Peacemakers, not pacifists

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). If there was ever a statement made by Jesus that has direct application to our current cultural situation, this is it. As I write, there are multiple demonstrations, many peaceful, some violent, drawing attention to a problem that exists in our country which was recently highlighted by a specific expression of hatred and prejudice on the part of several police officers. I’m not interested in debating who did what, and with what motivation. I am talking about the reality that it has become evident once again (as it has numerous times before) that our country is not at peace even with itself. Our political process is rife with division and constant attacks against those who disagree with one person/party/philosophy or another. At the worst extreme are those who are openly calling for anarchy.

Along comes Jesus, saying we should be peacemakers. Let’s be sure to understand that Jesus did not say peace keepers or pacifists, but peacemakers. His challenge was to facilitate peace; to actively pursue it. He didn’t just want us to avoid conflict and aim for quiet or tranquility. He called us to be the kind of people who work toward peace.

Sin, and specifically pride are what keep us from peace since that keeps our focus on ourselves. The reality is that we must learn how to pursue peace, living in that which is already accomplished for us in Christ. As a side note; I would commend Dr. Voddie Baucham’s message addressing reconciliation specifically as it relates to racial issues. You can find it here.

All of this will require several things from me: humility (considering others more significant than myself – Phil. 2:3), listening, and a willingness to actively pursue relationships with people who differ from me, whether racially, politically, or even in personality. If I spend all my time with people like me, I will never be able to actively pursue the peace (reconciliation) that has already been accomplished for us through Christ.

So, related to that last thought, let me add that true reconciliation will never happen apart from our union with Christ. No matter what the differences look like, both I and the other person must first be reconciled to God. Whether I need that to happen for me or whether I need to share that with those around me, it takes first place.

When we live like this, we demonstrate that a likeness to God who actively gave His Son to die in order to achieve reconciliation.

I have some work to do. I suspect you do too.

Reconciled

How about a little theology for your encouragement today? Yesterday, I finished working on a sermon that I’ll be preaching in a couple of weeks. Our church is studying through 2 Corinthians this summer and the sermon is from the end of chapter 5. There are several incredible truths in there but I want to stick with 5:21 for right now. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

That’s a sentence out of the middle of a paragraph that is talking about the biblical doctrine of reconciliation. Murray Harris defines reconciliation as “the divine act by which, on the basis of the death of Christ, God’s holy displeasure against sinful man was appeased, the enmity between God and man was removed, and man was restored to proper relations with God. Reconciliation is not some polite ignoring or reduction of hostility but rather its total and objective removal.” It’s an amazing concept. The holy God of the universe, from whom I was estranged because of my sin, brought me back into a right relationship with Himself, not because He had anything to change or any need in Himself to do so but because of His grace. That’s the “what.” That’s what reconciliation accomplishes for me.

The word reconciliation is taken from the marketplace and was originally used of the exchanging of coins. That’s where 2 Corinthians 5:21 comes in. It’s the “how” of reconciliation. God treated Jesus AS IF He was a sinner by charging to His account the sins of everyone who would ever believe. Then, when I believe the gospel, God treats me AS IF I am completely righteous so I can have a relationship with Him. It’s an exchange. My sin was on the account of Jesus as He hung on the cross. Jesus’ righteousness is now on my account once I have trusted in His finished work of redemption. Jesus didn’t become a sinner…He took my sin into to His account and paid that debt so I wouldn’t have to (because I never could).

So there you go…what could be more encouraging than that? Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe because you owed a debt you couldn’t pay. If you’ve trusted in Christ and believed in the gospel message, you are right with God…because He wanted it that way.