Passage: Matthew 5:1-2 & 5:9
5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Soul Search Essay
“[You are fortunate if you] are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Being a peacemaker means acting to bring shalom (a Hebrew term) from its source (YHWH) to the humans and world around you. Being a peacemaker means receiving YHWH’s peace and passing it to all humans (even those who reject it), passing it in all relationships and extending it even to the environment. (Note that this concept of peacemaker does not include peace at any price. It is not appeasement.)
To be a peacemaker in human terms, you must understand peace. In my opinion, to be a peacemaker in Jesus’ terms, you must understand it and personally possess it. Why?
Peace is a very broad term. It means different things to different people and different cultures. The Pax Romana of Ancient Rome was a peace of constrained hatreds, rivalries and disputes. The Roman legions brought peace via the ability to intervene with overwhelming force in any and all local and regional disputes, regardless of the source. Peace then was the ability to keep things from getting out of hand. The Romans contained and limited violence. The Pax Americana is not that different today even though there is a collective distaste for this reality among a large segment of our population. If this is Pax Romana and Pax Americana, what is Pax YHWH?
What Israel expected in a messiah was a powerful king that enforced a Pax Israel that would be a replacement inkind of the Pax Romana. They expected the messiah to appear, declare his kingdom, build an army and eject the Roman Legions. They had good reason to expect that.
Much of the Old Testament Prophets and the Psalms stated a force-based human peace would occur. It is logical to think that it would be brought by the Messiah and infact that is what will eventually happen. The force-based human peace, however, will not just subjugate or contain. It will totally destroy vast quantities of humans and angels.
What Israel missed in the Old Testament were the hints that there would be a very unexpected Pax YHWH as an interlude before the human force-based Pax. This interlude was and is actually force-based for fallen angels, but it was not force-based for humans. It was and is the Pax Jesus.
Where an invasion of power to (at a minimum) eject Rome from Israel was expected and sought, something different happened. What happened was (and is) an offer to alter human souls and psyches during the initiation of the war to eject Satan’s forces. In essence, this is an immediate two front war. One front focuses on fallen angels directly impacting humans. The other front focuses on humans directly. The demons face overwhelming, irresistible force in Jesus’ word. Humans face seemingly stupid offers conveyed in weakness; offers from Jesus that address needs humans neither understand nor value. Shalom is one of these offers.
Shalom is a very Hebrew concept. It is not what Americans call peace. It is not inner or spiritual tranquility. It is not the absence of communal, interpersonal conflict. In fact, it is not an absence of anything. It is the presence of something; something much broader, much more holistic and much more penetrating than the English word “peace.” Shalom is in many ways a summary word for the Garden of Eden.
Shalom is a place where fundamental rightness (as defined by YHWH) produces satisfying rest, meaningful work, earned reward, the presence of deep, deep relational community, our reveling in the presence of deep, deep love and the presence of many other things in our lives, environment and communities. As in the Garden, shalom is the place where God walks and talks with you. Where his presence induces, sustains and extends a rightness that penetrates everything; everything down to and beyond quantum physics, everything down to the deepest human love or to whatever other hugely deep, unknowable or unreachable boundary you can imagine.
Shalom is (it exists), because YHWH (“I AM”) chooses. He chooses to incorporate humans into shalom. Shalom is the gift beyond salvation. Yes, salvation introduces shalom to you. Salvation does not, however, immediately confer to you the full extent of shalom. It cannot. Shalom extends far beyond the individual. Yet, individuals participate in shalom’s extension into our current world and reality. By YHWH’s choice, Christ’s actions and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment the full extent of shalom will not exist without your participation. Why?
What this Beatitude speaks of is YHWH’s choice to confer on humans the ability to extend the Pax Jesus, to extend in a piecemeal fashion YHWH’s shalom. This extension occurs as humans extend the reach of the Holy Spirit one human at a time. The Holy Spirit is the being of the Trinity that conveys the internal and spiritual aspects of the peace of YHWH (Pax YHWH). This is why understanding alone is inadequate. The peace of YHWH is not about diplomacy, insight or persuasion. It is not a feeling or spiritual state. It uses and includes all of these things, but these things are not what constitue shalom. Shalom is not an assemblage of these kinds of parts. It is a possession of you by your creator. It is an extension of rightness into, through and beyond you.
As you are possessed and sealed as a believer by the Holy Spirit, you have the opportunity to begin learning what peace (Shalom) truly is, what its power is and what its application requires. The most foundational thing required is rightness – the thing lost in the Garden of Eden. Having little concept and very, very little experience with shalom makes understanding it hard and confusing.
Many times what we want when we are in conflict, hurting, confused, lashing out t others and being lashed back at by these others is power. In fact, some preachers focus almost exclusively on power. Are they correct? The answer to that is, “Did Jesus?” Did Jesus focus almost exclusively on power and its benefits. No. With humans, Jesus deployed the absurd.
What Jesus deployed in the two front war was not external power imposed on humans (he did deploy such power against demons). He deployed education, invitation and character demonstration in the midst of conflict, hostility, misunderstanding, and manipulation attempts against him. Jesus’ war strategy on the human front was to deploy weakness. Jesus deployed the opposite of what we want and search for when in conflict, when hurting, when confused. He deployed.
He deployed. He was the deployment. He is the deployment now (via the Holy Spirit).
“[You are fortunate if you] are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Why are you as a peacemaker, the “children of God?” You are participating in the war that extends shalom to other humans and to our world. The children of God are those beings that willfully serve YHWH. The children of God chose. Those choices extend shalom a small piece at a time; in a seemingly broken, haphazard and puzzling way to those that YHWH wants to receive it, which is all of humanity (even Adolf, Pol Pot, Mao & Stalin). Yes, most humans (like those listed) reject it. That is profoundly sad. It is also profoundly painful since the rejection is often powerful. Those least receptive to shalom seem most prone to extreme use of power.