely-favored, makarios are those who do anything to actively promote,

press for, and increase the well-being and welfare of others; not simply sending principals to their

respective neutral corners.  Have we ever thought of those who toil to build houses for Habitat for

Humanity in order that folks in a lower income bracket have safe and decent housing as

“peacemakers;” as shalom-promoters?  How about those who monitor working conditions in shops

and factories?  How about those who find new ways of conquering pain and healing the sick?  How

about those who work to make our schools safe, positive and wholesome environments for students?  How about

those who labor in order to feed the hungry of our community; those who labor

and sacrifice in order that the infirmed, the shut-in, the elderly have things like warm meals and

transportation.  All these – and many of them are you – are in the truest sense doing the work of God

by promoting shalom.  People who are passionate for the well-being of others – their physical, emotional, spiritual

well-being – these are the makarios; the blessed; the blissful; the favored of God.

      “Peace”-making or shalom-promoting is also about right relationships.  It can be said that in any

person’s life, there are three key areas of relationship.  First, there is relationship with self.  Blessed is

the one who has succeeded in coming to a right relationship with him or herself.  Happy and blessed

by God is the one who has found inner-peace.  Clement of Alexandria, an early leader in the church,

claimed that highly favored are “those who have stilled the incredible battle which goes on in their

own souls.”  The apostle Paul is candid in his letter to the Romans that there was a war raging inside

him between two forces: one urging him to goodness; the other enticing him to sin.  Within all of us is

such a struggle.  We are capable at one moment of an almost saintly goodness, while in the next moment,

an almost devilish evil.  Greek philosopher Plato once bluntly observed that we are part ape and part angel. 

There is clearly not happiness, or security, or well-being in such continuous tension and inner-debate. 

Some force needs to come from somewhere, and take up residence, and provide integration of the inner

Jesus Christ is One who can make that inner-shalom a reality.  Paul recognized

that for him, the only way to resolve his inner-civil war was to be able to make that claim:  “It is no

 longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  Makarios indeed is the person who is at peace with

him or herself; in whom the contradictions are put to rest; whose inner-battle has been stilled under

the influence of the Holy Spirit of Christ.

      Second, there is relationship with others.  “Blessed” is the One who lives in right relationship with

neighbor.  I suppose from the very beginning of things, there have been barriers and battle lines between

people and nations – Jew on one side, Gentile on the other; Greek on one side, barbarian on

the other; dark skin on one side, light skin on the other; haves versus have-nots; conservative versus

liberal; young versus old; male versus female; Protestant versus Catholic, straight versus gay…… We

could go on all morning with those categories which divide us and prevent us from living in an

environment of shalom.  When it all shakes out, the forgiveness and reconciliation found in Christ can

bring us into right relationship in spite of differences which will always be there.

      The call of this beatitude is to labor, to sacrifice, and to yes, give up a piece of our turf in order to

promote right relationship between person and person.  That is the task of the “peacemaker.”  In

any society; in the private society of home and family; in the public society of institutions like government,

school, church, there are those who are disruptive influences, and those who are reconciling influences. 

There are those who sow discord, and those who sow shalom.  Jesus teaches that highly “blessed;”;

blissful; divinely-favored are those who actually produce, restore and maintain right relationships;

the reconcilers and the sowers of seeds of peace.

      Third, there is relationship between human and God; between us and the One who created us. 

That relationship may be one of immense difference and infinite distance.  It may be a relationship

rooted in fear and alienation in which we try to run and hide from God.  It may be a relationship of

enmity and hostility in which we are always at odds with God.  It may be a relationship of utter

indifference in which a person lives as if God doesn’t exist at all.  Here again, Christ can produce and

bring to rightness that relationship between us and God.  Let’s call Jesus “the Peace Bridge” which

makes open and passable that sometimes vast gulf between finite humanity and the infinite Almighty;

a relationship in which instead of avoiding God’s presence, we seek it; where instead of fleeing from

God, we run toward God; where instead of fighting God’s will, we cooperate with God’s will; a relationship

in which we find ourselves at home – content, serene, prospering, at peace in the Lord’s presence.

      Now that we’ve developed a profile of the “peacemaker” who is “blessed,” what is the promise

they receive?  That “they will be called children of God.”  Well, aren’t we all children of God?  What

then does Jesus mean?  Without getting into the complexities of Hebrew syntax, when the phrase

“will be called” was used by Jews in Jesus’ day, it meant: will be acknowledged or regarded as.  As my

earthly father’s child, I am acknowledged or regarded as Lou’s son, on the basis of my looking like him,

or speaking like him, or acting in ways he would act.  There’s a lot to the old adage:  “Like father, like

son.”  In the Jewish worldview from which and to which Jesus spoke, the child bears the stamp of the

parent.  So to say “children of God” meant “God-like” or “in the image of God.”  The translation of this

7th beatitude might well be expanded to read:  Blessed are those who actively promote well-being,

serenity, prosperity, and happiness, and who promote and provide for right relationships in every area

of life, for they will be acknowledged and regarded as children of God, because they are doing God-like

work.

      I’d like to close by emphasizing that a right name for God is God of peace.  Paul refers to God that

way in five of his letters.  God is the great Establisher of right relationships.  God gave God’s Son to

restore and reestablish a right relationship between God and humankind.  So any and all who labor,

 

toil, and pray to bring right relationship between people, between people and God, and between the

conflicting forces in the inner soul, are rightly called “children of God.”  For they are about God’s

work, and no one is closer to God than the one whose life is spent bringing shalom among people.

And no person’s bliss is greater.  Hence, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called

children of God.”

 

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102