By J.R. Miller
"Blessed are the peacemakers--for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9
PEACE is one of the great words of the Bible. It shines like a brilliant diamond. It is a word which includes in its meaning, all the blessings and all the graces of spiritual life. To have peace--is to be rich. To be a maker of peace--is to be a dispenser of the best that even heaven has to give to men.
God is the great Peacemaker. It is the peace of God Himself, which is offered to us. An ancient Scripture promise tells us that God will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are stayed on Him. He is the maker of the peace--ours is but the staying of the trembling life on His almightiness.
Christ is a maker of peace. He was foretold as the Prince of Peace. When He was born, the angel said that His mission was to make peace on earth. Before He went away, He told His disciples that in the midst of the world's tribulations, they would have peace in Him. He also bequeathed His own peace to His friends, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid!" John 14:27. Then, after He arose, His salutation to them was, "Peace be unto you."
Not only did He give peace to men; He first made the peace. It was not easy--it was not a mere heart's wish, a blessing only in words, which He gave. Peace comes as the price of war. Men give their lives, and on bloody fields peace is purchased. Christ made peace for the world--by going to His cross! "The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed."
Christ is the maker of the peace which has been changing lives these nineteen centuries. Love's warm pulsings--have been throbbing out from Calvary as from a breaking heart into the whole world. The spirit of peace has been slowly spreading among the nations and in homes and communities. It is all the fruit of Christ's cross. He is the great peacemaker.
But every true disciple of the Master, is likewise called to be a peacemaker.
To begin with, every believer is to have peace, Christ's own peace, and the peace of God, in his heart. Toward this blessed quiet of soul all Christian culture tends. The fruit of the Spirit is peace. One who has learned this deepest of all lessons of faith, and is kept in perfect peace amid all the world's babel and all its strifes--is already a peacemaker. Nothing else so quiets other turbulent spirits--as the influence of a life which moves calm and undisturbed amid all confusions and alarms. He who has received the peace of Christ, makes peace for others. One person who is fearless and trustful in time of storm or danger, makes it easier for all others in the company to be calm.
There is a lesson also of peaceableness which is suggested in this beatitude. We are to make peace by restraining in ourselves all that is opposed to this spirit. There has been a tendency in the church to make too little of the culture of the graces of Christian life. Doctrinal soundness has been insisted upon, as a test of true Christian life--more than sweetness of spirit and beauty of character. An irritable temper is too often regarded, at the worst--as an excusable infirmity, so common among good people that no one can reprove his neighbor for his failure at this point. So many Christian men and women are touchy and easily offended, that it seems necessary to leave a wide margin in defining what religion requires of its followers, in the matter of patience and forbearance.
But the teaching of the New Testament is very clear and explicit on this point. The Master Himself insists on love, not merely as a fine sentiment--but as a quality of daily life, affecting all its relations and its contacts with others. "I say unto you--Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." No place would seem to be left in Christian life for avenging wrong.
When we turn to the Epistles, we find many an exhortation to peaceable living. Paul, for example, counsels Christians, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." That is, if there must be quarreling, it should not be the fault of the Christian! He must not begin it. It must not come through his insisting on his rights. He must do all in his power to get along with his neighbor, without strife or contention. If others are disposed to be quarrelsome, he must meet the disagreeable spirit--with love. "The servant of the Lord must not strive--must not be contentious, but must be gentle unto all men."
The whole New Testament thus teaches and impresses the duty of living with others in a quiet and peaceable way. Whatever is unloving in act, word or spirit--is to be avoided. All malice and bitterness and all clamor and evil speaking are to be put off--and all meekness, patience, kindness and thoughtfulness are to be put on. The full lesson is summed up in Paul's matchless picture of love in a life: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged." That is only peaceableness written large. There is no place for a Christian to be quarrelsome.
There is no beatitude for an irascible temper--but there are two beatitudes for those who avoid quarreling, "Blessed are the meek," and "Blessed are the peacemakers."
