Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5.9
Blissful the ones trying to make peace, for they are God’s own kids.
Privileged those who try to reconcile people having disagreements, because they do God’s work.
What does it mean to be called a child of God? In the New Testament, generally it means you are claimed by God, part of God’s family; it’s another name for a Christian. In this understanding, Jesus’ saying might mean, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for I have claimed them and they are mine.”
Another sense of being called a child (or more literally, a son) of God is in the sense that one is doing a God-like thing or work.*
But what actually is peacemaking? It’s an active thing, and it includes the presence of justice, for God’s peace, as biblically understood, is probably better understood as a model of health rather than a courtroom model, with justice understood as wellness, wholeness, completeness, in the way that God intends all creation to be well, whole, complete.
Participating in God’s creation in a way designed to restore health, wellness and wholeness for all is to make, to create, peace. To make peace is to fundamentally change the nature of creation and all within it. Understood thus, how could restoring God’s creation not be blessed by God?
Yet for the peacemakers among us, life is a great challenge. There is no comfort of being at one with the crowd. They live on the outside of things – always. They see the world through different eyes – the eyes of hope for the better it could be – always. And they are hated for it – always.
So perhaps what this beatitude is saying goes something like this: oh, my blessed ones who try so hard to make my peace move from dream to reality – nobody will thank you for it, you know. Oh, they’ll love you enough when you’re talking about the other guy. But as soon as you turn your gaze toward them, the friendship will be over. They’ll feel betrayed. And they won’t understand. At least not at first. Maybe never. Just don’t you forget – whether they claim you as one of their own or not, I always will – I will always claim you for you are mine. Nobody takes that from you. Nobody. So when it gets lonely . . . when you’re sure the world is incurably violent and nothing you do will ever make a difference . . . when you just know that your life has been a waste and a failure, you remember this:
You are mine and nothing about you or what you do is a waste.
As for the rest of us, perhaps we would do well to be a little more thankful for the peacemakers among us . . . for the ones who point out what is not always obvious to us . . . the ones who ask the hard questions, like: why does it ‘have to be’ this way? . . . the ones who challenge us to be better than we are . . . the ones who refuse to settle for business as usual . . . the ones who will not let themselves . . . or us . . . off the hook – yeah, those folk. Maybe we should thank them, work with them, listen to them, walk alongside them, because maybe, just maybe they’re right. Maybe we can actually do better. And maybe we should.
After all, it was Jesus himself who said, Oh, lucky, happy, blissful, privileged, blessed you – my peacemakers, my creation restorers: you are my children!
*a God-like thing or work – from William Barclay’s The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, p. 109-110.