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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Blessed are the Peacemakers
Text:Matthew 5:9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-08-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 133:1,2                                                                              

Hy 6:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Psalm 122

Ps 122:1,3

Sermon – Matthew 5:9

Ps 34:5,7

Hy 82:1,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, sometimes a marriage gets worn down by daily conflict. There are the small arguments on a regular basis, the disagreements over relatively minor things, the words that pierce and body language that offends. Sometimes a husband and wife dread coming home to each other, because they know that another confrontation is sure to flare up. In such a marriage, and in every marriage, there is a need for peace.

Sometimes an entire household is unsettled by tension. The kids are bickering with each other, and the parents are getting frustrated with the kids, and sometimes it’s just hard to live under same roof. There are routine disagreements about boundaries and rules and how the rules are enforced. In such a home, and in every home, there is a need for peace.

Sometimes a church is angry and divided. There’s been a dispute among a couple of the big families about something long ago. Or some members of the congregation don’t like the direction taken by consistory. Or there is a controversial issue that needs to be resolved, and the discussion always ends with people getting upset. In such a church, and in every church, there is a need for peace.

We could describe many scenarios, couldn’t we? In the classroom. In business. On the playground at school. In every place where sinful human beings get together, in every kind of earthly relationship, there is a real potential for discord and conflict. Things between us can get ugly, and very quickly—and such hostility can lead to disaster: broken marriages, dysfunctional homes, ruined churches.

So we all need to hear the words and wisdom of God. Our God is the God of peace—He loves peace, and He makes peace! And in today’s Beatitude, Christ pronounces this truth about those who truly reflect God in all their relationships: “ Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” I preach God’s Word to you on this theme,

            Blessed are the peacemakers:

                        1) what is peace?

                        2) how to make peace?

                        3) what comes from peace?

 

1) what is peace? One of the Hebrew words that everyone knows is shalom. It’s a word translated as “peace,” and it’s a concept that Jesus knew very well from the Old Testament. As it says in Psalm 29:11, “The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.”

Now, when we use the word “peace,” it’s often in connection with negative events. For instance, when two countries are at war, they try to arrange “peace talks.” And hopefully this will result in signing a truce—that’s what we call peace. Or after an unruly dinnertime, Dad and Mom look at each other and say, “I just wish there could be some peace around here.” But true peace is more than the absence of hostility or unrest.

Peace is also more than the nice feeling of being at ease, or free from worries. When you’re on holidays somewhere, resting on the beach, you might say, “It sure is peaceful.” But true peace is more than being comfortable. And sometimes getting to a place of peace means that we will have to be very uncomfortable!

According to Scripture, shalom means peace, and it’s a rich and deep and lasting kind of peace. The Biblical idea of peace is really about wholeness. It’s when things are as they should be. That is, when a person enjoys well-being not just in body, but in mind and in spirit—and when a person’s relationships with God and others are marked by harmony.

That’s how it should be, of course. The truest picture of shalom is what we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-2. But we all know how that ended. And there is now within each of us a deep tension, a fierce battle between sin and holiness. Every person is a civil war on two legs. Daily within ourselves we wrestle with the power of sin and Satan, and without Christ and his Spirit, there will be no victory, not even a truce—we will not know true peace. We need his help to be put right on the inside.

But peace isn’t only when a person has peace in himself. It’s also when he has peace with the people around him. And here too, we’re a long way from peace. The human heart is the headquarters of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit. It means we tend to judge the people around us, we distrust them, and we prefer to set up walls to keep most people away.

It happens so readily that people are divided by barriers of resentment; like we said, in a marriage, in the home, at church, among people of different coloured skin. Conflict erupts—or tension quietly simmers and bubbles for years and years—because of things that were done in the past, and because of an unwillingness to forgive, and because of pride and misunderstanding. But peace is when our earthly relationships are set right, when there is proper fellowship and unbroken goodwill.

Listen to what David says in Psalm 122, for example. He exhorts, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls” (vv 6-7). This is a prayer that every good blessing would come onto the city, that her citizens would be unified in devotion to the LORD. Israel had certainly seen years of in-fighting among the tribes, even wars between north and south, east and west—so the peace of Jerusalem was a great gift. Anytime that we enjoy true peace, we can say, “How good and pleasant it is!”

There’s an even more fundamental peace that we need, and that is peace with God. In the beginning, God designed us to enjoy good relations with him. That’s what He wanted to have with us forever: a wholeness of love, a bond of loyalty. But sin has destroyed this peace—like sin always destroys it. We’ve been estranged from the God of our life.

Let’s be clear: in a world and a life without Christ, there will so often be disunity and conflict. We should expect it! Without faith in Christ, there will be no peace within ourselves, no peace with other people, and certainly no peace with God.

But because God is God, it’s not his will to leave it this way. God graciously resolves all this fundamental disharmony, and He does it through his Son. Jesus came to earth in the flesh, and He did two things.

