Jesus spoke these words during the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is one of eight blessings commonly known as the “Beatitudes.”
As Christians, it’s very important for us to understand this verse correctly. Throughout my years as a pastor, I have frequently heard people incorrectly say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers. …”
That’s a drastic error, even though it’s only a slight change in terms.
Peacemakers strive to create peace and attempt to reconcile things and people that are at odds with one another.
Peacekeepers, on the other hand, strive to keep peace at all costs.
Soloman, in Proverbs 10:10 (NLT), says, “People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.” Peacekeepers, by not acknowledging wrongdoings in an effort to maintain peace, are actually winking at them.
Peacekeepers and peacemakers can actually be considered complete opposites of one another.
Southern white men and women who were complicit in Jim Crow segregation were peacekeepers. They wanted to maintain things as they were without discord or change; they wanted to keep the peace as it was—racism disguised as peace. Civil rights activists had to sometimes disturb the peace in an effort to make room for real peace.
This also happens within the walls of our churches. Peacekeepers stifle the opportunity we have within the church to challenge the status quo and pursue freedom as Christ intended it.
One reason numbers are declining in church attendance is because we do not share our thoughts, concerns, opinions and doubts with each other for sake of keeping this false sense of peace. And then members get so upset because they feel like they have no voice that they leave—never to grace the door of a church again.
Here are three ways we can make peace instead of keeping peace:
1. Speak your mind and share your passions.
Peacekeepers do not want to create discomfort and hurt by disrupting the peace. It is important to realize that not all hurt is harmful. The disciples are a prime example of this. They first had to disrupt peace to usher in an even greater peace. If they wanted to simply keep peace, they would have never mentioned Jesus’ name ever again.
2. Share discomfort, pain and hurt.
Humans are created to be social creatures, but peacekeepers often feel like their needs, thoughts, pain and grievances do not matter. So instead, they just let all of that build up.
They keep it to themselves and are disenfranchised.
Create a space within your community and your church for others to share what they really feel without fear of backlash. It’s a messy process at first but ultimately, it allows for real engagement and purpose to happen.
3. Engage people with who are different in race, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
We often avoid people who are different from us in order to keep peace that might be disrupted if we engage others who may view the world differently. Whether it is race relations in America or speaking with your Muslim or gay neighbor, it is important to make peace with each other, not keep a faux-sense of peace that might actually be disguised prejudice, narrow-mindedness, fear or bigotry.
What is surprising is that in an effort to keep the peace, many are actually sinning and turning people away from the church. There is nothing admirable about denying the truth, communication and concern in an effort to keep peace; in fact, it does quite the opposite.
Although it won’t be easy, it is important that we take our lives back from being peacekeepers and instead become peacemakers.