Freely Disagree: Blessed are the Peace Makers
Rachel Billups | Matthew 5:1-12
For most of our lives we’ve taught to avoid uncomfortable social situations; not to ruffle feathers, to always be nice, not to make waves and to avoid conflict at any cost. But friends, human beings are passionately opinionated. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by avoiding the hard conversations. It’s not if, but how will we have them? How might we engage in dialog with other humans on subjects that bring up pain, fear, and strife?
At the core of every disagreement is fear. Fear is the great separator, the source of our division. It causes us to question ourselves and the people around us. In fear we recoil, isolating ourselves from what’s creating the fear in the first place. From talking heads to news outlets conflict increases ratings, dominates social platforms and permeates our lives.
But here’s the deal. Over and over again God declared to God’s people “Don’t be afraid. Do not fear. Take courage!” It’s not a divine plea to ignore our emotions but rather a call to trust beyond what we can see in front of us.
Matthew chapters 5-7 are commonly termed the Sermon on the Mount. There’s a parallel between Jesus’ teaching on this hillside and the Old Testament deliverer Moses giving God’s people the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Matthew wants the reader to make these kinds of intentional connections. But Jesus wasn’t giving these folks a different set of rules to live by, rather he was inviting us into a Kingdom way of living – a new way to be human. Each statement or beatitude as they are commonly known in church circles, reflects an upside-down response to life as we know it.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 3-12 NIV)
A quick read-through and, wow, this seems pretty messed up. Jesus, what you do you mean blessed are those who mourn, those who are insulted or the meek – blessed? The list gets rather depressing really quick…and grates against every self-sufficient, pick myself up by my bootstraps, I am the head and not the tail affirmation that we’ve ever claimed. But these countercultural affirmations aren’t’ about a small attitude adjustment. It’s a total reversal from the norm.
JESUS’ GREAT REVERSAL
Jesus was inviting those who were considered weak, on the margins, on the outside to be center stage of the Kingdom. Everyone is invited. There’s no economic, racial, gender or political status that can keep you out. This kingdom stands in stark contrast to the power and privilege of the Roman Empire and even the perfectionism of the religious elites.
What had seemed powerful, wasn’t.
Those who seemed privileged, weren’t.
God was inviting everyone to God’s table. Those on the margin, those grieving, those persecuted–those are the blessed ones in the Kingdom that’s coming and is already here! Jesus was building a bridge from the chaos, the mess, the hatred and the division of foolish human stuff, to God’s whole, healed picture of the world.
Jesus was building a bridge, from what was to what can be, and he chooses to use ordinary folks like you and me to participate in that great reversal.
“Bridge builders including Jesus usually start building a bridge from one side. You can’t build a bridge from the middle, as even an engineer will tell you. You must choose a starting point. What the gospel is saying, pure and simple, is that wherever you’re going to start building your bridge, you better start from the side of the powerlessness, not power. Because if you start on the side of power you’ll stay there forever. You really won’t build any bridge.” (Richard Rohr – Jesus’ Plan For A New World)
Jesus challenged us to be peacemakers. Not peacekeepers, avoiding conflict or passive aggressively attempt to control situations at all costs. Peacemakers!
The four practices of peacemaking are simple and profound.
#1 ASK ANYTHING
When life’s conversations get hard we tend to either clam up—you know say nothing – or we launch into our own point of view. What if our first thought was to ask helpful questions?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7: 7-8 NIV)
This isn’t permission to ask leading questions or set a trap. It’s permission to ask insightful questions that show we care about the relationship enough to lean in and ask.
#2 LISTEN WELL
There is a reason that God has given us two ears and one mouth. To listen twice as much as we talk! We were created to be good listeners.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5 NIV)
If listening doesn’t come naturally, try some traditional active listening skills, or take notes while someone else is talking. Genuine listening means I hear you, I see you and I value you as a child of God.
#3 FREELY DISAGREE
Jesus was passionate about a lot of stuff: the poor, prayer, his disciples, but one that stand out is Jesus’ deep passion for unity.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17: 21-22 NIV)
The Kingdom of God is big and it’s diverse. We don’t want to be the same, to look the same, to think the same or to vote the same. Difference brings strength and beauty to the kingdom of God.
If we were all the same, would we even be the church?
God’s creation is vast, it’s colorful, it’s mind-boggling, detailed and amazing. Freely disagreeing makes us uncomfortable, but it stretches us in the best of ways.
#4 LOVE REGARDLESS
To love without regard is to love without condition. This kind of love was at the heart of the Civil Rights movement lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Loving even when people clearly didn’t love you back, “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend!”
When we love regardless people will know we follow Jesus, who commanded “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34 NIV)
Just as Jesus gave his life for you and me and the whole world, we are called to give our lives for one another; not making sure we state our opinions, not ensuring above all we are right, not trying to convince the guy or gal next to us that we are the ones that really know what God thinks, or what the bible says, or how we believe they should be living their lives. Being right has nothing on being in relationship.
This reminds me of a story I heard about Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Having been imprisoned during his advocacy for black persons in South Africa, he was surrounded by guards who taunted and abused him. When visitors brought communion, Tutu was moved to share the bread and the cup with the very men who despised him.
Blessed are the peacemakers? Yes. Blessed are the peacemakers.
Senior Pastor | Ginghamsburg Church