The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the peace-makers”

We continue with our series on the Beatitudes. Today we examine our Lord’s words, “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

In our modern culture dominated by the United Nations, the idea of a peace-maker inevitably conjures up pictures of a third party diplomat trying to reconcile warring groups. But that is not what the picture that would have been imagined by our Lord’s original hearers in the first century. In that day, the peace-maker pictured by our Lord was the aggrieved party who strove for peace and forgiveness rather than for retaliation for wrongs suffered and justice that was owed. Third party diplomats were few and far between; most quarrels involved only two combatants.

Making peace therefore involved offering forgiveness—or at least shelving the justice owed to wrongs suffered. The peace-maker of this Beatitude was the suffering party in a quarrel who refused to prolong the quarrel, and who preferred peace and reconciliation to justice. In a world in which forgiveness was rarely considered such an irenic and forgiving spirit was hardly ever seen. In most quarrels and wars, the victorious crushed their foe and pressed their advantage; the vanquished pulled from the wreck whatever they could and hoped that the day would come when they could take their revenge. In this Beatitude Christ undercuts such miserable moral mathematics and such dubious diplomacy, and bids both parties of the quarrel to stand down.

In a world of injustice, one can appreciate justice whenever one finds it. Thus the Mosaic Law forbade the escalating war of retaliation and blood feud and strove to limit punishment, saying that the loss of an eye or tooth should not result in the loss of the eyes or teeth of everyone in the offending tribe, but only in the loss of the eye or tooth of the individual offender. But there is a problem with such an approach, expressed by Tevye in the movie The Fiddler on the Roof: “Then everyone will be blind and toothless”. Quite so. Therefore the Lord transcends the justice inculcated by the Mosaic Law, replacing it with God’s grace. Let His disciples abandon the Mosaic quest for justice, and leave the final reckoning to God. God will take whatever eyes and teeth seems good to Him. Let us seek not for justice in this age, but for peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

This is the way of the Most High. He pours forth forgiveness and compassion on everyone, regardless of their love for Him or their piety (or their lack of it). He causes His sun to shine on the pious and the impious, upon the righteous and the sinner. And if we would be His children, we must do the same, learning from our heavenly Father and imitating His ways. If the unjust offends us and sins against justice, instead of seeking retaliation and redress in this age, we must leave such things to God. He will render justice to everyone and will repay in due time (Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30). We can safely look for peace with our neighbour and leave our grievances with Him.

If we do this, in the age to come God will seal our adoption as His children, and take us finally as His own. When this Beatitude speaks of God “calling us” it means that He will publicly acknowledge us as His sons, like a man publicly acknowledging a foundling orphan as his own child. Though we are not His sons by right (wretched rebels against His love that we are) He will nonetheless take us up as His own sons through the grace of Christ.

Note that Christ refers to His disciples not just as God’s children, but as His sons. As St. Paul intuited (see Galatians 4:7), this distinction is significant, for in that culture it was the sons who inherited, not the daughters. We are all us, regardless of gender, God’s sons, for all of us are God’s heirs, inheriting the entire age to come as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Meanwhile, we who follow Christ and delight in our status as God’s adopted sons and heirs must strive to make peace with all men in this age, despite the hurt and grief that others may inflict upon us. We can do this because we believe that eventually God will render justice for all, including us, and that the wrongs we suffer will eventually be righted. Of course this divine justice is a double-edged sword: it means that the wrongs we inflict upon others will also be righted and avenged. All the more reason to forgive others and do our best to inflict as little hurt upon others as we can, for we also will stand before God and give an account. As God’s adopted sons, heirs, and His peace-makers, we must strive to keep our hearts in His peace, and give offence to no one. Our security consists in allowing our hearts to tremble before the justice and mercy of God.

Next: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

 

5 comments:

  1. Father, may I ask if this is the correct Greek word for peacemaker- εἰρηνοποιός?

    Often times in your blogs and in your “Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series”, you have offered an alternative rendering to a Greek word or phrase. Do you have any alternative rendering or translation for this word?

    As always, thank you so much for your instruction.

    1. Yes, that is the word used in the Greek. The verb form is used in Colossians 1:20. The translation “peace-maker” is as good as any, so long as we do not import alien modern connotations.

      1. As I examine my conscience, I “sense” that I must truly LOVE PEACE in order to be a genuine peacemaker. I don’t want to be a “third party type” of peacemaker. May I quickly learn to prefer PEACE with others and thus receive RECONCILIATION to Him.

  2. Father if I may and I have only recently come to this in a way I could both articulate it and practice it: My repentance is the ultimate peace making. I have long sensed that if I had sin inflicted on me, even unjustly, at least the temptation to that sin is in my heart. The reaction from the perspective of the Law was (paraphrased) sin back by inflicting the same pain on the original offender.
    Our Lord commands us to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”
    No qualifiers
    Example: I am subjected to abuse by a parent or spouse or anyone. There are four reactions to such abuse but normally only three are usually talked about: 1. Internalize the abuse and the shame that comes with so I become my own abuser. 2. Externalize the abuse and shame by doing the same to others including your abuser. 3. Forgive the abuser and your self releasing the shame into God’s hands. #4 is more radical: repent deeply and sincerely blaming no one else.
    When I repent in that manner the fruit is joy and peace and freedom. It is NOT feeling gulity as that is a form of #1. I have done it recently and it is miraculous. It began with 0raying.the Jesus Prayer–really praying.
    What kicked into over drive was reading about Solzhenitsyn’s idea of radical responsibility form out his recognition that the persecution he experienced at the hands of the Soviet state began with his own acceptance of the Soviet ideals.

    It is incredibly healing. I am being transformed by it. Gradually besetting sins that have troubled me all of my life are dissolving before my eyes. A great weight has been lifted from me by His Grace and mercy. Joy as I have never known is manifesting even in times of great personal stress and the stress of the COVID restrictions and the chaos brewing in US politics.
    Forgiveness is an immediate after effect and a clear component of the healing.
    It also has transformed a contentious inter-personal conflict from adversarial to mutual prayer and respect without either of us changing an iota of the ideas we were in conflict over. Peace has been made because I stopped trying to righteously change the other person but confessed my sins to Jesus and asked the other person’s forgiveness for my failings. He is still wrong and he knows I am still wrong but now there is no fight. Indeec, both laughter, and thanksgiving for him are bubbling up as I write. Glory to God!

    May God bless your ministry and forgive my presumption. I just felt moved to share.

  3. No ” tit for tat… “is what we could teach our children and adolescents who demand so much for supposed historical greivances !

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