Pastor Ryan shares how our God is a peacemaking God and as a result, followers of Jesus should be looking to bring peace everywhere we go as well.
Fences: Tearing Down Fences Through Peacemaking
Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Today’s message is the capstone on our series Fences where we have been looking at how to maintain healthy relationships. The reason we did this series is because, when you really think about it, relationships are the air we breathe in this life. Every high and every low moment in your life is intricately shared with others in some shape or form. As much as even the most introverted people may like, if you live in West Des Moines, then there is no escaping from a life full of relationships with others. And whether the relationships are familial or romantic, business or pleasure, the fact that the other person is unique and different than you pretty much guarantees that at some point the relationship is going to go through a rough spot. And going through those conflicts can make or break a relationship – even a long standing relationship. And that’s why we wanted to show you how the Bible encourages us to have healthy relationships with others:
- In our first message in this series, Pastor Amy taught us to set healthy boundaries for ourselves, by caring for ourselves, taking the time to connect with God, making margin in our lives, so that we can be the best friend and supporter of others. If we spend all our time doing what others request of us, we will burn out and be useless – so we need to set healthy boundaries.
- The following message, Pastor Brent taught us how some relationships in our lives might be in need of repair, that we need to mend some relational fences. He showed us how the best way to deal with conflict is to take initiative and with humility, maturity, and love, address it rather than letting it fester and ruin the relationship.
- In the 3rd message, I talked about the greatest cause of conflict in our lives, that we often assume the worst about others, making mountains out of molehills. We will all be better off if we can remember that our family and spouse, our church, and our God are all on our team and want what’s best – so let’s stop assuming they are our opponent.
- And in the most recent message, Pastor Brent shared about our opportunity for radical hospitality to tear down fences with others and allows the Gospel message of Jesus to reach people in our lives where we might never otherwise get a chance to talk about Jesus. He showed us how the Greek word, at its root, means Love of the Stranger. But that will only happen if we create the space in our lives to slow down and invite others to join us at the dinner table.
God’s Plan for Peace
And in this message I’m going to show you how the goal all Christians should have for every relationship around us is to follow our God’s lead and be Peacemakers on this earth.
God’s original intent for this earth AND his plan for our final destiny is one of perfect peace. The Hebrew word for peace – Shalom – means completeness and wholeness. And that’s what God wants for us all.
But the result of that very first sin in the garden, the disobedience of Adam and Eve, was that chaos entered this world. Peace was broken and God has been working ever since to restore the peace. He gave us his law to point us toward peace with others. He established nations and governments to bring peace to entire peoples. The prophet Isaiah wrote about God’s promise to bring send the Messiah, the Savior, who would be the Prince of Peace, to restore the world to a time when the Lion and the Lamb would lay down together.
And when the Prince of Peace, Jesus, came to this world, he instructed us, his followers, to pursue the same goal he was striving for – to bring peace and wholeness to this fractured, chaotic, broken world.
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
In Jesus’ most famous sermon, his Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 5, he begins with a sort of Preamble, the Beatitudes where he lays out an invitation to ALL people – Not just the self-righteous – and he describes the sort of Kingdom he is inviting them to join. You may be familiar with it as it goes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn….
Blessed are the meek…..
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness….
Blessed are the merciful….
Blessed are the pure in heart….
And then in verse 9 we come to this week’s main verse:
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God.
Now I don’t know about you, but reading this list, I’m surprised to find “the peacemakers”. Being a listener to this sermon, I would have expected to hear “Blessed are the peaceful”. Afterall, we just heard about the merciful, those being full of mercy, and the pure in heart, those whose hearts of full of purity. And so it stands to reason that God’s kingdom is for those who also are full of peace. The problem with that thinking is that having peace in your own life is completely reliant on the world around you. If life is going well, you have peace; if it’s rough, you lack peace. But Jesus actually raises the bar. The Kingdom isn’t for people who HAVE peace happen to them, but for people who ACTIVELY WORK to bring peace to those all around them. You see, just being a peaceful person yourself won’t achieve what Jesus has in mind here.
No, Jesus wants for all of his followers, all who will one day enter into his Kingdom, to be people who join the work he was beginning by bringing peace to all the world. And the result of us joining that work is that we will be called “Children of God.” We’ll be in the image of our dad, the Lord of Peace.
PeaceFakers vs PeaceBreakers vs PeaceMakers
Now before I continue, I have to clarify what it means to be a peacemaker. The problem with this word is that different people have different ideas of how to restore peace, and not all solutions are good ones. Some people actually cause more harm than good as they act as peace breakers while other people just ignore the issues, call them resolved, and actually are just peace fakers. So let’s look at the difference between peace faking, peace breaking, and peacemaking.
PeaceFAKERS – You’re a peace faker if your typical response is to run and hide from conflict. You would rather pretend that it’s not that big of a deal and ignore the issue rather than talk about it and try to achieve a solution. This is really common in our culture where we want to be nice to everyone and so sometimes we let people walk all over us and we just smile and say, “I’m Sorry.” But in the long run, this doesn’t bring any peace to the situation, it just sweeps it under the rug. And usually, over time, the fact that the issue was never fully resolved leads to bigger problems.
PeaceBREAKERS – Peace breakers are the fighters – the ones who deal with conflict head on, and looking to WIN. These were the religious zealots of Jesus day who wanted to overthrow the Roman oppressors through war in order to restore peace to Israel. For Peacebreakers, every conflict is an opportunity for them to show they are RIGHT. They tend to do a lot of finger-pointing, make accusations, and manipulate situations so the outcome is always the way they want. And since a lot of people are afraid of the peace breakers, they allow it to happen, and pretend the resulting outcome is a peaceful solution.
