Peacemakers or Peace Keepers?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
We live in a culture that often discusses peace. The United States military has a global military presence to attempt to prevent war and “maintain peace.” An ideal vacation is one in a location that is both relaxing and “peaceful.” As Christians, peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit — right after love and joy. But what does it mean to make peace?
This text in Matthew 5 — Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount — implies the presence of conflict. However, the idea of “making peace” can differ greatly among Christians. Some of this has to do with personality traits and leadership styles, but often a false sense of peace is created.
When artificial peace is created, maintained, and perpetuated, this is Christian Peace Keeping. This usually involves reacting to conflict instead of responding to it, with the goal not being peace but instead removing the presence of conflict.
This kind of conflict avoidance takes many forms. It can look like ignorance — pretending the conflict does not exist. It can also look like catering to those who are contentious or bullies in order to appease them so they do not stir up more conflict. It may even take another extreme where a party is punished or disciplined without the intent of reconciliation and restoration, and the punished one has to live either disconnected or unwhole in their relationships.
All of these usually result in inauthenticity and tension that often further leads to deceit, broken relationships, and the message of Gospel being tainted.
On the contrary, peacemaking is intentional. It is not reactive. Peacemaking acknowledges the reality and existence of conflict and lovingly addresses it. Peacemakers do not appease people nor give in to their demands; in fact, sometimes this means peacemakers bring up conflict in order to address underlying issues. When discipline is thoughtfully given, it is not a form of retribution, but it instead offers a clear path to full reconciliation and restoration.
Peacemaking is driven by love — for God is love and that is the message we are called to carry. The Sermon on the Mount is timelessly counter-cultural.