The terrorist attack on New York and Washington, DC, in September of 2001—along with the long war on terror that resulted—evidences how quickly peace can escape us.
The search for peace has been going on since the beginning of time when Adam and Eve brought conflict between themselves and God. Many long for peace in their lives and peace in the world. The famous answer of beauty contest participants, when asked what they want, is always, “World Peace.” Witness the number of suicides, marital conflicts, family problems, counseling visits, and we can determine there is a lack of peace in many people’s lives.
While we long for peace, we seem to live in a society that applauds violence. We live with it as a way of life. The more violence the show contains, the higher the number of viewers. Video games with violence make good sellers.
Yet Jesus teaches peace should be our pursuit. He wants us to be peacemakers. God’s Word gives a picture of peace at the very beginning and at the very end. In the Garden of Eden, the first humans lived in a peaceful environment. When we look at the end as it is described in the Book of Revelation, we find it will again signal a time of peace. But in the in-between, wars and violence will exist. There is no peace because of sin in the world and sin in people’s lives.
Jesus reminds us we must be peacemakers, not peace takers. This is not accomplished by trying to escape the world. We can’t. It is accomplished by confronting these difficult situations and looking for peaceful solutions. As we try to bring outward peace, we also demonstrate to others the inner peace we have discovered in Christ.
Understand What Peacemaking Means
When we live a righteous lifestyle, we will find and bring the peace Christ speaks of. We must strive for the goodness of Christ to characterize our lives.
Jews greet others with the word “Shalom.” It carries the idea that individuals have all the peace and goodness God can give them. So when Jesus tells us to be peacemakers, he is telling us to establish love and harmony between individuals. He wants us to be involved in resolving wrong attitudes and actions.
The writer of Hebrews said, “Make every effort to live in peace with all people and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (12:14).
Peace can only result in our lives, and between others and us, when our lives are characterized by the holiness of God. Otherwise, we will stir up strife and react with vengeance and retaliation. We can only imagine what a greater measure of peace would result in our world if all our leaders were first of all Christians, and then if they understood Jesus’ meaning of being peacemakers.
We must temper Jesus’ teaching by saying he is not speaking of peace at any price. Jesus teaches us to be peacemakers, and he gives us a personal example of how to do that, but he also said he came not to bring peace but division (Matthew 10:34). We cannot compromise evil with good to bring peace. It is not acceptable to overlook evil if it will result in peace. The means do not always justify the ends. Peace must come on God’s terms, not ours.
The great enemy of peace is sin and the many ways it is manifested in people’s lives. This is what causes turmoil and division. The absence of sin is the reason the final state of Christians will again be peaceful. As peacemakers, we cannot truly offer peace to others without first of all making them aware of the need to make peace with God. This is the prerequisite of having peace in our own lives and being able to live at peace with others.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman gives a good example. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were a mixed race. Since there was no love between them, there was no peace. As Jesus went through the region of Samaria, he made an attempt to make peace with a Samaritan woman. The focal point, however, was on what basis and terms this peace could be established. Jesus first confronted her with her spiritual need. When she accepted him as her Savior, peace resulted in her life. She could then be at peace with others.
An old Chinese proverb captures the essence of the Beatitude: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
Know the Peacemaker
The one who brings peace to a person’s life and then between them and others is God. The lack of peace in our world and lives is really a lack of God. When a person has no God, they have no peace.
Jesus reconciles us to God and others. He is the way to the Father, and without him, there is no peace. He can lead us to peaceful relations with folks we never thought we could get along with. He is our mediator and great high priest. The shape of the cross itself shows the peace made possible with God and others. It was here the righteousness of Christ overcame the problem of sin. Because of this great work, peace is now available.
When Jesus ascended back into heaven, he sent the Spirit of God as an agent of peace. The Father is the source of peace, Jesus manifested peace to us, and the Spirit brings peace in our lives. Only as we accept this can we hope to live at peace with others.
This peace we can possess is unique. It is a peace found even in turmoil. The things that happen around us should not affect the peace within us. It is a peace that passes all understanding and comprehension.
Carry the Peace Message
There are at least four ways we can be messengers of peace. First, we must be at peace with God. Before we accept Christ as our Savior, we are at enmity with him. Peace comes when the blood of Christ covers our sin.
Second, we must lead others to the peace of God. We can do this through a life of testimony to others about the grace of God. Rather than looking down on others, we should be concerned about their relationship with God. But for the grace of God, we might be where they are.
Third, we must lead others to make peace with their fellow human beings. Jesus said; “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23).
Finally, we must learn to find a point of agreement with others. Though many will reject our offer of peace through a relationship with Christ, this does not mean we cannot live at peace with them. Though we cannot compromise our beliefs, we can usually come to some point of agreement. Through our love and patience, they may eventually come to know the peace of God.
Experience the Results
It is the duty of every Christian to be a peacemaker. If they are not, they are living in disobedience. The first result is happiness. It is much better and more enjoyable to live at peace with others than fight. We will also be called the children of God. What a wonderful privilege that is.
Though there will not always be peace in the world, we can be at peace with God and others.
Martin Wiles is an author, teacher, and freelance editor currently residing in Greenwood, South Carolina. He and his wife Michelle are founders and editors of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). Wiles has authored Grits & Grace & God and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), Morning By Morning,Morning Serenity, Grace Greater Than Sin (America Star Books), Authentic Christianity (Smashwords) and is a contributing author in Penned from the Heart (Son-Rise Publications), and Rise (Chaplain Publishing). He has served as Regional Correspondent and Sunday school lesson writer for the Baptist Courier and also written for LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum. He has also been published in Open Windows, Proclaim, The Secret Place, Upper Room, Light from the Word, Reach Out Columbia, Mustard Seed Ministries, Journey Christian Newspaper,Common Ground Herald, The Quiet Hour, and Power for Living. He is a regular contributor to Christian Devotions, and PCC Daily Devotions, and is a regular contributor for the Dorchester County Eagle Record, the Orangeburg County Times and Democrat, and the Greenwood County Index Journal. Wiles also serves as the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions , the Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, and as a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. You can follow him @linesfromgod.