Ancient Answers

Guidance for Today from Scripture and Early Christianity

Blessed are the peacemakers

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται.

We attained the highest summits of the Beatitudes  with the merciful and the pure of heart. But what do you do when you’re at the heights of Christian faith, spirituality and commitment to Jesus? You become what he was; you become a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers, indeed – and they shall be called sons of God, [and daughters implied, of course]. Jesus is the son of God – the peacemakers are sons [and daughters] of God.

Romans 5:1  Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2  For he is our peace… he… has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us… that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.  So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

51zwqdTg38L._SY466_BO1,204,203,200_According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the basic feature of the ancient Greek concept of εἰρήνη is that the word does not primarily denote a relationship between several people, or an attitude, but a state, i.e., “time of peace” or “state of peace,” originally conceived of purely as an interlude in the everlasting state of war.

In the Hebrew Bible, shalom means “well-being.” In meetings or letters well-being is wished to others, and in conversations one asks about their well-being…. More commonly שָׁלוֹם is referred to a group, e.g., a nation enjoying prosperity. This brings us closer to the thought of peace (TDNT).

Paul echoes both Jewish and Greek understandings:

Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador, paid with his life in 1980 for being a peacemaker. He is on the way to being proclaimed a Saint by Pope Francis.

Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador, paid with his life in 1980 for being a peacemaker. He is on the way to being proclaimed a Saint by Pope Francis.

But the Beatitude says something more:

εἰρηνοποιός – the only time this word occurs in NT. It represents a person who acts to bring peace where there is conflict and division. But peace-making can involve a price, which leads us to the eighth Beatitude (next week). Peace-making brings us into identity with Christ:

Colossians 1:19-20 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν, εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ, εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

St. Gregory of Nyssa says that a peacemaker gives peace to another – but you cannot give to another what you do not possess yourself! Hence the Lord wants you first to be filled with the blessings of peace, so that you can then communicate it to others who need it. He then goes on to describe in graphic detail the physical appearance of people who are filled with hatred and envy – the opposite of peacemakers.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD), whose commentary on the Beatitudes is providing many insights.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD), whose commentary on the Beatitudes is providing many insights.

The peacemaker banishes these evil aspects of human nature and brings people together to share in what is good. This is why the peacemaker is called a child of God, because he/she imitates the Lord who is the Giver of all good things. God ordains for us also to throw off hatred and war, envy and strife, hypocrisy and any resentment that burns in the heart. Replace these evil things with the fruits of the Spirit – charity, joy, peace and so on. The peacemaker achieves inner harmony and unity of soul and flesh. The peacemaker is free of inner conflict. Only a person who knows peace in his/her inner life can be a peacemaker.

Perhaps Gregory is a little too demanding here. A more realistic approach is to take Jesus at his word. Be a peacemaker and the inner peace and harmony will come in your life too, as the gift of the Holy Spirit. The attainment of inner peace and harmony goes hand in hand with being a peacemaker.

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