First, He led a righteous life, perfectly obedient to God’s commandments—in other words, He was wholly at peace with the LORD. Jesus lived like we never could. And second, even though He was wholly righteous, Jesus accepted all the punishment for sin that we deserved. He eliminated the reason for God’s holy wrath against us, so that God in love can bring us near and make us his children.

So the way that peace is possible is through Jesus. With good reason, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be called the “Prince of Peace.” Or Ephesians 2:14 says about Christ, “He himself is our peace.” By his peacemaking, Christ brought about a structural change to our life; He opened up new possibilities for how we relate to others and to God.

You can see how essential this gift is when so many of the New Testament letters begin in a similar way: “Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Such a greeting means that God is actually giving us peace, He regards us with peace, and He surrounds us with peace. It’s a gift that can transform your life. For God now calls us to live at peace with everyone, in the power of his love.

What does peace look like in our earthly relationships? Remember, Biblical peace is not here today, gone tomorrow. It is a rich and a deep and lasting peace, a blessed unity between people who are willing to treat each other with grace. This is how James describes it, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits” (4:17). Such is the path of peace.

There is still going to be sin and weakness and conflict, of course—as long as we’re on this earth, it’s unavoidable. Husbands and wives will still say and do the wrong thing. Children will show disrespect, and parents will overreact. Elders and teachers will frustrate, and co-workers will annoy. But through Christ, peace is possible, because in Christ we learn that we can forgive each other, and we learn how to show love to each other.

 

2) how to make peace? If you’re allowed to, you should underline one word in our text—really, it’s only half a word. In the word “peacemakers,” take careful note of its second half: “makers.” Jesus pronounces his blessing not just on those who love peace, but on those who make peace. What’s the difference?

A person may know very well that there is something wrong in a particular relationship that he’s in, whether in his family, his church, or some other place. He knows that something really should be done to fix the situation. But the reality is—and we all know this—taking steps to restoration is difficult. It might require a hard conversation, or several hard conversations, and all the uncomfortable moments that follow. It might require an acknowledgment that we have been wrong, that we have sinned. Making peace could mean being willing to forgive someone.

Making peace is difficult. And so a person may, in the end, decide to do nothing. We allow the situation to carry on, and the trouble to drift onwards. We don’t speak up. We don’t reach out. We might say that we’re choosing inaction or avoidance “for the sake of peace.” But are we really? Is there actually peace between you and your son? You and your boss? You and your wife?

So Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Blessed is the person who addresses the issue. Blessed is the person who faces difficulty or unpopularity to make true peace. Blessed is the person who finds ways to heal division. Blessed is the person who works hard on having good relationships.

Now, it certainly takes God’s gift of wisdom to be a peacemaker. Peace-making does not mean interfering in matters which are none of our business, and trying to be Mr or Mrs Fix-it. But if we’re paying attention, God will surely give opportunities to preserve harmony, or to restore it. He’ll give us openings to put things back to how they should be, in our own relationships, and among others. Perhaps we can help to reconcile people who are conflicted with each other, among our friend group, or among our neighbours, or among church members and co-workers.

Peacemaking means we’ll have to listen well, and try to understand. We’ll try to build a bridge from one person to another, finding a common ground. We’ll encourage people to show grace each other, and to restrain their hostile words and judgmental spirit, just as we have to do this ourselves. This is how Psalm 34:4 exhorts the people of God, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Seek it! Pursue it! Don’t just love peace, but make peace.

We said peacemaking requires God’s wisdom. For while our calling as peacemakers sometimes means facing up to a controversy, “addressing the elephant in the room,” calling out bad behaviour, it’s also true that sometimes a peacemaker will walk away from a fight.

Consider the wisdom of Proverbs 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.”  Strife really is that destructive; it’s like releasing a deluge of water from a dam: one provoking word or look brings on another. We said this can happen between a husband and wife, between parents and children, church members and neighbours—suddenly a quarrel erupts. Every angry word widens the breach, and a flood of evil can pour out.

But God’s grace teaches us to hold back so that we prevent evil at the beginning: “Stop contention before a quarrel starts.” It’s much easier to preserve the dam than repair it. Consider if this is really something worth arguing over. Sometimes it is—but knowing your own heart, be ready to admit that an issue isn’t worth breaking fellowship over. So pursue peace with all people! There is this word from Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Beloved, being a peacemaker like this requires us to put away any sense of rivalry and jealousy. In our relationships, do we want to win? Be proved right? Or do we want to love? To make peace, are we actually willing to forgive someone?

I know that this can sound like an impossible assignment. Other people can be so difficult to get along with. Sometimes we find it more fun to argue than to walk away. This is why as peacemakers, we often need to return to the Prince of Peace. We must consider how He lived, and remember what He gave us. Think of what Jesus said when preparing to leave his disciples; He declared, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27).

