Mankind loves to wrangle. It is part of the sinful condition we inherited from Adam. Unfortunately, this is one of the last sins addressed after conversion. In many cases, a professed conversion to Christ “just changes the subject,” but does not change the heart of a man given to quarrels. But “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Christ calls us to peace. But before we set ourselves to obey Him, it is important to get clear about one thing. Christ is not mandating a “peace at any price” approach. As Paul puts it, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). For the sake of a temporary and appeasing peace, we may not discard basic morality, and we may not sell the truth.
Consider morality first. David was a biblical peacemaker (Psalm 120:7), but at the same time he would have nothing to do with certain kinds of men (Ps. 26:4-5). Biblical peace does not require compromise with hypocrites.
And then there is truth. Christians are to contend for the faith (Jude 3). The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Elders are required to be the kind of men who can correct false teachers (2 Tim. 2:24-25). And it is not divisive to reject a divisive man (Titus 3:10). In fact, love of peace requires it.
A man cannot bring to others what he does not have within himself. If he is at war with God, he cannot bring peace to others. But the natural man, the man apart from regenerating grace, is at war with God. This means that all forms of ungodly “peacemaking,” including international diplomats, baseball strike negotiators, et al. are chasing after vanity. Before a man can be used to bring true peace anywhere, the Lord must bring true peace into his heart. This is accomplished through the gospel of Christ, and nothing else.
Briefly stated, that gospel is that: all humanity is dead in rebellion and sin (Eph. 2:1); Christ, through His death, secured the redemption of many of these men (Eph. 5:25); these men are initially set apart from others through one thing only, and that is their faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Those who have been brought forgiveness through this gospel have peace with God (Rom.5:1). This is the foundation of peace within, which in turn is the foundation of peace with others.
This is the foundation that enables us to pursue peace. Having a peaceful disposition is not sufficient. One who is naturally placid might not take offence easily, but still will not pursue peace in the way Christ requires. As we pursue peace, desiring to make peace, we must remember what Scripture teaches in the following areas.
In the interests of peace, we must: Hold our tongues. James clearly teaches the destructive power of the unbridled tongue (James 3:13-18). We must mortify our pride: In Proverbs we are told that one “of a proud heart stirs up strife” (Prov. 28:25). We must forgive sin: Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8), and love does this well. We are called to provoke others to love: It is not right for us to leave one another alone (Heb. 10:24). And last, we must conduct any necessary conflict biblically: Christ does not teach us to be milquetoasts. There are occasions where sin must be confronted (Matt. 18:15). But it must be done by the Book.
What is the promised result? We are taught that love and unity among Christ’s disciples was to be a very important way for the world to know our identity as true Christians. Christ prayed that we all be one, so that the world might believe that Christ was sent by the Father (John 17:21). Biblical peacemaking is therefore evangelistic.
So when Christ in this place says that peacemakers will be called sons of God, I take it to refer to their public reputation and testimony with outsiders. What is that testimony? Do we have a zeal for truth, and zeal for righteousness, and a heart for peace?