“Blessed Are the Peacemakers”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

I’ve read the Beatitudes a time or two, but as I visited them again as part of our Bible-reading plan this year (it’s tough to write the bulletin article if you’re not a week ahead!), the one that jumped out at me was Matthew 5:9.  We don’t live in a very peacemaker-y time.  The political polarization in our country has become so obvious that mentioning it is nearly a cliché.  On both sides, increasing numbers of people believe that the other side is The Enemy, to be defeated by any means necessary, even at the cost of the dearly held principles of 20 years ago.

Of course, we are not the first to live in a time that is not very peacemaker-y.  Jesus did too.  Indeed, anger and conflict are the backdrop of the gospels.  The Jewish community of AD 30 was deeply divided by the presence of the occupying Romans.  Some, from the tax collectors to the chief priests, collaborated with them, generally as a way of acquiring wealth and power. 

Reacting to this corrupt bargain, the Pharisees demanded fidelity to a body of religious tradition that they claimed came from God but really came from them.  Still farther along the political spectrum, the Essenes withdrew from a society that they considered irredeemably wicked.  The Zealots plotted to overthrow it.

To them all, Jesus says that the peacemakers are blessed and are sons of God.  Not the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Pharisees, the Essenes, or the Zealots.  The peacemakers. 

In Jesus’ view, the peacemakers need first of all to seek peace with God, but secondarily, they need to seek peace with one another.  What matters is not somebody else’s privileged position or nit-picky moral code or contempt for the world or desire to burn it all down.  What matters is whether they have a soul.  Of Jesus’ twelve closest followers, one was a tax collector and another was a Zealot.  Hint, hint.

2000 years ago, the vast majority of Jewish society didn’t listen to Jesus.  The power brokers had Him killed because they thought He was a threat to their position, not realizing that their own actions were the greatest threat.  Over the next 35 years, tensions between Jews and Romans, and indeed between Jews and Jews, increased until they exploded in the catastrophe of the Great Jewish Revolt.

Nobody won the Great Revolt.  Not the Romans, who had an entire legion massacred by the rebels and only were able to put down the rebellion at an immense cost in treasure and blood.  Not the Jewish factions, who spilled blood in the courts of the Temple as they battled each other for dominance until the Romans arrived and killed them all.  Not the common folk of Galilee and Judea, countless thousands of whom were butchered by the contending forces.  Nobody emerged from the cataclysm better off.

Blessed are the peacemakers.  Blessed are those who love their enemies.  Blessed are those who are able to find value and worth in the most obnoxious proclaimers of an opposing viewpoint. 

Blessed are those in our time who are willing to hear the voice of Jesus.