We return to that hillside somewhere in Galilee. “Large crowds,” Matthew says, from cities across the region and down into Judea, followed Jesus as he taught, proclaimed, and healed (Matthew 4:23-25). As we look back into the Gospels, we call his lessons on that hillside “The Sermon on the Mount.
He began with an attention-grabbing list, an inside-out set of commandments designed to question everything the people had been taught. I imagined he paused between each one, giving it time to “sink in” before he continued. Here’s number seven, if you’re counting.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. –Matthew 5:9
And all the bikers at the back, leather fringe blowing in the breeze, revved their engines.
Not really. (But I’m sure Jesus would have been friends with most of them, had they been present.)
I’ve written about peace previously, about how it’s not passive but an active, guarding presence (The Power of Peace, Because Peace is Powerful). The peacemaker, though…I haven’t given much thought to that.
A Maker of Peace
Peace must be created…
Jesus doesn’t call this person a peacefinder or a peace-receiver or even a peace-magnet. He’s saying peace is something we must create…generate…work toward. Can we create peace in a place where there is no peace? Can we be like the light switch that brings light to a place where there is no light? Yes. That’s who we are in Christ Jesus.
What does it take to make peace? Well, we’ve spent all year seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament. Let’s look for an example there.
The King of Salem
Back in the days of Abraham, there was a king who didn’t join in the battles of his neighbors.
- When Kedorlaomer, the king of Elam, and his allies defeated six surrounding city-states (Genesis 14:5-7), this king didn’t come to their defense.
- When five nearby kings rebelled against Kedorlaomer and three other kings amid the tar pits in the Valley of Siddim (Genesis 14:8-10), this king didn’t step up to even the odds.
- And when Abram called up his trained men to chase down Kedorlaomer and rescue Lot (Genesis 14:14-16), this king still didn’t join the fray.
The next day, as Abram returned with Lot and all Lot’s people, the king of Salem finally came out from behind his city walls, carrying bread and wine (Genesis 14:18-20). This guy knew how to make peace: with food. He avoided all the conflicts and instead blessed Abram, praised God, and popped open a bottle of wine.
Melchizedek carried snacks
instead of swords.
You see, salem is a derivative of shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace.” And the city of Salem would eventually become Jerusalem. This king, who ruled the City of Peace, was Melchizedek, a priest-king of the Most High God. He prioritized peace in a time when every small city had its own king, and every other king (besides him) was trying to build an empire. Let’s call him Mel, for short.
A few decades after Jesus’ death, the author of Hebrews compared Melchizedek to Jesus. He explained that Mel wasn’t a priest according to the Law because the Law hadn’t been written, and Levi, the first priest, wasn’t even born yet. Mel kinda came out of nowhere (Hebrews 7:3), without a backstory or even a genealogy.
In the same way, Jesus serves as our high priest outside the Levitical law (Hebrews 4:14) and, although we know he has a backstory—the whole Old Testament—and a genealogy, he came out of nowhere, born in a backwoods town, surprising many.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. –Hebrews 5:8-10
One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. –Hebrews 7:16
We are children of God, with Jesus as our firstborn brother.
To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. –John 1:12-13
We make peace in our little
corner of the world.
Therefore we, too, inherit this moniker of peace-bringer or peacemaker. We come out of nowhere, like Mel, to serve our priestly functions (1 Peter 2:9) and to make peace in our little corner of the world. And if Mel really is our example, we will broker peace with a meal, not a mauling. We’ll make peace with snacks instead of swords.
Seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament: What does it take to be a peacemaker? Try carrying snacks instead of swords. That’s what Melchizedek did. My #peace is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Oh, I went down a rabbit hole in Hebrews while writing this, and now I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface…perhaps in a very confusing way. What do you think? Use the comments below to let me know what you’re thinking about our role as peacemakers and how that makes us children of God. I look forward to hearing from you.