It's no secret that we live in divisive times. Division cuts across the fabric of many communities, churches, and even families. And quite often, we undermine any attempts at peace because while we want harmony, we also want others to understand and accept our opinions and perspectives.
One of Jesus' Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).
You can hear the Sermon on the Mount in this clip from the JESUS film:
When someone in the first century was called a child of someone else, they shared the same values and priorities. When Jesus says that peacemakers will be called children of God, He means that their behavior will clue people in that they’re members of God’s family.
What is peacemaking?
When it comes to peacemaking, it's critical to get the topic right. Jesus Himself said:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
"a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household" (Matthew 10:34–36).
So how do we reconcile the call to be peacemakers with the reality that Jesus' very message causes division?
First of all, we must recognize that the division Jesus brings is a chosen response to Him. The Lord doesn't create conflict, but humanity's sinful posture often responds to Jesus in ways that increase tensions and cause further division.
This is important to understand because peacemaking isn't about doing anything to end conflict. If we do that, we'll inevitably make unhealthy compromises. That's why Jesus warns us, "Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets" (Luke 6:26). Peace at any cost isn't the goal, so what is?
When we talk about making peace, we're talking about reconciliation. We're talking about doing whatever is in our power to build bridges and create opportunities for relationships to be mended and strengthened.
Here are five tips that make peacemaking possible.
1. Take responsibility for reconciliation
Being a peacemaker doesn't just mean that you're doing the work necessary to maintain your relationships. It also means that you're willing to do what you can to improve other folks' relationships, too.
Suppose you have two friends who are having a difficult time. There's often a temptation to avoid the issue to stay above the fray or to choose sides. But a wise peacemaker looks for opportunities to mediate healthy interaction and create opportunities for peace.
2. Avoid sweeping generalizations about others
One of the problems Jesus addressed was the tendency of His day's religious authorities to treat people as stereotypes. All Samaritans were terrible. All tax collectors were unforgivable sinners. All Romans were oppressive.
The kingdom of God diminishes the false little stories we tell about other people groups. Paul tells us as much when he shares how the cross addressed the chasm existing between the Jews and Gentiles:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:14–16).
As children of God, it's our responsibility to destroy barriers and walls of hostility, not add to them. And one way we do that is by not buying into representations of others that solidify those divisions.
3. Cultivate a gentle spirit
It might be surprising to discover, but "nice" isn't necessarily the goal of a peacemaker. As we see with Jesus, sometimes peacemaking entails saying difficult things that others don't want to hear. So if we choose what we say based on a call to be nice, we'll often avoid hard but essential conversations. "Nice" tends to circumvent the hard work of bridge building.
Gentleness, on the other hand, addresses the way we wade into difficult situations. It's a trait that helps breed peace and calm in the midst of high-stakes discussion. It's a clear-headed way of dealing with others that creates safe spaces to address difficult topics.
4. Be patient with others (and yourself)
Paul tells the Ephesians to "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). Patience is so critical because it gives us the stamina to work through the typical process of making peace.
There isn't always a quick fix to relational brokenness. Sometimes you have to work through difficult stuff and it feels like you're going backward before you make any real progress. Patience flows from our faith and hope that you're doing real kingdom work in reconciliation, and the outcome will be worth the effort.
5. Don't vent about others
Being a peacemaker is about consistency of character. People need to be able to trust you and your motives. When you vent about difficult people and situations, people doubt your sincerity and don't feel that they can be open with you. So as peacemakers, it's very important that we avoid gossip and complaining about others.
Venting about others also impacts our attitude. When we indulge our negative feelings about individuals or situations, it helps solidify those feelings in our mind. Peacemakers place a premium on reconciliation, so they don't want to expect the worst of others. They don't want to be cynical or pessimistic about creating positive momentum.
Get more resources
Jesus tells us that peacemakers will be recognized as children of God. If you're looking for more information to help you grow in this area, check out the following articles.
- 30 Bible Verses about Peace
What does the Bible say about peace? Understanding this topic can help us become better peacemakers.
- What Are the Beatitudes?
"Blessed are the peacemakers" comes straight from Jesus. Find out more about this portion of the Sermon on the Mount and discover why they’re called "beatitudes.
- 3 Tips for Reconciling Broken Relationships
Peacemaking is about healing relationships. If you need some help fixing some troubled relationships in your life, check out these tips.