Saturday, February 3, 2024

All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance

 Peacemakers. Wow.  In this world today, that is a job description well worth applying for. 

Just wanting peace, as the 60's finally figured out, was not enough.  While the war in Vietnam ceased for Americans, it certainly did not end for the Vietnamese.  They were either sent to reeducation camps, tried to escape on boats, (unsuccessfully) or just tried to survive under the North Vietnamese government. After the US withdrew, the Khmer Rouge started its genocidal campaign against the Cambodians; the Vietnam War morphed into a war in Cambodia.  So our war ended in 1975 and we could say that we now had peace, but Southeast Asia did not.

One person's peace is another person's nightmare.

Peace in this world, while a noble desire, is very rarely maintained for very long.  One war ceases and another one begins, somewhere else in the world.  

Peace is not cheap.  Many people die trying to create or preserve it by vanquishing an enemy.  Those brave soldiers who come home find the war still goes on in their souls, and they long for an inner peace.  

Peace only lasts as long as someone is there to insure it does: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."  But rarely do we stay vigilant.  Chaos and discord are just around the corner.   We are shocked and amazed when chaos erupts, but had we been watching, we many have seen it beginning to form. 

Is Jesus advocating a kind of national level of peace?  Given the times in which He lived, with one of the more violent governments looming over Israel, I think not.  The Romans had a rule of law, but they also ruled by the sword, slavery and brutality.  Fear of reprisal was Rome's greatest weapon.  Jesus was far too wise to assume that real peace could come in a country ruled by the Romans.  

What He advocating a kind of local peace? A kind of community peace where everyone worked together and loved one another?  Many people would have agreed that such an arrangement was good until they were angered by someone taking more than their fair share or someone being ungrateful for the help they had been given.  Suddenly those good vibes would turn into resentment--we are not a very grateful species and we easily forget to thank and honor those who have helped us. 

Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God" (Matt. 5:9). 

What is He saying? 

Our first task as peacemakers is to gently present what true peace is: 

"Your heart should be holy and set apart for the Lord God. Always be ready to tell everyone who asks you why you believe as you do. Be gentle as you speak and show respect" (1 Peter 3:1).

And in that gentle manner, we must share that peace is ultimately found by being reconciled to God:

"Now that we have God’s approval by faith, we have peace with God because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. Through Christ we can approach God and stand in his favor... Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.  Since Christ’s blood has now given us God’s approval, we are even more certain that Christ will save us from God’s anger. If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us. In addition, our Lord Jesus Christ lets us continue to brag about God. After all, it is through Christ that we now have this restored relationship with God" (Romans 5: 1-2, & 8-11). 

Think about the world Jesus was in: Poor people crying out, soldiers roaming about, insurrectionists whispering in the shadows, hard-hearted religious leaders making life hard, and people hungry for something more. 

Then Jesus enters in, advocating a new kind of kingdom, one not built on power or prestige, but on poverty of spirit,  comforting one another, meekness, finding satisfaction for that inner hunger and thirst, mercy, and purity of heart and being able to see God as He is: loving, kind and greatly wanting reconciliation with His children. 

If we are to agents of peace, what does peace mean?

Well, it doesn't mean a perfect, stress-free, worry-free life: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As peacemakers, we stand on Jesus' promise that when troubles come (and they will) we can find a way with Him and we never face trials alone:  

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6)

As peacemakers, we "pursue those things which bring peace and which are good for each other" (Rom. 14:19).

As peacemakers, we remind others that there is another Kingdom in operation, and that this world is not all there is. We walk with Jesus and demonstrate to the world that we are citizens of this unseen, powerful Kingdom: " Certainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s children." (Rom. 8:14)

One last thing.  Jesus knows that as peacemakers, we (like Him) will not always be embraced by a world that lives in that other kingdom, the one ruled by the enemy of our souls and whose values are based on rule of self.  So, when we encounter hostility, Jesus further on in this sermon offers how we should react:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you this: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust. If you love those who love you, do you deserve a reward? Even the tax collectors do that! Are you doing anything remarkable if you welcome only your friends? Everyone does that! That is why you must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 43-48)

Jesus is telling us what this Kingdom looks like.  It looks like Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

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