Rolling over to grab another tissue, I blew my nose. The congestion from pregnancy had pushed me into bouts of insomnia, making it nearly impossible to fall asleep after waking in the middle of the night. To ease the discomfort, I reached for my phone. Flipping through old texts, my eye caught one from an old friend. A flashback of conflict between us surfaced in my mind, and I began rehearsing the script of what I should have said. Anger grew within me, and anxiety began to flood my soul. 3 AM turned into 4, and 4 AM quickly turned to 5 AM when my mind finally gave into sleep. I awoke at 7 AM rethinking my night of restlessness and questioning the peace of Christ in my life. If Jesus is the king of peace, then shouldn’t peace flood my heart at 3 AM over past conflict? Shouldn’t peace be emulated in my life during the good and the bad?
‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in Matthew 5:9 is not simply an encouraging phrase, but a call to live in light of eternity during every hour of the day and night.
What Is the Meaning of ‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers’ in Matthew 5:9?
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, describes and identifies characteristics of a Christian who is seeking life as a disciple. Matthew, in his gospel account, depicts Jesus sitting on a mountain teaching His disciples and the crowds surrounding (Matthew 5:1). The first 11 verses of Matthew 5 cover the beatitudes, a phrase coined over the course of church history, that summarize the essence of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Many Bible scholars claim that the Sermon on the Mount is one cohesive teaching ranging from Matthew 5:1-7:29. In this discourse, Jesus is outlining the expectations for a believer within the Kingdom of God.
Each of the beatitudes begins with the word ‘Blessed’ which can be translated as full and joyful well-being. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus is stating that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God’ (ESV). Peacemakers, in this context, are those who promote God’s peace. This peace is taken from the Hebrew word shalom, which can be defined as total or complete well being—both personally and communally. In this statement, Jesus is stating that those who put their faith in Him and actively pursue peacemaking will receive the eternal reward of being called children of God, as they reflect the Father’s character of peace and unity.
Why Are the Peacemakers Called ‘Children of God’ or ‘Sons of God’?
The peacemakers are called children of God simply because they have been given new hearts through Jesus and are reflecting the peace of God as they are made more and more like Him. Their eternal reward for following Jesus and emulating the peace of Christ is to be welcomed into the family of God. D.A. Carson in his interview with desiringGod says it like this:
“The peacemakers are called children of God or sons of God, because of their eternal reward in following Jesus. The verse is saying that those who inherit the kingdom of God, through faith and trust in Jesus Christ, will receive the eternal reward of being a child of God. Their reward is what makes them blessed or happy, and their peacemaking simply reveals and proves their trust and faith in Jesus…..What it is saying is that God is the supreme peacemaker and, insofar as we are making peace, we show ourselves to belong to God’s family. It is not talking about ontology. It is not talking about how you become a Christian. It is that if you act like God you are god-ish. And one of the ways of saying that is that you are a son of God.”
How Does Matthew 5:9 Apply to Christians Today?
After spending the darkness of that night in angst, the morning was met with confession and repentance. Matthew 5:9 is a call for Christians to live at peace with one another and with those outside the faith. Therefore, after some much needed prayer, I was able to see the resentment I had allow build between my friend and I. My night of restlessness warranted confession to the God, prayer for the friend, and repentance of my ugly thoughts that so easily wage a war in my mind. As a disciple of Jesus, God calls me to be a peacemaker, and that night, my soul was not full of peace, because my obedience to walk as a peacemaker was lacking. Through the renewing blood of Christ, Christians have the power to pursue peace in all circumstances. Based on my own experience and the teachings of the Bible as a whole, here are 3 ways Christians can act in obedience to Matthew 5:9:
1. Trust in the promises of the Bible despite your situation. Whether there’s relational conflict, financial stress, sickness, trauma, or chronic pain, Christians are called to live in light of eternity, not our fluctuating circumstances. As frail humans, we often react to our circumstances based on our feelings, rather than trusting God’s good and perfect plan. In order to act in obedience to Matthew 5:9, we must trust in the promises of God and lay aside our anxiety as Jesus states in Matthew 6:25-34. For peace is not the absence of conflict or pain, but rather the power and presence of Christ in the midst of our struggle. Therefore, we must cling to Christ and His word, seeking His strength to live out the fruit of the spirit among our challenging circumstances. Not only will this provide peace for our own souls, but we will emulate the God of peace as we do so.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
2. Pursue Shalom in and for your community, city, and the world by serving others. A peacemaker is one who promotes God’s peace. As Christians, we are to seek shalom—or holistic well-being for ourselves and the watching world. This practically looks like putting our own selfish desires aside and seeking the well-being of others. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls His disciples to serve the needy, love our enemies, and lay up treasures in Heaven. A peacemaker creates an environment of peace in the community even when it provides no gain to you. As Christians, we’re called to care for the spiritual needs of people as well as the physical, seeking to create shalom for each person we encounter. Practically speaking, this can look like serving at the food bank, caring for an elderly neighbor, forgiving a friend who hurt you deeply, or fostering kids who need a home. Whatever the need is in your community, we are to emulate the peace of God by pursuing His peace on behalf of the people around us.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:9
3. Choose confession, repentance, forgiveness, and lament. Much of my own walk with Jesus has been learning how to submit my anxieties regarding relational conflict over to Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to be anxious, not to judge others, to love our enemies, and to release our anger. As He taught, He knew relational conflict would infiltrate the church with the potential to quickly destroy the unity He created. Matthew 5:9 specifically calls Christians to obedience in being a peacemaker with others inside and outside the church. This means we are held accountable to how we react in traffic, how we communicate when there is hurt from a friend, and how we respond when something is done that we don’t agree with. As we seek to be obedient to Matthew 5:9 in the midst of our relationships, let us be quick to confess and repent of our own sin and struggle. Let us be quick to forgive as Christ has first forgiven us for all our wrongdoings—past, present, and future through His life, death, and resurrection. Furthermore, let us look to the book of Psalms as we lament hurt, sin, and struggle, reminding ourselves of God’s character, and trusting in His faithful promises.
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” – 2 Corinthians 13:11
There is a great responsibility in reading the Sermon on the Mount and understanding the expectations Jesus has for His disciples. There is also great hope, as we look to Christ, the God-man who has already conquered all sin and death for us on the cross. Will our efforts for peace sometimes feel hopeless? Yes. Will we fail miserably at times? It’s likely. But through each step of obedience, each active death to our rebellious hearts of sin, Jesus is making us more like Him. The disciple who loves Christ, and has committed themselves to Him as the Messiah, will continue to pursue His peace because He has already provided all the peace we need. It is only in His strength that we can choose peace, and it is only in His grace that we can fail at peacemaking and still be fully forgiven and fully loved. As we seek to apply Matthew 5:9 to our lives, let us rest in the fact that our happiness or blessedness comes from being a child of God. As children of God, we can be peacemakers because we are emulating our Father, who is the God of peace.