March 4, 2020
An Instrument of God’s Reconciling Love
Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
One wag has noted that if “the peacemakers” are the children of God, then the Lord has a very small family. Surely, he was onto something with this quip. It does not take much observation to recognize that conflict and discord, rivalry and violence, dissension and animosity seem far more prevalent, whether we speak of international relations, the “culture wars,” or even personal/family relations. Even in our churches, strife is often the case, or apathy about reconciliation. Misunderstandings, self-protection, and even scorn for others is far easier than is the arduous task of comprehension of another and caring about the other even when they do not care to be understood.
In this beatitude Jesus identifies very forcefully the characteristic that reflects a most intimate relationship with God —being named “sons (children) of God.” There is more to being God’s child than simply being created by God and having God as the Source of our existence. Neither is a great ministry a real marker, nor a good conscience. Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells of those who stand before Him one day and claim “Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” Tragically, even to these wonder workers who are sure they will qualify for the kingdom of heaven, Jesus replies, “I never knew you; depart from me…” Only peacemakers are blessed with the family name of God.
This should not surprise us, once we ponder who Jesus is, what His mission was, and how that mission reflects God’s character and actions toward this God-betraying world. Jesus is described by St. Paul in Colossians 1 as the one in whom “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.” God’s has made peace and has reconciled all things to Himself; Jesus is the means by which God accomplishes this. As I indicated in the reflection on “the merciful,” the most defining quality in God’s relationship to the sinful, fallen world is his mercy. This is revealed to us in his making peace and reconciling the world to Himself: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them” [II Cor. 5:19]. So essential is this to God’s nature and posture towards us that no fewer than eight times in the New Testament epistles is He called “the God of peace.”
Mysteriously, and perhaps confoundingly, the peace that God has provided and established between Himself and us is something that we must receive, if it is to be experienced in our lives and actualized in our relationship before God. Just as forgiveness cannot restore a relationship without the transgressor acknowledging and admitting his fault, no matter how fully the offended party may forgive, peace that is offered must be welcomed and received for there to be reconciliation. St. Paul later in II Cor. 5 (referenced above) emphasizes this reality when he urges his readers: “. . . as though God were pleading through us, we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. The reconciled world –and every individual – must receive the reconciliation in order to be restored to right relationship with God, but the “peace” on God’s side is accomplished.
As the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God who is fully God AND fully human, Jesus as the instrument of God’s peacemaking work and will is the true representation of what a fully human person is, one alive completely to the presence of God and yielded totally to the Father’s purposes. He is called by St Paul “the last Adam” – the last man. Obviously, Jesus is not the last human being in a chronological sense, so by the term “last” the Apostle means something more than the historically final man. Eschatos is the Greek word, that St Paul employs for Christ as the final man. It is from which we get the theological term eschatology, which is teaching about the final works of God in salvation. This helps us understand how Jesus is the “last” Adam. Whereas the Biblical father of us all, Adam, was merely the beginning, Jesus is the true and final expression of what God intends for humans to be.
As the Son of God, he brings peace with God and through him peace will come to the Creation. Being an instrument of God’s reconciliation, then, is the most basic and essential expression for any other human being who is God’s son (child) in this world. Therefore, as we live to be instruments of God’s reconciling grace, bringing others to know of God’s peacemaking love shown in Christ, by which we are forgiven and reconciled, we are being the children of God. This we do by our proclamation of Christ through witness and preaching, but also through our living out purity of heart. More than just talk, however, our character in Christ is to make God’s peacemaking love desirable to others by our way of living, as we live as a community of persons who celebrate our salvation in Christ by brotherly love and concern for those who lack God’s peace in their lives, that is the Church. In other words, being peacemakers is something we are. And in being peacemakers, we yearn to bring peace into all human relationships and each situation of life: peace between people and with God.
Poverty of spirit, mourning, and meekness enable us to be peacemakers in our relationship with others, because we are deeply aware or own neediness, hence, see others not as challenges to us, but as just like us – in need of God’s grace. Hunger and thirst for righteousness along with mercifulness empowered by purity of heart, focus us on God’s purposes in our relationships and not merely our own feelings. And knowing God’s goodness and being people of God’s kingdom, we mourn for the world’s sin-wrecked condition, even as we hunger for God’s righteous reign “on earth as it is in heaven.” So, the peacemakers live to be manifestations of the hope that God’s presence brings for the world.
If only our churches would see life the way Christ does. Perhaps our way of life with one another, our way of living in the darkness-damaged world, our surrender to God’s kingdom of peace would reveal to the world what Jesus makes possible. The world would not ignore us, at least.
Who is it that will call the peacemakers “the sons (children) of God? Perhaps others who know of God’s character might so name them. But I think it is God himself, who sees that they “look like” His Son. May it be so for all of us!