We ought to be peacemakers by so living that it will be impossible for anyone to have strife or contention with us. The influence of such a life in a community, works deeply and widely toward peaceableness. One contentious person can fill a whole neighborhood with strife! A quarrelsome man stirs up bitterness wherever he goes. But one person who has the forbearing spirit of Christ, who meekly endures wrongs--rather than contend against them, is a maker of peace. Others are influenced by his example. Every time we keep silent under insult, and kind and sweet under irritation and provocation, we have made it easier for all about us to do the same.
There is still another sense in which every follower of Christ should be a peacemaker. He should seek to make peace between man and man. One way of doing this is by exerting his influence in every way, against strifes and quarrels. We find continually as we go among men, the beginnings of bitterness and alienation. In every community there are whisperers who go about retailing gossip, whose tendency is to separate good friends. These are not peacemakers, but peace destroyers! They seem to delight in putting doubt and suspicion into hearts, which heretofore have known only trust and confidence.
One often finds that two neighbors or friends, are in danger of becoming enemies. Now is the opportunity for the peacemaker's ministry. Instead of intensifying the beginning of bitterness, confirming the suspicion or doubt, or encouraging the strife--we may set about to try to heal the breach and restore confidence. Usually it is not hard to do this. Many quarrels begin in a misunderstanding, and a few strong manly words spoken by a true hearted peacemaker, will show, first to one and then to the other--that there really is no cause for ill feeling, that the doubt of loyalty is unjust, and that separation or estrangement is not only unnecessary--but would be sinful.
A true peacemaker, going about thus, trying to draw people ever closer together and to heal all threatened contentions and quarrels, is doing a divine work of love in the world. The great majority of strifes and differences among men are needless. They are caused by the wicked meddlesomeness of outside parties. Or they come from hasty words or acts, unconfessed and unrepented of. Trifles are exaggerated or purely imaginary slights or injuries are allowed to kindle bitterness which burns like a consuming fire. The peacemaker's word spoken at the right moment would prevent all this.
Another part of the peacemaker's work is upon those who have actually become estranged, who have drifted apart, into open enmity. In every community there are such people. Sometimes they live under the same roof--and eat at the same table! There are brothers and sisters; there are husbands and wives, who are farther apart than any strangers! A thick wall of cold rock has been build up between them!
Reconciliation between such far separated friends, especially when they are of the same family, may seem hopeless. Yet even in such alienations, the peacemaker's holy words may be crowned with success. It requires great wisdom. It requires purest and most unselfish love. It requires the spirit of Christ, tender with true compassion and yearning for the good of the lives that are estranged. It requires patience--too much haste or too great eagerness ofttimes destroys the work of many days in one moment. It requires prayer--only God can be the real peacemaker in such cases--and the most we can do is to interpret the love of Christ to the hearts that are at strife, and ask God to melt those hearts with the fire of His tenderness.
Still another way in which we can do the work of the peacemaker, is by seeking to diffuse more and more of the love of Christ among men. This we may do in our own life, showing patience, gentleness and forbearance wherever we are--and under whatever harsh treatment we may be called to endure. Christians should make their home--true homes of peace. No angry word should ever be heard there, no strife should ever be permitted there, no outburst of temper should ever occur there. Christian people would go far toward filling the world with peace, if they all would realize the holy peace of Christ within their own home doors!
But our home is not our only sphere of influence. We may do much to promote the spirit of peace in our wider circle. It is wonderful how much a single noble nature may do toward making it easier for all men in a neighborhood to live sweetly. Sometimes in communities there are contentions which grow into feuds; yet now and then we see one generous spirit by the rich abundance of its own unselfish love, lift the tides of good feeling so high that all strife is forgotten.
Then the true peacemaker is a maker of peace--not only between man and man--but also between men and God. This is the holiest of all peacemaking! We may do good by seeking to keep men from drifting apart, and by reconciling again friends who have become alienated; but nobler work by far is it to bring human souls, estranged from God, into fellowship with Him! He who brings a lost man to Christ--makes peace which shall abide through eternal years!
It is very significant that the blessedness of the peacemakers, is that they shall be called the children of God. This would seem to be the highest of all the honors promised in this wonderful group of beatitudes. The peacemakers are called sons of God because they are like God--and their holy work is the very work of God in this world. We are indeed God's children--just in the measure in which we have in us the mind which was in Jesus--and follow the things that make for peace, and make peace.