Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Sermon prepared by Rev. Bernard Bakker, Whitby, Ont.
Today our focus is on the text, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”
We usually work hard at maintaining peace, at repairing relationships, at having people be one with each other. Sometimes we go overboard trying to make things right. Newspaper editors are notorious for this. In practically every edition, you’ll see a correction and an accompanying apology. Once in a while the correction is worse than the original error. A recent caption of a picture of foreign exchange students enjoying unusual Oriental dishes, incorrectly made reference to Mi Thi Thin as one of the items on the menu rather than the student in the centre of the picture.
In another article the chairman of the Chrysler Corporation was incorrectly referred to as Lee Iacoocoo. The correction read Lee Iacacca. We try our best to correct mistakes but we still blow it. We mean well, don’t we. When we make mistakes with our children or our spouses, we will often make purchases or do kind things to try to make amends. Sometimes we are still misinterpreted or misunderstood and relationships worsen. We try again and again because our goal is peace. We want to be peacemakers.
The Beatitudes teach us that the peacemaker is blessed. God calls His children to be peacemakers. God’s goal is to achieve reconciliation. Peace is shalom. The most famous blessing in the Bible is found in Numbers 6:26, “The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." There the Hebrew word, Shalom, is translated peace. It is a peace for both body and soul because God created us body and soul. When God gives us His blessing, when He gives us His peace, He is saying, I want your body and soul to be at peace. I don’t want you to feel tension. I want you to be tranquil. I want you to be at ease. I want you to be at rest. I want you to have serenity. I want you to be calm.
Many offices now sport, in their foyer, a little rock garden with water flowing over the rocks. The water brings a calming effect to the office atmosphere. My neighbor has a small fountain in his backyard. I just love to sit in my lounge chair and listen to the trickling water. Our souls yearn for peace.
But these healing gardens cannot bring the shalom that God speaks of in the Bible. Peacemaking is God’s Spirit at work in us. God’s peace is only attained when we let His Spirit work in our lives, when we are one with God and with each other in purpose and desire. You and I cannot achieve peace on our own. It just doesn’t happen. We need the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. What do you do when death comes knocking at the door? What about when your child lays sick in a hospital bed? Or when your business is about to go under? What about when, for the second time, you fail the last course you need to attain that educational degree?
There can only be peace when the Spirit of God is allowed to work in our hearts and in our lives. Families will feud. Friends will be at odds. Spouses are not always honest with each other. The leaders of countries fight. Agencies compete amongst each other for tax dollars. Union representatives argue with employee representatives. Where is true peace? How can it be attained? How does it come? It only happens when the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is allowed to work.
God’s desire is reconciliation. We read from 2 Corinthians 5:18 and following, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Christians are His agents. You and I are God’s tools. We are called to be the peacemakers. Maybe you are the union representative. Maybe you are in the middle of a dispute between two very good friends. Maybe you are the parent caught between two fighting children. God calls you to be a peacemaker. God’s desire is reconciliation. God has reconciled us through Christ. He has reconciled the world to himself. And now He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He has given us the message of reconciliation. He says, “Be reconciled to God and be reconciled to each other.” He calls us to be peacemakers. This is not an option for Christians. It’s part of our calling.
Peacemakers bring people together. This is a very difficult responsibility. It’s easier not to get involved. It’s easier to let them be, to let them go their own way, to let them suffer the consequences of their own actions. But Christians cannot take the easy road. You and I are called to be peacemakers. This is a command from God. He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
That means you and I cannot wash our hands and say, “I know they don’t get along and need to be reconciled, but I’m not going to do anything about it.” To wash our hands is to be involved in an act of rebellion and sin against God. God through his Holy Spirit wants to bring people to unity, to oneness, to be reconciled to Him, to be reconciled to each other. And as a church body we are involved in that process. Many homes deal with separation or divorce, and anger and hostility. God has given us the responsibility of being peacemakers.
The devil will do anything he can to destroy peace. He is a troublemaker. He wants people to be at enmity with each other, to hate, to not get along, to blame each other, and to point the finger. He will do anything so that there is no unity or peace. But it is God’s desire for you and I to live peaceably with all. As much as it depends on you, God says in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” and in Ephesians 4:3 and following, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Live in peace with all.
