“Peacemaking: The Pinnacle of Christlikeness” (Matthew 5:9 sermon)

John Adams is probably best known as the 2nd President of the United States, but he himself wanted to be remembered for ONE thing more than any other. He wrote to a friend of his, ‘I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than: “Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France in the year 1800.”’”  (David McCullough, John Adams, pp. 566-567)  

France had been our ally in the Revolutionary War, but we almost got into a devastating war with them in 1800, as a very young nation — but through John Adams’ deft maneuvering and diplomacy, war was avoided.

So of all the things he accomplished in his life: as a member of the Continental Congress; all he did in the American Revolution, and even as the 2nd President of the United States, John Adams said that the ONE greatest accomplishment of his life, at least in his eyes, was that he kept peace between America and France in 1800. Peacemaking was the most important thing.

This morning we come to the 7th Beatitude, “blessed are the peacemakers,” and, similar to what John Adams expressed, peacemaking should be regarded as the greatest achievement in our character, the most Christlike thing we can do. This is the next to last Beatitude; all the others have led up to this. The last Beatitude is persecution, which is really more the response of the world to us for being like Christ — so this 7th is really the height of Christlikeness. When you have achieved this quality, people will recognize you as being like Jesus. Like John Adams said: this is the one thing you want on your headstone! The “Peacemaking” that Jesus describes here is, in a very real sense, “The Pinnacle of Christlikeness.” 

I.   PEACEMAKING: Jesus’ Example

As we have seen repeatedly, ALL of these Beatitudes are first and foremost, the character qualities of Jesus Himself, which God wants to form in us.  And this 7th Beatitude is no exception. We find again here that Jesus is the ultimate example of this quality. One of the best places we see that is in Ephesians 2:14-16, which tells us:

“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 … thus MAKING PEACE, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross …”.       

It is notable that the same basic Greek word for “peacemaker” in Matthew 5 is also used here in Ephesians 2. It’s talking about the same thing. So Jesus Himself is the great Example of the “peacemaker” that He said He wants us to become in Matthew 5:9. And these verses in Ephesians teach us what Biblical peacemaking really is:

A) Jesus’ peacemaking reconciles God and Man. 

By His death on the cross Jesus brought men and God together. This verse says He reconciled us all in His body “to God through the cross.”   Every single one of us is born with a sin nature, and as soon as we came to the age where we could make a choice to sin, we each personally do choose to sin. But sin is not just a “bad choice;” at the heart of it, sin is rebellion against God. When we sin, we are saying, “I want to do what I want to do, instead of what GOD tells me to do.” Sin is rebellion against the King of the Universe. It is making war with God. So when you sin, you have become, in effect, God’s enemy. To use a biblical phrase, you are “at enmity” against God. You are at war with Him; you are His enemy. 

God teaches us to love our enemies, and He showed us what that means. Even though we rebelled against Him, and were His enemies, God still loved us. He didn’t want us to suffer the penalty of being away from Him in hell forever. So in His mercy He came down to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and died on the cross to pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven, and reconciled, and have peace with Him again. Ephesians 2 says He “reconciled us to God through the cross.”  If you are willing to stop your rebellion against God, and trust Jesus as your Savior, you can have peace with God today. 

A number of years ago, a man was working high on a scaffold and he fell to the ground, and was severely injured. A doctor was rushed to the scene, and after examining him, he said, “Young man, I not going to lie to you, you are gravely hurt; you had better make your peace with God”. With no hesitation, that young man said: “Sir, my peace with God was made 1900 years ago, when Jesus died on the cross for me.”  

That is exactly what Jesus came to do: He came to make peace between us and God. (And let’s make it clear: it is not that God the Father was angry with us, but Jesus loved us and stepped in and reconciled us. The Bible says “For GOD so loved the world, He gave His Son … But GOD, being rich in mercy” sent Jesus. It was God the Father who put this whole thing in place, because He loved us. But our peace with God was actually made through the Son, Jesus, and His death on the cross for our sins.

Maybe you feel like you have been “at war” God — and if you’ve been sinning, then you HAVE indeed been at war with God!  Your sins are nothing less than treason against the King of the Universe. And you need to realize that war with God is a war you cannot win. Are you about ready for peace with God?  God’s made a way that you can have peace with Him: through Jesus’ death on the cross. So if you’re ready for peace with God today, then:

— confess your sin/rebellion to God; 

— ask Him to forgive you because of Jesus’ death on the cross; 

— and ask Him to help you follow Him as your King from this day forward.  You can walk out of this room today, with the confidence that you have peace with God, though Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus came to do: He is the ultimate peacemaker: He came to make peace, between mankind and God.       