PeaceMAKERS – Peace makers, on the other hand, know how to stand up for themselves without walking all over others. Some people wrongly assume that to be a peacemaker like the Bible describes, that you have to be meek, cowardly, and unwilling to confront anything. But that’s not at all what Jesus models for us as he turns over the money changers tables in the temple or challenges the sinful hearts of the hypocritical religious leaders. In those stories, we very much see a man willing to confront people and systems that need to be changed. And Jesus was very much willing to step into the conflict with the religious leaders because his bigger objective was to pave the way for all of Israel to find peace with God through a relationship with him – and the religious leaders were standing in the way of that from happening.
What’s unique about a peacemaker is that they might handle a conflict very differently from one situation to the next. Like a skilled parent who knows that sometimes you need to hold the line when your child misbehaves and other times you need to show mercy and not make a struggling child feel even worse about themselves – a peace maker may sometimes choose to overlook an offense and other times confront the offense. But regardless of the action taken, the goal of the peacemaker is to bring a God-honoring, peaceful solution to the conflict at hand.
Where We Bring Peace
So, now that we know our duty is to be a peacemaker, like our peacemaking God, where are we to bring peace in this world?
Our Relationship with God
We cannot begin to bring true, inner peace to anybody unless we first experience the peace that comes only from God. Only God can take our shame, our pain, our sin, our feelings of having to prove ourselves, and exchange those things for total freedom and peace. Over and over, the Bible tells us that God is our foundation, our rock, our resting place, and the one who tells us over and over to “FEAR NOT”. And the reason we can fear nothing is because of the peace we receive through our relationship with God.
Others Relationship with God
It’s because of our own relationship with God that we then can begin to offer that same peace to others. The apostle Paul makes it clear that we should live our lives always trying to extend this peace towards others:
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.
Here’s the thing about extending peace through salvation to others – unless we are reminded of the chaos our lives were before we met God, we won’t feel the urgency to offer the peace we have received to others. We assume our friends, neighbors, and co-workers are just fine living their lives apart from God, but let me tell you, they are not. Maybe for a few months or few years, things will look fine and peaceful for them, but they have no rock, they have no foundation when life gets hard and the seas get rocky. And in those moments, we need to extend the peace of God to those we care about.
Our Relationship with Others
Obviously, this has been the point of much of this series we’ve been teaching for 5 weeks now. God doesn’t want his children to all be in arguments with each other, but instead he wants us to live at peace, in unity, enjoying this life he’s blessed us with.
Granted, God knows humanity well enough, that he also knew that sometimes there would be people where living at peace, the way we hope it might look, may be virtually impossible. There are some people who are so far from God, and so angry, they are always causing discord. And that’s why the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:18,
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
You are not responsible to BE at perfect peace with everyone, but you are called to TRY.
Others Relationship with Others
Not only are we responsible to try to live at peace with everyone, but we are also responsible to try and help bring peace between others who are in conflict. Now when I say this, what I don’t want you to do is insert yourself in the middle of a conflict and act as the supreme mediator, or worse yet, the busibody, go-between who usually makes things worse. That fans the flame and adds to the drama – DON’T DO THAT!
No, instead, I want you to understand your role as friend and confidant when somebody comes to you complaining about a broken relationship in their life. Your role is NOT to throw gasoline on the fire by agreeing that “You’re right. That person is a total jerk.” Nor is your job to tell them what to do, “If I were you, I’d tell her to…” Instead, what peacemakers do is we listen and we try to tamp down the flames. We help the person to think clearly, to perhaps give the other party the benefit of the doubt, help them stop assuming the worst, or encourage them to go to the person and humbly address the conflict. Even better, we can pray with them about the conflict!
This is actually an area where you can bring way more peace to the lives of those around you than you might have ever thought possible. Think of all the drama among your friends, or in your workplace where people are gossiping about one another and taking sides. How might the dynamic change if instead of joining the conversation, you worked to bring peace to the situation. How might your family holidays go better for everyone if you made it your mission to do everything you could to pour cold water anytime somebody tried to fan a flame of resentment or hurt feelings. As God’s children, each of us have this responsibility.
Anywhere We See Division
Ultimately, as members of Jesus Kingdom, we are to search for ways to bring peace to any situation where we see division and disunity. If we see a marriage failing, we are to look for ways to respond and help bring peace. If we see a fight out in public, how can you safely put out the flames and help restore peace. These situations can appear anywhere, but as peacemakers, our job is to respond.
In America today, I feel like our political landscape is an excellent place for the church to step into the widening gap between the political ends. Peacebreakers on both sides of the aisle love to fan the flames of dissension by spreading untrue statements about their opponents. Meanwhile peacefakers just avoid any conversation about politics at all costs because it might get uncomfortable. But Jesus’ people need to step into this mess, address the wrongs, humbly listen to the other side, and look for common ground. You see, neither political party has it 100% correct – if they did, then we wouldn’t find Christians in both political parties. So with the election just over a week away, how can you apply this message even to your political conversations with friends, family members, and co-workers? Even in the most sensitive of topics such as politics, we are called to be PeaceMAKERS.
Our God is the God of peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And we, the Children of God, are to be PeaceMakers here on this earth. And if you really think about it, that’s an incredible honor and responsibility. It’s the opportunity to join God’s efforts in restoring peace to this earth ever since it was first broken. And I hope, throughout the coming weeks, that you will be on high alert, listening for the Holy Spirit to show you situations where you can bring peace to a situation: whether it be sharing the Gospel of Jesus with somebody or being a listening ear to somebody having marriage issues. And as you listen to the Spirit’s leading, that you would boldly and courageously speak the words of life and peace to that person. And in so doing, that you would extend the peace of God on this earth.