As we said in the first point, this was a hard-fought peace. It required his whole life, it required his death. It required self-sacrifice and the deepest humility. But through it, Christ achieved peace for all who believe in him—made it possible for us to have peace with God. “My peace I give you.”

And this peace is so powerful, it can permeate and transform every relationship. For by giving us peace with God, Christ also gives us the possibility of peace with other people. Time and again, the New Testament marvels at how Christ has brought together Jew and Gentile in true harmony. Christ confronted the deepest human divide there ever was, and He healed it.

We would say it’s like Jesus came upon one of the race riots in the United States—where there is so much boiling anger and hatred and hostility. Imagine He comes to the city square, and with just one word, Jesus takes away all the resentment, all the violence, all the teargas, and He makes peace: between blacks and whites, citizens and police, rich and poor. As Ephesians says, this is what Jesus did. He broke down the dividing wall of separation and He made peace between Jew and Gentile! If that’s possible, then anything is possible.

And Christ isn’t naïve. He understands that there can be things that separate people on earth, barriers of division even among people in the church or of the same family. At times, these things can seem like walls too thick and too old to be torn down. Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus will speak about our enemies, and opponents, and people who have treated us badly—or people whom we have mistreated. He knows what’s like to live on earth, but Christ urges us all the same to seek peace and pursue it!

Likewise, the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4 says, “Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v 3). A bond is something that ties you together, something that forges a strong connection. In Christ Jesus, his believers are bonded with an everlasting bond, for we are all united through his precious gospel.

Reflect on how this reality ought to lead to peace, also within our congregation in Mount Nasura. We don’t always agree on everything. We’ve got different characters and strengths. Some of us have a long history with each other, and that can make peace difficult at times. Yet as many different individuals and families, we’ve been knit together in him. Christ has joined us for a reason, that as one people we would glorify his name.

This is our calling—our calling as congregation, but also as families, and among our friends, and with our parents, and with people at work. Are we doing what leads to peace? Remember, it takes an effort: peacemaking. It can mean picking up the phone and talking about what happened. It can mean reaching out to the person who’s estranged from us. It can mean forgiving and moving on.

Is that the kind of people we are? Are we those who seek peace and pursue it? Do we love, and desire, and delight in peace? If there is a peace that is not broken, do you thank God and also aim to preserve it? Or if there is a peace that is damaged, do you aim to repair it? Making peace is sometimes a thankless task, and it can be a messy task, yet Jesus teaches that it is good and well pleasing to God. And He says that peacemakers will reap a good reward.

           

3) what comes from peace? In each of the Beatitudes, Jesus promises an incredible blessing on those who live his way. His way is hard, the gate is narrow, but his path is immensely worthwhile. For those who make peace “shall be called sons of God.”

Ponder the incredible privilege that Jesus is announcing. I’m afraid we’re so used to the language of being “children of God” that we hardly treasure what it means. But when Jesus says we shall be called the children of God, it means we shall receive the status as God’s own sons and daughters. And that’s a world away from what we are naturally! Because we broke peace with God, we are children of wrath, the progeny of the devil, bound for everlasting misery.

But to all who believe in his Son, who have faith in Christ, God gives the right to be called the children of God! Being a child of God means having access to all the blessings and gifts promised to us by the Father. He loves us. He forgives us. He nurtures us. He protects us. He renews us. He says that in prayer we can call him “Our Father,” and He promises that He will always listen to us. He speaks to us personally, every day, through his Word. And our Father will take us to eternal glory with himself.

Those who make peace will be called “sons and daughters of God.” And there is a good reason that Jesus joins the particular blessing of being called “a child of God” to this Beatitude about peacemaking. It’s because of how any child is expected to resemble her dad, act like her mom. When your kids act in a certain way, someone who knows you well might say, “She sure is a child of her father.” It’s when we are peacemakers that we show how much we resemble God. Are you really a son of God, a daughter of God? Then you’ll be a peacemaker.

For God is the Author of peace. In the Scriptures, the LORD is often called the God of peace. We’ve been saying that God is the ultimate builder of right relationships, for He gave his Son to restore the bond between himself and those who bear his image.

If it is in the very nature of God to make peace, then we show that we know God by making peace ourselves! Now, as it was for God, peacemaking for us is costly. It is intensely hard. It can require a lifetime of effort. By striving to live at peace with others, we show that we have peace with God, and we draw nearer to God.

And onto those who make peace, Christ announces his blessing. For then we are working together with Christ, the Prince of Peace. We are glorifying Christ by imitating him. We are honouring Christ by depending on him for the wisdom and grace and endurance we need for peacemaking.

Surely in every home, in every marriage, in every church, in every one of our earthly relationships, there is much work to be done on peacemaking. As sons and daughters of God, let us take up this calling. For then we shall receive his blessing!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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