What does peace mean to you? To me, it’s a quiet evening at home, sitting on my back porch step with a cup of coffee and watching the sun set over acres and acres of wheat, listening to the wind in the tree limbs and marveling at the depth of the sky. Peace is having things right. Peace is not worrying. Peace is being where I need to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and being able to face God with a clear conscience.
But peace is one of those achievements that doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it. Everyone wants it, but it doesn’t come naturally to us. And I think it’s something that matters to God, otherwise He wouldn’t talk about it through Scripture so much.
Today’s verse is Matthew 5:9.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
In this study of what matters to God, we’re still in the Beatitudes, which are found in Matthew 5, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I always want to make sure I’m understanding the word meaning as close as I can without knowing Greek, so I also checked the Amplified Version for this verse too:
Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!
What does it mean to work for peace? To make peace? To maintain peace? This verse is saying those people who strive for peace will be happy because they’ll discover their place in God’s family (according to the Message, which is how it puts it). But what does it mean?
I guess, before we can understand what it means to strive for peace, we really need to understand what peace is to begin with. If you go by the dictionary definition, it’s going to say peace is either a nonwarring state between nations or a general state of mutual harmony between people or groups of people. And that’s great. Both of those are great. But I want to go even further than those generic definitions.
Some people would say that peace is a lack of conflict. And on one hand, I would agree with that. Conflict is the opposite of peace. Conflict, whether it be war or disagreement or dislike or any sort of negative emotion, will keep you up at night worrying or fretting or fighting. But I think peace is more than just a lack of conflict, because conflict is never going to go away–not as long as we live on earth.
The only relationship in our lives that lacks conflict is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ–on God’s part. God has no conflict with us if we have accepted Christ, although there are times when we will have conflict with God because we refuse to do what He tells us, because we think we know better than He does, because we want what we want in spite of what He says is best.
But as long as we live on earth, we will experience conflict. So how can we have peace while we’re here?
To me, peace is reconciliation. And maybe that’s trading a ten-cent word for a fifty-cent word, but think about it. The word reconcile actually originates from a word that means “to make friendly again.” Reconciliation is the act of returning harmony between two people. Reconciliation is making peace where there wasn’t peace before.
Like I said at the start, peace doesn’t just happen. Human nature precludes peace from being a natural state for us. We’re always going to be fighting each other. We’re always going to be in conflict with each other unless someone is actively making and maintaining peace in your relationships. So how do we do that? If the key to being blessed and grasping what God says is important is to make and maintain peace, how do we do it?
Many people have said it but most people attribute the statement to Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.”
There’s a lot going on in that statement. So many times people get the idea that peace will come about just because we are not actively at war with someone, that is will just happen if we’re not fighting with anybody. But here’s the deal, folks. We will always be fighting with someone. We will always have conflict with others. Why? Because someone is always selfish. Because someone is always looking out for number one. Because someone is always going to do what they want to do no matter how much it might hurt someone else.
Welcome to life on planet Earth. Nothing has changed since we were created.
And the way to make and maintain peace in any relationship is to ensure that justice has a place in it. We have to do what’s right. Someone has to take that stand, someone has to point out truth. If we don’t, the relationship will fall apart. Relationships based on lies never work. A relationship is only going to work if both sides are truthful, if both sides do the right thing, if both sides understand what justice is–and that is true for people, for governments, for nations.
We will always face conflict. It’s not going away until Christ comes back for us, but peace matters to God. He wants us to return to that place of real relationship that we shared before Adam and Eve fell. When it comes to our relationship with Him, the only way to make peace there is through Christ. But when it comes to our relationships with each other, making and maintaining peace comes down to doing what’s right. And unfortunately, sometimes doing the right thing will cause more trouble between people than it solves, but true peace isn’t the absence of conflict. True peace is knowing what’s right and doing it.