So what is peace? Peace and appeasement are not synonyms. As a matter of fact, they are opposites. Sometimes we try to appease people, to please them, to go out of our way to be nice when, in fact, we are avoiding an issue. True peace came with a price. Peace comes only because the Son of God died on the cross for our sins. True peace can only be achieved because the lifeblood of Jesus was given in suffering and in death. The price of peace is costly.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor living in Germany during World War II, coined the phrase, cheap grace, cheap forgiveness, cheap peace. Cheap peace doesn’t last because cheap peace, cheap grace and cheap forgiveness are not based on what Christ did, are not based on what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. Because Dietrich Bonhoeffer could not agree with those who wanted to appease the Nazi government, he lost his life.
To proclaim peace when there really isn’t any peace or when people have not really been brought together in reconciliation is to declare a cheap peace. It is a slap in the face of God because His peace is costly. To be a peacemaker means to know Christ and to be willing to get involved in people’s lives. To be a peacemaker means to be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake, to take the time to get involved and to risk pain in the process of being a peacemaker.
Being a peacemaker means forgiving those who have hurt you. We forgive because God has forgiven us. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
You and I must know God’s forgiveness before we can forgive others. This means I have to be willing to admit my sin. I have to experience God’s forgiveness. God does not hold grudges. God has completely wiped the slate clean. And therefore you and I are called to forgive each other. You cannot forgive somebody more than what God has forgiven you. This is how peace begins. Peacemaking is forgiving those who have first of all hurt you. The next time you find it difficult to forgive someone, think of how much God has forgiven you. Think about all the thoughts, the ideas that were not according to His Word. When we realize how much God has forgiven us and focus on His forgiveness, we’ve taken the first step towards establishing peace.
Resentment doesn’t work. Job 5:2 says, “Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple,” and in 18:4 Job is saying that to worry yourself to death is foolishness. To worry yourself to death is a waste of one’s time. When we don’t let go of resentment we end up hurting ourselves the most. You can get angry and frustrated. You can resent what somebody else does. But for what? You’re only hurting yourself. Resentment doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t correct the problem and it doesn’t change the other person. You end up as one of the most unhappy people in the world when you hold grudges. Resentment is like a cancer that eats away at you. When you forgive the person who has hurt you, you’ve taken the next step towards being a peacemaker.
You and I are called to forgive because we need the father’s forgiveness in the future. What does Jesus say in Mark 11:25? If you do not forgive others of their sins your heavenly Father will not forgive you of your sins. Forgiveness is a two way street. When we forgive others, God forgives us. It is said that once someone approached John Wesley, the famous British evangelist, with the thought that he could never forgive a certain person. John Wesley responded, “Then I hope you never sin. Because we all need what we don’t want to give.” When we forgive others, our heavenly Father also forgives us. We then have taken another step towards peacemaking.
Peacemaking is more than forgiving those who have hurt you. It goes beyond that. A peacemaker is called to a ministry of reconciliation. We’re called to be reconciled with each other. God wants His church to be one. He wants brothers and sisters to be one. He wants His family to be one. And He uses us to bring people together. In John 17, Jesus prayed for unity. That’s part of the reconciliation. But we are also called to bring others to reconciliation with God. That is, peacemaking is also evangelism. Think about it.
Peacemaking is being involved in evangelism. Peacemaking is being involved in outreach because there are many people who are not at peace with God. They’re at odds with Him. Am I willing to be involved in bringing others to Him? Am I willing to take someone into my home, to share, to talk, to be of support? Do you know of an abused woman in need of shelter? Or a single mom or dad who needs childcare? Or a seeker who is asking many questions? Are you willing to change your lifestyle to include the needy, to become involved in somebody else’s life, because God has called us to be peacemakers, to bring people who are reconciled with Him to be one with Him?
This is all part of our calling. Blessed are the peacemakers. Why? Why are peacemakers blessed? Because we are daughters and sons of God. We are children of God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. We are blessed when we can show people how to cooperate instead of fighting or competing. We are blessed when we show people the way to God. James 3:18 teaches us that peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. Peacemakers are blessed when they show the way of reconciliation to God and to each other. Peacemakers are blessed when they fulfill their calling. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
Proposed Order of Service
[Feel free to adapt to your situation]
Welcome and moment of personal prayer
May the grace and peace of God the Father, and the love of Jesus fill us and the power of the Holy Spirit lead us in our time of worship. Amen.”
Call to Worship and Time of Praise
All Hail King Jesus”
O Worship the King”
Profession of Faith — Apostles’ Creed in unison
May the Mind of Christ”
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Text: Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Sermon: "The Step of Cooperation"
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”
May the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make His face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. May the Lord turn His face toward us and give us His peace. Amen.”
Father, We Love You”