by Paul George
This seventh Beatitude has to do more with conduct than with character. The first four may be grouped together as the negative character of the heart of the godly. They are not self-sufficient, but consciously poor in spirit; they are not self-satisfied, but mourning because of their spiritual state; they are not self-willed, but meek; they are not self-righteous, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In the next three, the Lord names their positive character, having tasted of the mercy of God, they are merciful in their dealings with others; having received a spiritual nature, they now hate impurity and love holiness; having entered into a peace with God they now wish to live in harmony and peace with all mankind.
In a world where there is no strife there is no need for peacemakers. Where the world is filled with malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3): though attempts are often made to conceal this by the cloak of hypocrisy yet it soon comes forth again in its hideous nakedness, as the history of the nations attests, peacemakers are needed.
The desire of peacemakers is to live peaceably with all men and abstain from deliberate injury of others, promote unity and heal broken relationships. Peacemakers pour sooth oil on troubled waters, reconcile those who are alienated, right wrongs, and strengthen the kindly ties of friendship. As the sons of peace they bring into the hostile atmosphere of this world the pure and calming air of heaven.
The disposition of the peacemakers is a vastly different disposition of the easy-going indolence which is often nothing but selfishness, of the wicked of this world. The peace they desire to establish is not a peace at any price. It is a peace that is not to be sought at the expense of righteousness. It is a peace God Himself approves of. In this life we are to avoid all needless contention, to the point of sacrificing the truth.
It is the duty of every Christian to see to it that we conduct ourselves in such a way no just complaint can be filed against us. It is also for our own peace we do this because it is impossible to be happy when we are involved in strife and enmities. When disturbance and turmoil is aroused, we should diligently examine ourselves before the Lord as to whether the cause for it lies in us and if it does confess the sin to Him and seek to reconcile those offended. Peacemakers must constantly be on their guard against an invasion by the spirit of bigotry, intemperate zeal, and a quarrelsome spirit and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
In order to develop a peaceful disposition we must first cultivate the grace of “lowliness,” which is the opposite of pride, of meekness, which is the opposite of self-assertiveness, and the grace of long sufferance, which is the opposite of impatience. We are not only to do all we can to heal broken relationships we are to reconcile men to God. This is a contrast in the task given to Joshua and his officers under the Mosaic economy, of taking up the sword to slay the enemies of the Lord! In this age the servants of Christ are commissioned to seek the reconciliation of those who are at enmity with God.
Peacemakers are the ambassadors of God, calling sinners to come to God, throw down the weapons of their warfare and enter into peace with God. They know there is no peace for the wicked, and therefore they exhort them to make peace with God.
There is still another way in which it is the privilege of believers to be peacemakers, and that is by their prayers. In the day when the Lord’s anger is kindled against a sin-laden people and the dark clouds of providence threaten an impending storm of judgment, it is both the duty and the privilege of God’s peacemakers to stand in the breach and in earnest supplication plead with God to withhold His judgment as Moses did (Exodus 32:10), Aaron did (Numbers 16:47, 48), and David did (2 Samuel 24:14). This is indeed a blessed work of peace: to intercede as Abraham did for Sodom. Only in the Day to come will we know what the wicked gained by the presence of the righteous remnant in their midst.
The reward for being peacemakers is decisive proof that these Beatitudes are not directed toward the moral virtues of the natural man, but rather the spiritual graces of the regenerate. To be called a child of God is to be renewed in His image and likeness and to be a peacemaker. The Lord Himself is “the God of peace” (Hebrews 13:20), and where this peaceful disposition is manifested by His people He owns them as His children. Furthermore, peacemakers are recognized as children of God by their spiritual brothers. Ultimately, God will make it manifest to the entire universe that we are His children (Rom. 8:19).
The Christian life is one that is full of strange paradoxes which are not understood by human reason, but which are easily understood by the spiritual mind. God’s children rejoice with joy unspeakable, yet they mourn with a lamentation the children of wrath don’t understand. They rejoice because they have been brought into contact with a source of satisfaction which is capable of meeting every longing, yet they pant with a yearning for righteousness like that of the thirsty deer. They sing songs in their heart to the Lord, yet groan deeply and daily over the lost condition of the ungodly. Their life is often filled with pain yet they would not part with it for all the gold in the world. These puzzling paradoxes are among the evidences which they possess that they are indeed blessed of God. But who by mere reasoning would ever conclude that the persecuted and reviled are “blessed”! They are not compatible with the world’s idea of blessed but are actually a manifestation of the miseries of life.
The reason why the children of God are persecuted, reviled, and have all manner of evil said of them is the wicked of this world hate justice and love those who defraud and wrong their neighbors. They hate righteousness. If the children of God would cease walking humbly with God, they might go through the world, not only in peace, but with applause. Because they refuse to cease their walking humbly with God they suffer persecution because their life reveals the ungodliness of men and this provokes their resentment. The wicked in this world hate God and those who bear His image.
The blessed in this world are those the world detests. Although those the world detests are persecution it is really a blessing in disguise. The opposition the child of God encounters in this world enables them to be aware of their own infirmities and needs. They are made aware of the fact they cannot stand for a single hour unless Divine grace upholds them. By persecution they are often kept from certain sins into which they would most likely fall were the wicked at peace with them. Persecution affords the believer an opportunity to glorify God by his constancy, courage, and fidelity to the truth.
This persecution “for righteousness’ sake” calls upon us to honestly examine ourselves before God when we are being opposed: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Peter 4:15). The same qualification is made in the verse which immediately follows the last quoted: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf”: this is a most necessary caution, that the believer see to it that he is suffering for doing what is right and not on account of his own misconduct or foolish behavior.
Jesus warns His servants what they may expect to encounter, and then defines how they are to respond. The glory worldly leaders value and crave is flattery and honor, but the glory the disciple of Jesus crave is conformity to Jesus who was “despised and rejected of men.” Instead of being downcast over and murmuring at the hostility they meet with in this world, they are to be thankful to God for the high honor He confers upon them in making them partakers of the sufferings of His Son.
The Lord Jesus pronounced blessed or happiness on those who, through devotion to Him, would be called upon to suffer. They are “blessed” because such are given the unspeakable privilege of having fellowship with the sufferings of the Savior. They are “blessed” because such tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, a hope that will not make ashamed. They are “blessed” because they shall be fully recompensed in the Day to come. The child of God must not be dismayed because the fiery darts of the wicked are hurled against him. We must remember that “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
The afflictions which come upon the children of God for their faithfulness are to be endured not only with patience and resignation, but thanksgiving and gladness because they come upon them for Christ’s sake. He suffered so they must and they should rejoice to suffer a little for Him. Because they shall be richly recompensed, great is their reward in heaven. These are a reason to rejoice, no matter how fierce the conflict may be.