B) Jesus’ peacemaking reconciles Man and Man

Peacemaking is first and foremost peace with God; as we just saw. But when people make peace with God, it also leads to peace between them and other people as well.

Look back at Ephesians 2. Verse 14 says “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”  When he says “both groups” here, he is talking about the Jews and the Gentiles (“Gentiles” to the Jews, are everybody who is not a Jew.)  These two groups had a great prejudice against each other, like a lot of ethnic groups do. The Gentiles thought the Jews were an odd and picky people who wouldn’t worship their gods and kept getting in trouble. The Jews despised the Gentiles, and called them “Gentile dogs.” There was great prejudice and hatred between these two groups. But Ephesians 2 says here, that when they were saved, Christ not only reconciled both of these groups to God through His death on the cross, He also reconciled both groups to EACH OTHER. It says: “He made both groups into ONE, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”  This phrase “barrier of the dividing wall” almost certainly refers to the dividing wall in the Jewish Temple. There were places in the Temple to which non-Jews/Gentiles could go in to worship. But there was a stone wall, beyond which they could not pass, under penalty of death. So there was this “division” between them. But the “stone wall” wasn’t the only division; the real division was in their HEARTS, hatred and prejudice against each other. But Ephesians says for the Christian, Christ has “broken down the barrier of the dividing wall.” Through Jesus now we can not only draw near to GOD, we can draw near to each other as well. 

See, when you make peace with God, and someone else makes peace with God, you not only each draw closer to God, you also draw closer to each other as well. 

You may have seen this illustration of the triangle which has been used in a lot of marriage counseling. It shows how two people can be far apart, as they are at the bottom of this triangle. And you can see they are also far apart from God as well. But you can also see how, if they will each begin to draw closer to God, it will automatically draw them closer to each other as well. This is why the BEST thing you can do to help your marriage is for both the husband and the wife to grow spiritually. Because when you each grow closer to God, you will automatically grow closer to each other as well, as that diagram shows.

And this same thing is true not only in marriage, but also in EVERY relationship. Christ not only gives us peace with GOD as we draw closer to Him, He also gives us peace with other people who are drawing closer to Him as well.  

So Christ not only makes peace between Man and God; He also makes peace between Man and Man as well.  

Some of you may recognize the name of Mitsuo Fuchida. Mitsuo Fuchida led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which killed thousands of Americans and crippled our fleet. Later in the War, Fuchida himself was injured when his aircraft carrier was sunk, and he was assigned to teach in the Japanese war college until the war was over. He became bitter. He hated America and Americans — and the feeling was mutual. Americans hated him for what he had done.

But one day, he was walking through a train station, when someone handed him a little pamphlet: “I Was A Prisoner of War,” by an American named Jacob DeShazer. DeShazer had been a POW in a Japanese camp for over 3 years during the War, and he had been starved and beaten. Fuchida was reading this story, and he figured the next thing he would read was about was how much DeShazer hated the Japanese. But instead DeShazer talked how he had been saved by Christ, and how his life was changed. The pamphlet said you could read more about Jesus in the Bible, so Mitsuo Fuchida bought a Bible, and read it. In the Book of Luke he read where Jesus prayed: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And he said, “He was praying for ME!” And right there, he gave his life to Jesus. (As we were talking about, now he had peace with God through Christ.) But then something else amazing happened. Now, no longer did Fuchida hate Americans. God gave him a love for them. And as he grew in Christ, he went to speak at different church and civic functions — and he would meet some of the very men he had previously hated and tried to kill — and who had hated him in return — except now they shook hands, and hugged, and loved each other. It was a modern-day miracle. It was “peacemaking,” by Jesus Christ, the Peacemaker, who “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” between these men.

This is what Jesus does; He not only makes peace between Man and God, but He also makes peace between Man and Man as well. He has “broken down the barrier of the dividing wall.”

— This is why there is to be no prejudice in the church. We are all one in Jesus Christ; as Galatians says, “There is no Jew or Greek;” there is no black or white in the Church of Jesus Christ. Christ has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall! 

— This is why there is to be no bitterness and unforgiveness among God’s people: we are to forgive everyone for everything, just as Christ forgave US for everything WE did. Christ has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall between us! 

Jesus made peace for us with God and He has made peace for us with others, through the cross. He is the ultimate Peacemaker.  

II. Peacemaking: Our Imitation

Just as in all of these Beatitudes, we are to seek to follow in Jesus’ steps here. God wants us to become like Christ, and become peacemakers. 

That means that like Jesus, first of all, we will seek to make peace between other people and God. This is what we call the ministry of evangelism. II Corinthians 5:18 says “God … reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. Christ reconciled US to God first, and now He wants US to lead others to be reconciled to God just like we have been. 

