I recently spent some time studying one of the simplest verses in the New Testament: “blessed are the peacemakers.” There are no tricky words in this verse, no difficult Greek to parse. To be blessed means to be happy or to experience God’s favor; to be a peacemaker is to (wait for it!) make peace. But though the words are simple, the application takes some work. Essentially, Jesus is saying that peace with God leads us to make peace like God. But how do we actually do that?
It strikes me that there are at least three ways that each of us can serve as a peacemaker: we can make peace between God and man; we can make peace between man and man; and we can make peace between church and church.
Peace Between Man and God
Once we come to peace with God we naturally want to see others come to peace with him as well. What we call “evangelism” is simply this—telling others about the good news of the gospel and encouraging them to turn to Christ in repentance and faith—encouraging them to accept God’s terms of peace.
Do you do that? Are you sharing the gospel with other people? And are you asking them, or encouraging them, or pleading with them to turn to Christ? This is a serious and sacred calling God has given us. And I fear that of all Christians, Reformed Christians are among those most likely to neglect this task.
There are so many ways to share the gospel. You can speak to people at work and home and in your neighborhood. You can speak to your Uber driver and hairdresser. You can distribute tracts and Bibles. You can reach into the online communities you are part of. You can participate in formal programs of evangelism. Less important than how you do it is the fact that you do do it.
The peacemaker is the evangelist—the one who longs to see peace between God and man, and the one who then shares the gospel and calls people to it.
Peace Between Man and Man
The second kind of peace we can bring is peace between man and man. Everywhere you go you find people who are in conflict with one another and as a peacemaker you can help bring them to a state of harmony.
While we need to be careful not to involve ourselves in conflicts that are none of our business and conflicts we can really do nothing to help, there are times where we can helpfully intervene in a conflict and assist the two sides in coming to terms with one another. That’s especially true when the conflict is between two Christians and perhaps most important of all when it’s between two members of the same church.
To bring peace between two people doesn’t mean to merely act as appeasers, people who try to paper over conflict without actually resolving it. To be a peacemaker is to bring God’s own truth to bear on a situation of conflict and then to appeal to the different parties to do what God says. This is always the question we need to be asking: What does the Bible say about this, and how am I going to apply those Scriptural truths to this particular situation?
You may come into contact with a husband and wife who are just not getting along, who are always irritated with one another. And they ask you for help. Maybe you can begin by simply opening up Ephesians 5:33 and reading what God says: “Let each one of you (husbands) love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” And beginning right there you can help him think about how to love her and help her think about how to respect him. That may not bring full resolution, but it will at least get the process underway.
You may come into contact with two church members who have had a falling out. Perhaps one has sinned against the other and is denying it. You can speak to the one who has been sinned against and open up Proverbs 19:11 to remind that person, “It is the glory of a man to overlook an offense.” Can you overlook this offense—can you set it aside and continue to relate to that person as if it never happened? If not, then you can take that person to Matthew 18:15 and help him understand the process God gives us to resolve conflict: Go to that person alone, describe the offense, and see if they will ask your forgiveness; if not, take one or two other people and do it again; and if even then they won’t repent, take it to the church.
Of course maybe it’s you who needs to obey God when he says, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Would it be said of you that you live at peace with everyone?
In these ways and so many others, you can imitate God by serving as a peacemaker. You can bring peace between man and man.
Peace Between Church and Church
And then I think there is also a way in which we together as the members of a local church can bring peace between church and church. It’s a sad fact that churches often end up isolating themselves or becoming suspicious of other congregations. We can even become competitive with one another when it comes to growing our numbers.
There is a sweet ministry of being a church that loves other churches—that makes peace with them and that fosters peace with them. You can read about one of these churches in 1 Thessalonians 4—a church that was commended for its love of other churches. There was no competition and no hard feelings. There was just love—love for other churches that were imperfect but on the same side, imperfect but carrying out the same labor and working toward the same cause. It is a beautiful thing when churches dwell together in love, trust, and unity.
We are called to be peacemakers, not mere peace-lovers or peace-attempters. And yet ultimately we need to acknowledge that the results are not up to us. We must do our utmost to make peace—but we must also then leave the results in the hands of God, trusting that he is wise and good. Sometimes, for his purposes, he will bring full resolution; sometimes, for his purposes, he will not. We can trust him with the results.
Then it’s important that we consider this: If we are called to make peace, why is there so much conflict? Why is there so much conflict even in the church, even between Christians? The simple reason is that we face strong enemies that hate peace and love war. The world around us, our own flesh, and the devil himself are all arrayed against us. They all tend toward the chaos of fighting, not the order of peace. And so we need to pray for peace—pray for peace in our own hearts, pray for peace in the world, pray for peace within the church. And then, having prayed, we need to labor for it. We need to make peace.
So, are you a peacemaker or a troublemaker? Are you a son of God in making peace, or are you a son of the devil in undermining or destroying peace? The clear calling for those who have come to peace with God is to make peace like God. The beautiful calling of the gospel is to imitate God in being one who loves peace, who values peace, and who makes peace.