The Upside-Down Blessing – Pt 7 – Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God – Matthew 5:9

Peace is a tricky thing to talk about, especially because the Bible is not always peaceful. We’ll start this article with the clear and easy kind of peace, then get into the challenging one.

Peace and Legacy

An interesting question to ask ourselves about our spirituality: What is the room like just after we leave? What has our presence done to the situation, the people, the place once we’re gone. This need not be a question about what people will think of us after we die, perhaps it can just be a simple: The people who met you yesterday… how did you leave them?

When they think back on their last interaction with you, will one of their top five thoughts be: “that one works for Jesus, I can just tell.” 

Did you leave peace in your wake?

If we listen to this simple Beatitude from Christ, then we learn that children of God do that… they leave peace in their wake.  Not the just the simple peace of two people no longer fighting, and surely not a false peace of “just for the sake of it” …  but a profound deeper peace that comes from forgiveness.  The peace that can only be found within the love of God.  The peace that passes all understanding.  God gives it to you, and you share it with others in Christ’s name. 

That moment of calm that comes within the prayer, or within the stressful situation. That heartbeat where you remember and realize that God is still in control, and is still with you. That eye in the hurricane of your life that God creates for you, as a gift… This is the peace that passes understanding. It’s how and why a Christian can be calm when everyone else is not. It’s how and why a Christian can have hope in a situation others seem hopeless.

Christians can share that with others, but it’s advanced Christianity. There’s a reason this is blessing number seven in the list:

  • Because you have discovered that God is there when you are running out of soul
  • Because you have brought your repentance to the Lord
  • Because you choose to forgive as Christ forgave
  • Because you are learning to desire good and righteous things
  • Because you use your power mercifully
  • Because your heart, after all this work, is beginning to show signs of purity

THEN – you begin to experience the peace of Christ, AND you can share that peace with others.

You can even share it without using many words (or even any), and without being successful in the ways and means of this world…  Let us show that we are children of God by leaving the peace of Christ in the places we have been, peace in the places we are, and in the hearts of those who meet us. 

And then people will know whose child you are.

That sounds all nice and everything but didn’t Jesus…

…violently turn the tables over in the temple (John 1:13-25), call the pharisees a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:33-34), tell people he was not bringing peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34-39)… and more?

Yep, he did. And no, that doesn’t negate anything said above.

So… how do those less-than-peaceful actions of Jesus bring about peace?

Well to be quite frank, in the short term, they don’t.

But in the long term… let’s take a look at them one at a time:

When Christ turned the tables in the sanctuary he was responding to the selling of alternate sacrifices and the changing of coin to the sanctuary currency which had turned a place of worship into a marketplace. These were barriers to God, hardships for the poor, and they were taking place in the portion of the temple reserved for Gentiles (so the Gentiles had no place to worship). With the moneychangers and market gone, the poor and the gentiles have clearer access to worship at the temple… they can have peace with God.

In the greater context of Matthew 12 Jesus challenges the Pharisee hypocrisy. They are speaking of good and Godly things, but Christ can see their heart, and their motivations are not good and Godly. Additionally, the specific people questioning Jesus here just witnessed a work of God (an exorcism) and chose to give credit to the devil instead of giving credit to the Lord. These kinds of leaders will lead good people astray. In speaking against them, and naming the troublesome issues on display, Christ helps chart a path away from and around these spiritually dangerous people. He also opens the door for those arguing with him to see their own hypocrisy (which would hopefully bring about a change). The way is opened, both for the people, and for the questioners to find peace with God.

In the Matthew 10 passage, the words are very strong. Christ is issuing a warning here that it’s possible for people who walk in the way of God to encounter conflict with family members who have different priorities and worldviews. This is a challenging passage to interpret, so all I can do is give you my opinion: I believe the lesson is, do not let your family members forbid you from following the Lord. It also contains an acknowledgement that ‘you may fight about this at the dinner table’. I do not believe that we are being told to ‘cancel’ our family members with whom we disagree, but rather to shift the relationship a bit. We still love them and to the best of our ability we will still support, obey them (in terms of parents), and provide for them, but family does not get to stop us from following God. That is the path of peace with God for the Christian and can set up a strong and loving example for the family to notice/learn-from in time (and it will probably take a lot of time).

In each of these instances the truth may have been unpleasant to hear, or to deliver, but still… peace with God is the goal.

So… Do I Get to Flip Tables and Cause a Ruckus like Jesus… you know… for the sake of Peace?

Um… mostly… no.

You and I live in a culture that is way, way, WAY too quick to flip the tables and drop truth bombs as we walk away. It’s probably a good rule for us in 2023 to consider that at least 50% of what we think are ‘table flipping’ moments really aren’t.

It’s also a good idea to check our motivations for ‘table flipping’ against Christ’s motivations:

  • When he challenged the temple market it was so that people could find peace with God
  • When he called out the hypocrisy of the pharisees it was so that people could find peace with God
  • When he warned us about potential family conflicts around faith it was so that you be encouraged to hold on to yours, and hopefully show your family what it looks like to find peace with God.

I truly believe that Christ wanted everyone at the table to find peace with God, even when he flipped the tables, called out hypocrisy, and warned us of persecution.

So, the next time we think we’re in a table-flipping moment, let’s check and make sure our motivations are the same as Christ’s

A true peacemaker works to bring everyone home.

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