Jesus began his great Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. He began this great discourse by giving a list of blessings that would come as a result of having some wonderful characteristics. These characteristics and subsequent blessings are referred to as the Beatitudes. Two of those beatitudes deal with being peacemakers and being persecuted for righteousness sake. I find it fascinating that Jesus would put these two right next to each other. The reason I say that is because oftentimes those who are peacemakers are the ones who are persecuted. I believe Jesus in His infinite wisdom understood that peacemakers would often be persecuted. Let us look at some things concerning these two great beatitudes from our Lord.
“Blessed Are The Peacemakers, For They Shall Be Called The Children Of God”
What exactly is a peacemaker? According to Webster’s dictionary, a peacemaker is “one who makes peace, especially by reconciling parties at variance.” We live in a world where there seems to be more agitators and less peacemakers. By looking at verse 9 in Matthew chapter 5, we see that God desires his people to be peacemakers. It says peacemakers shall be called the children of God. All people are children of God as we are all made in his image (Gen. 1:26) even if they reject him as father. When Jesus says in verse 9 that peacemakers shall be called the children of God, there is a strong implication that if a child of God desires to be faithful then he will strive to be a peacemaker. How exactly should a Christian go about being a peacemaker? I submit three ways:
- Seek peace with others. The apostle Paul said, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). There are times when it is not possible to get along with others. It is quite difficult to get along with people who do not desire peace. Paul’s point in Romans 12:18 is that if you can live at peace with people, you need to do so. The peacemaker desires to reconcile with others if at all possible. The peacemaker understands the importance of leaving his gift at the altar and being reconciled with his brother before he proceeds to worship (Matt. 5:24). The peacemaker as Jesus defines them understands the importance of having a merciful and forgiving heart. Jesus taught Peter and the other apostles the importance of being a peacemaker by teaching them about how often one should forgive (Matt. 18:21-22).
- Seek peace with self. Isn’t it sad that many people do not have peace with themselves? How many times in the news have we heard of someone taking their own life? Many times, those people were not at peace with themselves. There are those who are not content with their own lives. They want more and more, bigger and better. Jesus taught a parable dealing with that (Lk. 12:13-21). The man in that parable was not content or at peace with what he had and desired more and more. God called that man a fool and said his soul would be required that very night. May we always remember to thank God for what He has given us. God has been very good to each of us. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6)!
- Be at peace with God. More important than being at peace with others and with self is to be at peace with God. If one is at peace with God, the other two will fall into place. If I desire to spend eternity with God in heaven, I must be at peace with Him. How many times have we heard, “Rest in peace,” when someone dies and we know that person did not live for the Lord? How can someone rest in peace who died not being at peace with God? One must be a faithful Christian to be at peace with God. “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). To be at peace with God, I must be willing to die for His cause and be willing to remain faithful to Him all of my days.
“Blessed Are They Who Are Persecuted For Righteousness’ Sake, For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven.”
What does it mean to be persecuted? A definition I often use when teaching my students at Boyd Christian School about the subject is “being harmed or even killed for what you believe in.” If one is persecuted for righteousness’ sake, he is persecuted because he is striving to do the will of God and be a faithful member of the church. How are Christians persecuted today? In our country, we don’t face the problems faced by first century Christians, but we still face persecution today.
- We are persecuted by those in the world. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them because it hated Him first (John 15:18). There are many people in the world who hate Christians. There are those in other faiths, such as Islam, who despise Christianity and want it wiped from existence. Then there are the atheists such as Stephen Hawking who famously said, “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘We would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.” People follow him and trust his every word and turn their hatred towards those of the faith. There is also the LGBTQ movement which is anti-God and blasphemous with their use of the rainbow which God Himself created (Gen. 9:13). How many times have ministers been tested by those who want a gay marriage performed? How many times have we heard of florists or bakers who are sued because they will not compromise biblical values? You can’t forget the pro-choice, pro-abortion movement. One of our liberal senators recently said that being “pro-life” is code for being against women. Christians are expected to change their ways to conform with the world’s way of thinking but conform we must not.
- We are even persecuted by some in the church. This statement may be one which is hard to swallow. Christians should not go to the left nor to the right, instead focusing completely on the cross and doing the will of God (Prov. 4:25-27). Naturally, when we focus on doing only what God has said, not adding to or taking away, there will be pushback. Consider that there are many who are in the “progressive” or “liberal” wing of the church of Christ who would call us legalists or patternists because we desire to follow the old paths. This same bunch will spew sarcasm and disdain when we refuse to accept women preachers or institute mechanical instruments in worship. Yet on the other side, there are those who try to make up laws for God. My father worked with a man who said that he might as well worship with a Baptist than to worship where I preach because we have Bible classes. There are even those who will try to police the brotherhood, marking anyone who speaks on a lectureship with someone who has ties to someone who has ties to a false teacher. These folks will get on social media and drag good brethren through the mud. That is no better than Diotrophes (3 John 9-10).
What Shall We Do?
First, be thankful. When we are persecuted, we should count it all joy (Jas. 1:1-4). To some, that may sound odd. James is saying that we should be thankful when we are persecuted because it will strengthen our faith and our patience. Remember that Christ said if the world hates us, it hated Him first (John 15:18). We should be thankful to endure like our Savior did!
Let’s not forget to pray for those who mistreat us. Our Lord said, “But I say to you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). There is a great blessing which comes from praying to God. One of those blessings is that God will help us deal righteously with those who are unrighteous to us. When was the last time you prayed for brethren who mock you? When was the last time you prayed for Muslims or LGBTQ people to come to the truth? Praying for our persecutors will help bring peace to our lives.
Drew is the preacher at the Corinth Church of Christ in Rock Island, TN. He also teaches History, Government, and Middle & High School Bible at Boyd Christian School in McMinnville, TN.