Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I’m sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I’m sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be peace on Earth
– Peace on Earth, by U2
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
The problem with the seventh item on Jesus “you’re lucky if you______” list, is that it feels opposed to the idea of being able to stand for what you believe. It often feels that to keep peace, we must roll over and let others walk on us.
So which one is it:
Are we to be peacemakers, or are we to fight for our deeply held beliefs?
As we look at the seventh beatitude, we see Jesus making a direct connection between peacemaking and being a child of God.
Chances are, the first century Jewish audience was not so crazy about him casually tossing the term “sons of God”. To them no one had the right to that claim. Claims to divinity were commonly found in the other religions of their time. Here are some examples:
- The Roman Emperors.
The Caesars and their successors declared themselves to be gods and sons of gods. During the reign of Augustus, a comet lit up the night sky. Augustus declared that the comet was actually Julius Caesar taking his place among the gods and that he would eventually do the same.
- The Greek Pantheon
The Greeks and Romans believed in a pantheon of gods who, in some cases, had relationships with humans, and later conceiving half-god, half-human deities. The powerful Hercules and Perseus were both sons of Zeus with human wives.
The connection between peacemaking and being children of God was hard to make because everyone who ever claimed divinity used it as a leverage to impose their will — a tool to exploit — rather than bring healing.
Power and Entitlement — and not Peacemaking — were the best features of being divine. The Christian church in its history has struggled greatly with this concept. Often, the church seemed to have been on a quest to gain rather than serve.
When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
– Desmond Tutu
Anglican Archbishop who continues to fight
against apartheid in South Africa.
In the first couple of the beatitudes, Jesus reveals to us how God meets us in the area of our lack and brokenness.
To the poor in spirit, lucky are you when you are desperate and have nothing to offer God; it’s at that point he is with you.
To those who mourn, to the sad, the weary, the depressed, to those aware of your impending doom: you are a candidate for God’s joy.
To the meek, to the ones that aren’t obsessed about controlling outcomes: you can relax at the fact that God will hook you up.
To those who hunger and thirst for righteousness — those who actually lack righteousness but want it, God will be your righteousness.
These items have to do with God meeting us at the place where we have nothing to offer him, yet his posture towards us is that of love, acceptance and validation. It is therefore upon us to show the same stance towards others.
The word for peace in both the Greek and Hebrew surprisingly does not mean the absence of strife or conflict. It means wholeness and completeness — having a right relationship with God and others. In the context of Jesus’ “lucky list” it has everything to do with our relational disposition towards others.
We live in a world wherein we are always being driven to take sides.
What religion? What denomination? What political party?
Are you for us, or against us? Are you A or B, black or white?
When it comes to relationships, the beatitudes offers a third option, a “C” option if you will:
To love and accept one another with a love that heals,
even as we hold on to what we believe.
This means we can hold fast to our theology. We can have our opinions and be passionate about them. But in all these things, our love and our desire for healing must be at the core of our beliefs.
It is the disposition to love that serves as the defining mark of what it means to be a child of God.