Friday, January 21, 2011

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

By Robin G. Jordan

I suspect that the Holy Spirit prompted me to become a blogger so I would learn to be more sensitive to other people’s points of view and become less given to contentiousness. Those who have been acquainted with me for the past few years may be shaking their heads with disagreement because I have been at times quite insensitive and contentious in my interactions with other people on the Internet.

At our last two meetings the home group in which I am involved has been talking about how we would like to change in the New Year, how we would like to be different. My aspiration is to be more peacable—disposed or tending toward peace.

By peace, I mean “harmonious relations.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told the disciples and the multitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

True peacemakers seek not only to bring about more harmonious relations among men but they also seek to bring about harmonious relations between man and God. They are instruments of reconciliation through whom God works.

The ultimate peacemaker is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2.5) God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

In Islam peace with God is the submission of the vanquished to the victor. It brings to mind the wall paintings and engraved steles from the ancient Mid-East, from Egypt and Assyria, pictures of diminutive bound captives prostrating themselves in abject terror before a larger than life pharaoh or king.

In New Testament peace with God is the restored relationship between the repentant son and his father when he returns home. It is the obedient relationship with his father upon which he turned his back when he went the way of the prodigal.

A fruitful word study is to take your concordance and look up all the references to peace in the Epistles. They tell us that we are called to peace. They urge us to pursue peace. They also point to our attention that ultimately God is the source of all true peace.

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19) sets out two important guiding principles for our lives. The Bible in Basic English renders the same passage as follows, “…let us go after the things which make peace, and the things by which we may be a help to one another.”

These two principles must be understood and applied in accordance with what else is written in the Bible. We cannot just take them and give them our own meaning and disregard everything else God has said as some Christians have with “love your neighbor,” “love one another” and the other love passages in the Bible.

If God brings something to my attention, it is for a purpose. I cannot say to God, “that’s nice,” and go about doing things as I have always done them. If I ignore God, he will keep bringing it up. God does not nag or cajole but he does not let us run away from him when he wants us to undertake something for him.

Jonah tried to flee from God to Tarshish. But he ends up in Nineveh anyway, preaching repentance to the Ninevites. Much to his disgust they did repent and God spared them as Jonah knew that he would.

God, I suspect, knew that they would repent because that is what he intended. Jonah was to be the instrument by which he called them to repentance.

The Holy Spirit, not Jonah’s words, moved the king of Nineveh and his people to repentance. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the Book of Jonah but that does not mean that he was not there in Nineveh with Jonah and the Ninevites.

The story of Jonah and the whale was my oldest grandnephew’s favorite Bible story when he was a little boy. He loved the part when the whale spat Jonah out onto the shore.

I have a blown-glass whale that was given to me as a birthday or Christmas gift. Inside the whale is a man on his knees, his arms uplifted in supplication, also blown from glass, one piece with the whale. It is a poignant reminder of the story of Jonah the reluctant prophet and how God delivers us from death to serve him.

Last night I was putting together a curriculum vita. Preparing a curriculum vita can be a helpful way of identifying how God has wired you for ministry and the kind of ministry for which he has wired you. It can help you to identify your spiritual gifts as well as your skills and talents and limitations. I have always struggled with not having a clear sense of the vocation to which God is calling me. But although I do not have a clear sense of my calling, I do have a clear sense of how God wants me to live my life.

Nine years he stressed to me the importance of go after things that are edifying to others, that build up his church. Now he appears to be drawing to my attention that I also need to pursue those things that make for peace. They are paired in Paul’s letter to the Romans for a reason. The two go hand in hand. One contributes to the other.

As for my aspirations to be more peacable, they are God’s doing. As the apostle Paul tells us, it is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13)

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