What a week, huh?
This was not the week we planned. In our places, this weekend was three days into the River festival. My family would have run in the River Run yesterday and would have been dragged all over town by my wife’s obsession with finding the Medallion. Today we were supposed to come to church with a van full of luggage, ready to drive away from the service to a family vacation in Washington D.C.
Instead I was in bed last night thinking over how to have a good summer at Vintage while avoiding the transmission of viruses and accommodating a congregation with a wide variety of convictions.
And I was watching footage of riots burning across our country.
Every Sunday is an opportunity for us to recalibrate our vision. To bring our burdens before the Lord and to fill our minds with the greatness of God.
This morning we know that God is in control. This is incredibly good news.
You don’t have to be in control because God is.
You don’t have to understand what is happening because God does.
You don’t have to see where this is all going, because he has all of our days written in his books before one of them came to be.
God is much bigger than our problems.
As I watched the protests in our city and across the country this weekend, I asked myself – “what does Jesus think of all this?” If Jesus were here, what would he say to the crowd gathered in Minneapolis?
I don’t know what Jesus would say this weekend. But we do know what he said two thousand years ago.
The sermon scheduled for this morning was a continuation of last week’s sermon from 1 Samuel 25. We were going to look at Abigail, the peacemaker whose timely wisdom saved David from himself.
I’m going to talk to you about peacemaking this morning, but we’re going to be in a different text.
Read Matthew chapter 5, verses 1-12.
The word ‘peacemaker’ in the Greek comes from a word which means to bind or join together that which is broken. Peacemakers are those who bind up things that belong together but have been broken apart.
The word ‘blessed’ means happy or to be envied.
Jesus says we should envy those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because there’s not enough to go around, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers and those who are persecuted.
We’re running in the opposite direction trying to find comfort and security and wealth and power. Jesus tells us we’ve got it all wrong. We should be paying attention to the people who are going in the other direction.
The writer Kurt Vonnegut observed this about those who call themselves Christian.
“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
He makes a fair point.
Blessed, to be envied, are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
What does that mean?
They will become the children of God? Does this mean that those who have succeeded in peacemaking have become the children of God? That because of their good work, they have earned the rights of God’s family?
That can’t be the case, because the Bible repeatedly tells us the opposite.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
John makes it clear that the path to becoming a child of God is faith. Those who receive the work of Christ are the ones who become God’s children.
Matthew 5 is not teaching us how to become children of God, but how to behave as the children of God. We become children of God by faith, then we must learn how to behave as the children of God? How do we do that?
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Children around the world grow up into the likeness of their parents. They are shaped by the behavior of the adults who are close to them. It’s the same with God’s children. We watch God and we imitate him.
What is God like? Well, for one, God is a peacemaker. He actively seeks to repair and restore things that have been broken and separated. The word peacemaker in Matthew 5 is used one other place:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
It pleases God to make peace. God is so committed to peace that He was willing to watch the blood of Christ spilled in order to make peace.
In this world, the children of God should be the peacemakers.
We are uniquely situated to be peacemakers.
Our citizenship is in heaven.
Our loyalties transcend national boundaries, our identity transcends ethnic barriers, our cause transcends political divides.
We are not bound by an identification with earthly tribes, we are bound by an identification with Christ.
Since the pathway of the gospel has taken us through the dark corners of our own sin and failure we have no self-righteousness to defend. We know that we are as culpable as anyone else for the brokenness in this world.
There are a few principles I find in the Scriptures on the practice of peacemaking.
1. Peacemakers are willing to be quiet and listen.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
This is a time for listening. Listen with me to the experience of some of our
A worship leader is on the way home from after-church lunch. He is pulled over after running through a yellow light. He is roughly pulled out of his car, bent over the car and searched. His car is opened up and searched. While this is happening two children, a 3 and a 7 year old son are crying in the car. The driver, with his face smashed against the roof of the car is hoping that no one from church is driving by. Eventually he is cited for running a red light. As he drives home the man wonders what he will say to his children after telling them their whole lives that police are heroes.
A 17 year old girl who has just spoken at her graduation as student council president attends a graduation party. She is sitting in the back yard with friends. A bright light is shined in her eyes. Thinking it’s one of her friends with a camera phone, she yells, “turn that off”. Still unable to see what is happening, a set of arms grabs her and pulls her out of the lawn chair. She is thrown her against a wall, feeling bones breaking in her chest. She is dragged across the concrete and beaten into the back of a police car. After being released she is taken to the hospital and will have to have 3 surgeries. The police report reads that a 17 year old woman resisted arrest when officers investigated a loud party and detained her for impeding their work.
A 46 year old father of two moved to Minneapolis to work with a Christian recovery program and get his life straightened out. One day he is sitting in his car. Police responding to a call about a potential counterfeit $20 bill arrive and pull the man out of his car. He falls down several times while they drag him away and one of the officers kneels on his neck for nearly 9 minutes while he suffocates, loses consciousness and dies.
Imagine being in their shoes. Imagine being in the shoes of their parents, their siblings, their neighbors. Imagine hearing stories like this throughout your life.
This is a time for listening.
2. Peacemakers are willing to enter into the pain of others.
Is this uncomfortable for you? You’re thinking, why didn’t I stay home and watch Joel Osteen on my phone? I could be listening to a positive, encouraging message and looking at Joel’s beautiful, gleaming teeth right now.
Jesus calls us to enter into the pain of others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 (ESV)
There is much weeping in our world this morning. In our city there are churches filled with weeping. What do you think Jesus is doing?
We recently looked at that incredible verse from John chapter 11, when Jesus joins a family who is mourning the loss of a loved one. In the midst of their pain, He entered into their pain with them and He wept with those who were weeping.
John 11:35 (NIV)
Every tear you have shed, Christ has seen. When you wept, He wept with you. Can you join him in doing the same for others?
3. Peacemakers are willing to face hard and uncomfortable realities.
No one wants to face the reality of our world this weekend. We would all rather be home watching Netflix, relaxing in the comfort and enjoyment of our homes. But our world is broken. The Bible does not speak favorably of those who gloss over the brokenness.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6:14 (NIV)
4. Peacemakers are discerning.
Those who seek to listen in times like this have their work cut out for them. For every situation there are a hundred interpretations. Peacemakers do not believe everything they here or jump to conclusions.
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)
A peacemaker is able to consider all sides to a story and listen to a variety of interpretations. She is able to see a multitude of distinct storylines in any given situation. He is able to sympathize with the humanity of every player in that situation.
As we seek to listen, we must always show discernment in the ultimate motives of those who speak. There are many who are crying peace who seek to build on a foundation which can only crumble. We children of God know that only peace built on the foundation of Christ will be true peace.
Discerning peacemakers look for practical solutions. Change does not come from loving peace, it comes from making peace through practical solutions.
5. Peacemakers don’t always get peace.
Not every effort to bring peace will result in peace. There are conflicts so deep and enduring that will require a great deal of time and effort to heal. There will always be others who are not interested in peace.
Our call is not to achieve perfection, but to make the effort.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
6. Peacemakers find hope in the final peace.
The conflict in our society is far greater than any individual. The wounds run deep. We may feel helpless and wonder, “what could I do? What could anyone do?”
A peacemaker finds hope in the certain knowledge of the final peace of Christ. We may stumble and struggle through this world of conflict, but someday, someday soon, Christ will come and finish the work of peace.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown