Blessed are the Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9

A peacemaker (εἰρηνοποιός) is one who helps to reconcile disagreements. Philo described God as the one who is the “giver of peace” using this word (Spec. Leg. 2.192). As with each of the beatitudes it is important to hear the saying in the context of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple period Judaism. Although this saying is often associated with pacifism, to “make peace” goes beyond non-participation in the military. The kind of peace Jesus refers to here is shalom, the state of the world as God intended it to be. To “make peace” is to create conditions in the world which reflect the character of God. This may be peacemaking in interpersonal relationships, but as is often the case in the beatitudes, the disciple of Jesus will be instrumental creating conditions which encourage shalom.

Blessed are teh PeacemakersThe coming kingdom of God will be a kingdom of peace. Isaiah 9:5-6 anticipates a time when the weapons of war will be destroyed because the Prince of Peace has begun his rule.  Isaiah 45:7 is the most likely intertext for this beatitude. God describes himself as the maker of peace, (עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם, LXX ὁ ποιῶν εἰρήνην). This title appears at the end of the section which described Cyrus the Great at the “anointed one of God,” or messiah. According to Isaiah 47, Cyrus was chosen to subdue the nations, usher in a time of peace, to end Judah’s exile and allow them to return to Zion to worship God. The original return from exile did not come close to the prophecies of a time of peace and prosperity for all Israel. Texts like Daniel 9 imply the exile would be far longer than seventy years, it will continue for seventy times seven years. It is no coincidence that Jesus’s ministry is near the end of first 483 years of that long exile.

In some prophetic texts, the kingdom begins with a slaughter of the enemies of Israel. The “wedding supper of the lamb” is the slaughter of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21, Ezekiel 38-39). The result of the destruction of all of the enemies of Israel is a kingdom of peace! So peacemaking in the Hebrew Bible is something God will do to put an end to the enemies of Israel.

Peace making is therefore not tolerance of difference so everyone can get along, but stepping in between two warring parties in order to reconcile the two.  In Xenophon’s History, a diplomat describes his role as a peace maker: “For whenever there is war she [the state] chooses us as generals, and whenever she becomes desirous of tranquility she sends us out as peacemakers.” (Xen., Hell. 6.3.4).

For some Jewish listeners, this may have been a reversal of expectations. The kingdom of God will be a kingdom of peace, but that peace will be the result of a violent uprising against Rome. The roots of the revolt against Rome in A.D. 66 were already present in Galilee in A.D. 30, so some may wanted to used Jesus’s words as warrant to revolt; but to take up arms against Rome would not be “peace making.”

The ones who make peace will be called the “sons of God.” France calls attention to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:14, cf., Psalm 2). The kings in the line of David were called “sons of God” and the title was eventually expanded to include all of God’s faithful covenant people (France, Matthew, 205). At this point in reading the beatitudes closely, this eschatological flourish is not at all surprising.

How ought the church live out a calling to be peacemakers? Is this beatitude commanding pacifism (as in the Anabaptist tradition) or peacemaking in interpersonal relationships (as in the Reformed tradition)? I think it is too much to read “beating swords into ploughshares” from this beatitude, and reducing the saying to “only pacifism” misses the broad theological category of shalom. So how does the disciple of Jesus create the state of peace?

12 thoughts on “Blessed are the Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9

  1. I agree that peacemakers are not ones who avoid conflict and division, but the peacemakers that Jesus calls blessed are those who approach conflict and try to get the opposing side to understand the other sides point of view. McKnight mentions this same view of peacemakers, however, he makes the point that our goal as disciples of Christ is to create peace, however the means to peace is not clear. This goes along with what you mentioned about war as God has used war as a means to make peace in the end.

  2. really good read, I loved how it was talking about how a peacemaker may have to step into the fight to create peace. I think our version of peace and the people Jesus were talking to at the time were a lot different. the people today think that peace is all about sitting back and not getting involved, and in the day in age of those people it was appropriate if some people were fighting to step in and try to help, I think in some ways we need to get back to that way of thinking of if our friends are fighting it is ok to get in there and tell them to stop.

  3. Cyrus was a “type” (or foreshadow) of Jesus returning at the end of this Age, at his 2nd Coming, to set up his eternal Kingdom and usher in the Next Age- the Age of Peace.
    History records that Cyrus’ army diverted the waters of the Euphrates River, allowing them to invade and destroy Babylon and set the captives of Israel free.
    Note that Revelation 16:12 draws a parallel with this in recording that the waters of the Euphrates River “was dried up to prepare the way for the kings of the east.”
    So Cyrus’ historic siege of the city of Babylon foreshadows Jesus’ 2nd Coming to destroy this Fallen Earth (referred to as Babylon in Scripture) “to set the captives free” and set up His Eternal Kingdom (New Creation of Earth and Heaven as New Jerusalem)

    • One of Cyrus’ royal titles was “King of the Four Corners of the World”, which further indicates He was a “type” of Jesus at His 2nd Coming!

  4. Whenever I think of peace makers I commonly think of someone that stays out of conflict. However, this blog post and reading McKnights book have caused me to take a deeper look into what a peace maker really is. McKnight defines it simply as, “someone who is reconciled to God, knows God is for peace, and seeks reconciliation instead of strife and war” (McKnight, 46). It is clear from this definition that a peace maker is not a passive person. They are not simply sitting out of conflict. They are within the conflict working towards reconciling the issue. This is certainly different than how I viewed a peace maker before and has caused me to stop and really think about what God is calling me to do when there is conflict going on around me.

  5. The church is called to be peace makers in the world (Col 3:15). Living out this calling can be tricky for the church. It is important to note that peace making is not the same as coexistence. Coexistence is seeking harmony with those of different faiths. The church is not to simply live in peace with people of different ideologies, the Church is to witness to them in order to bring them to Christ. This will obviously bring fighting, but that is another discussion. The peace making that Jesus is discussing is peace among brothers. This means peace within the Church itself. The Church and its members are to not fight, as this can bring division within the Church (1 Corinthians 1:10). Fighting among members in the Church can lead to bitterness, division and even splitting of the church body. The church is to find peace within the Church body, in their households and everywhere else that will benefit God and the Gospel.

  6. I agree as well. Now days it is very hard to be a peace-maker. Jesus called us to be things, among other things, to show His care and testimony through us. A lot of times Christians fight about small issues that doesn’t affect the Church in the eyes of eternity; yet the body chooses to make problems over things like Hymns or no Hymns for example. I particularly like the viewpoint of McKnight saying that as believers our goal is to have peace between believers and demonstrate it to the unbelievers because God came to redeem the world not to condemn the world. It’s hard to do this but it is one of the most important obligations of a believer.

  7. It is super hard to be a peacemaker in the middle of chaos. But as peacemakers we are not to stand in the sidelines and watch it go into flames. Jesus called us to be the ones to stand out and be like him. The Prince of Peace will return and until than we are called to try and have peace and order. Peacemakers are children of God as it says in scripture, we are those children. We are to help show the love of Christ be able to represent his peace. It certainly is not easy. Paul, Peter, and many others had a pretty hard doing it. Yet they stuck because they knew there was a greater being.

  8. This post brings out the reality that living in peace means diving into differences instead of passing over them entirely. Jesus calls us in Matthew 5:21-26 to sort out our differences. Making peace is loving each other despite what we disagree on and not making someone our enemy over it. Someday we will all learn that part of our thinking was wrong. When we all realize this we can respect what others think. In the end their will be forever peace.

  9. I like a couple things about this post right away. One is that you used the word condition in a positive manner that re-enforces the furthering of the kingdom aspect. So often we see the word condition and see it as a bad thing because we are all supposed to be unconditional. I think the context in which that word is used is highly important. Secondly, I like that you pointed out that just because the word peace is said does not mean that it will be a quiet and nice process to get to the peaceful outcome. Just as you stated there is often war and hardships that the Lord has allowed to get that peace. Mcknight talks about Jesus as being countercultural for some. He points out that peace making is neither being nice nor tolerant; rather, “It’s an entrance into the middle of warring parties for the purpose of creating reconciliation and peace.

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