And this “ministry of reconciliation,” this Peacemaking, is ACTIVE. It is an active quality. The Greek word is “eirene-poeo” – MAKING peace, DOING peace. It is the positive activity of bringing others to God. Jesus was active in His peacemaking: He didn’t just sit in heaven and hope people might get saved somehow. He left heaven, He went to the cross; He went out “to seek and to save those who are lost.” His peacemaking between God and man was active. 

So as we imitate Jesus in this, we need to be active in our peacemaking too.  We are NOT just to sit around wishing that people would come to peace with God. We need to be active, we need to reach out; we need to be purposeful about making peace between others and God, and BRING them to Him.

When we were serving in Tulsa, our daughter Libby was in the kindergarten class in Sunday School, and there was a little boy in her class who said that he wanted to say something to me, but he was afraid to. Libby said, “You don’t need to be afraid; he is just my dad!” And she literally took that little boy by the hand, and brought him into the worship center, where I was sitting on the front row, getting ready for the service, and she said, “Dad, this is Ben; he wanted to talk to you.”  

What Libby did for her little friend that day was ACTIVE; she took him by the hand and brought him to me. And that is just what WE should be doing as peacemakers. People around us do not know God. And most of them do not know HOW to come to God — and they’re sure not going to find out from the media or pop culture. If they are going to find peace with God, it’ll be because people like you & me actively take them by the hand and lead them to make peace with God. 

So we need to be ACTIVE about it: 

— First of all, we need to be active in prayer, because nothing happens without prayer. Prayer is how we lay the foundation for evangelism. THAT is why we are doing this community-wide prayer walking in March — to “sow the spiritual seeds” in prayer for witness and evangelism.  

— But then once we have prayed, we need to be active, and look for the opportunities God gives us to “take people by the hand,” in a sense: tell them personally about Jesus. Invite them to church or Bible Study where they can hear about Him. Participate in our church outreach events like we’re having that Saturday March 27th — and hopefully we’ll get back to church mission trips, too, when all the COVID restrictions are lifted. We need to be active in “making peace” between people and God. 

And then as we lead individual people to make peace with God, it will break down barriers between people, just like what Ephesians 2 said; just like what happened between Mitsuo Fuchida and the Americans: it will bring peace between people as well, as we all draw near to God. That’s the only ultimate hope for all the divisions we have in our country: we need a revival in our land; we must all draw near to God though Christ. 

We also need to understand that peacemaking involves personal cost.

It cost Jesus: that Ephesians 2 passage says when He made peace, He did it “in His flesh.” Your peace with God was free to you — the Bible says it is “the gift of God” — but it wasn’t cheap; it took the body of Jesus being nailed to the cross; it took the shedding of His blood to pay for our sins. It took the wrath of God for our sins being poured out on Him as He hung on the cross. The peacemaking that Jesus did for us was costly — more costly than we will ever fully comprehend. 

And we need to understand that as we “follow in His steps” and become peacemakers, there will be a cost for us, too. Christians all through history have paid with their lives to share the gospel. We need to be ready to pay that price too, if it comes to us. 

But there are other costs: Several years ago, our son David and another young man from our church went to Nepal to share the gospel one summer, where the gospel had never been shared. They ended up sleeping on rooftops in remote villages; at one point there was no food, so they chased a chicken down to kill it; David got extremely sick and lost weight; we found out when he got home that he’d infested by a parasite while he was there. All these things were the costs of sharing the gospel; they were some of the costs of peacemaking.    

Now the cost that you pay for peacemaking may or may not be your life. It may be your health. It may be giving your summer, like David & Cody did, to share the gospel with those who haven’t heard. It may mean giving vacation time to go on mission. It may be a sacrifice of money to missions to support others. (Many of us are giving weekly/monthly through “Acts 1:8” to help support our missionaries and mission trips)  It may be something as “small” as sacrificing your time to build a relationship with someone so that you can have the opportunity to share the gospel with them. Maybe it’ll cost you going to a training seminar or discipleship class where you can learn how to witness better. Maybe it will cost you leaving home at night, when you were comfortable in your easy chair, to go out and share with someone who needs the gospel and someone who cares.  The cost may involve giving up your career, to go into full-time missions or ministry where you will help people make peace with the Lord.  It may cost you persecution or scorn from people who do not want to hear your witness. And, like some all through history, it may even cost your life.  But what we have to realize is that it cost Jesus dearly to make peace between us and God; and as we become more “conformed to the image of Christ” like these Beatitudes show us, you will find your character is being changed, and you’ll begin to imitate Him and you be willing to pay the costs of peacemaking.  (We’ll look more at some of those costs next week, as we look at the final Beatitude, on persecution.) But remember: peacemaking can be costly. And the more like Christ we become, the more we will be willing to pay the costs of peacemaking.  

III.  PEACEMAKING: Makes Us Look Most Like Christ

We’ve seen over the last weeks that each of these Beatitudes are character qualities of Christ, which God is causing all things to work together to build into your life. As you mature as a Christian, you will demonstrate each of these qualities. And as I have said before, these qualities build on one another, all culminating in this quality of peacemaking. Think about it:

— first, you are poor in spirit, so you trust Jesus as your Savior

— then, you mourn over others’ sins and spiritual condition, 

— and being “merciful” then you see people who are lost, and feel compassion for them,  which drives you to do something about it 

— so you “take them by the hand” and lead them to Jesus, which is this quality of peacemaking. All of these qualities work together, and flow from one to the other. 

And ALL of these qualities are a picture of Jesus. Jesus was THE Great Peacemaker, and when you are conformed to His image, YOU will be a peacemaker too. Making peace between people and God was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus was all about reaching out to others, to make peace between them and God. And as we become more spiritually mature, and more like Jesus, WE will become peacemakers too; WE will lead people to make peace with God. THAT is the ultimate mark of spiritual maturity. Notice Jesus said “THEY will be called the sons of God”.  It’s the peacemaker that Jesus says has become like Him.  

WE NEED TO REALLY GET THIS:  

— The most spiritually mature person is NOT (necessarily) the person who’s been in church the longest. (They should be, but they’re not always.)

— The most spiritually mature person is not the guy or gal who knows all the answers in Sunday School. James says the demons know the right answers — but they aren’t like Jesus.

— And as important as prayer is, the most spiritually mature person is not necessarily even the one who knows how to pray the longest. Jesus said in Matthew 23:14 that the hypocrites “for a pretense pray long prayers” and He called them sons of hell!

No, the most spiritually mature person is the one who reaches out to people and helps them make peace with God through Jesus Christ — because that is what Jesus was all about. He said “I CAME to seek and to save that which was lost.” Do you want to know how much you are like Christ?  Ask yourself: how often do you reach out? How often do you evangelize? How often do you tell someone about Jesus? THAT is the ultimate mark of Christlikeness.  

When’s the last time you led someone to Jesus? And hey, I know; we’re not responsible for the results, but when’s the last time you even TOLD somebody about Jesus — that He died on the cross to pay for our sins. That’s “the gospel in a nutshell” Paul said in I Corinthians 15, that “Christ died for our sins.” When’s the last time you shared that “Christ died for our sins” with someone, to try to lead them to Him?  

Again, this ought to drive many us back to our knees – right back to the 1st Beatitude – to humble ourselves before God and say, “Lord, I’m a poor beggar when it comes to telling people about You. Forgive me for that. “I need help” to be a witness for You; give me opportunities to share. Build Your character into my life, so that people will see that I am like Jesus: a peacemaker, who is leading people to You. That’s what God wants to see: that you are becoming so much like Christ, that people recognize Him in you.  

When Cheryl & I were serving at our first church in Oklahoma City, our oldest son Paul was still a toddler. One day I had taken him to the big grocery store not far from the church parsonage where we lived and I had him up on my hip as we stood in the checkout line, when the cashier looked up and said, “Oh, that’s so cute: he looks just like you!”  Well, that’s what every dad wants to hear, right? (I don’t know any dad who takes that as a cut that their child looks like them, right?!) We WANT to hear that our kids look just like us.  

And the same thing is true with our Heavenly Father as well. He WANTS to hear people say that we are like Him — that is what this whole Beatitude study is about: us becoming more like Christ. And this 7th Beatitude teaches us that we never look more like Jesus, than when we are actively making peace between God and other people. “Blessed are the peacemakers — for THEY shall be called the sons of God.”

INVITATION:

— Many of us need to respond to God today by saying, Lord: I am just not much like Jesus. Forgive me — and through Your Holy Spirit today, use this word to make me more like You: a peacemaker, who leads people to Jesus.

— Maybe there is some specific person on your heart today that God has given you a burden for, and you just need to spend some time praying for their soul this morning. The Apostle Paul had that kind of burden in Romans 10: he said, “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Maybe you need to respond the same way today, and get serious about praying for some people on your heart to be saved. 

— Or maybe today you’d say that YOU are one who has been “at war” with God, but now you are ready to turn back to Him, and be saved. Jesus said that’s why He came: to die on the cross, and pay for your sins, so that you could come back to God through Him, and “make peace with God.”  Ask Him to save you right now … 

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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