Summary: Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and as the world becomes more argumentative and violent, there is a greater need for peacemakers than ever before. But what exactly is a peacemaker, who can become one, and what can we do to help bring about peace? Jesus said that the peacemakers shall be called the children of God, but why? This article seeks to answer these questions.
Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gave a lengthy sermon on the side of a mountain to gathering of his disciples, and one of the things he told them was “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
It’s been said that the twentieth century was the bloodiest century in human history, and it’s been prophesied that as the time grows closer for the second coming of Christ, the world will become a more argumentative and violent place. If ever there was a need for peacemakers, this is certainly the time. But exactly what kind of peacemaker was Jesus referring to, why are they blessed for doing that and why are they to be known as the children of God?
When there is armed conflict in the world, the United Nations seeks to resolve the fighting, and one way they do this is by sending in “peacekeepers” whose job it is to act as a military buffer between the warring factions. There is another organization called the Peace Corp who send volunteers into countries that are living in squalid conditions and provide the people there with whatever aid and supplies that will help improve their lives. Is this what Jesus was referring to when he talked about the need for people to be peacemakers?
Another way people seek to help bring about peace is by eliminating conflicts between countries through diplomatic negotiations. These are carried out by career government officials who have spent years learning the customs of different countries and how they think and behave and then using that knowledge to help reconcile differences. They could easily be classified as peacemakers.
One of the most common areas for contention is between husbands and wives and so there are people who serve as marriage counselors to help resolve differences between couples. These people would certainly be considered as peacemakers, and there are many other similar kinds of professions where people seek to help resolve conflicts that arise in many other different situations where they seek to bring about a peaceful solution.
These are important ways to bring about peace in society, but such people are highly trained individuals and do a work that most people are not qualified to perform. They can accurately be called peacemakers, but does that make them children of God? And if not, why not?
The people Jesus was talking to when he made this statement were ordinary people who had little, if any, formal education. These people weren’t from the upper class of society who lived among the noble and wealthy. Then why did Jesus tell such common people that if they were peacemakers they would be blessed and be called the children of God?
This statement of Jesus was one of several he made in this particular sermon that we’ve come to call the Beatitudes. What he tried to explain to them was what kind of a person they should strive to become, but in order for that to happen, he taught them the different kinds of attitudes they needed to develop. Therefore, we can call them the Be-attitudes, and one of those attitudes was to be a peacemaker, but how are we to do that?
As we study what Jesus further said in this sermon, we find the answer to that question.
He said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11). One of the biggest problems that develops when people are engaged in a discussion with others is that they have this compulsion to prove that their position is right, which requires them to prove that the other person’s position is wrong. However, this kind of attitude automatically sets up a confrontational and adversarial situation which often leads to arguments and contention which is the antithesis and destroyer of peace.
Jesus went on to expound on this point when he said “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the utmost farthing” (verses 25,26).
When our goal is to make someone agree with us, all that does is makes the other person want to defend their position all the more. On the other hand, people very rarely get upset when others agree with their position, therefore the best way to bring about peace is to prevent a conversation from escalating into an argument, and the best way to do that is to focus more on the things we agree upon rather than continuing to emphasize our differences.
Of course, there are going to be things people believe that we just cannot agree with. In that case, we should pleasantly agree to disagree and then let the discussion on that subject end. But if the other person continues pressing their point in an effort to force an agreement with them, the best thing to say is “I see your point and I can understand why you feel that way,” then try to redirect the conversation because you cannot change someone’s mind who is firmly convinced that what they believe is right.
It’s when people fail to understand this basic fact of human nature, that they continue to press their attack in the vain hope that they can somehow get the other person to admit they were wrong. But what almost always happens is that the greater the attack, the more the other person tries to defend their position.
And that’s because people don’t like to admit they’re wrong, therefore, the more pressure that is brought to bear to force an agreement, the more tension is created until at some point a spark of anger is ignited which can turn what once was a friendly discussion into a full-blown argument where tempers flare. When that happens, peace becomes the first casualty, and once it’s been shattered it’s hard to restore it.
But notice what else Jesus taught about agreeing with our adversary. The reason he gave for doing this is so that we won’t be delivered “to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the utmost farthing.”
All of us will someday stand before the judgment bar of Christ on the last day and have to answer for our behavior. When we allow ourselves to become contentious, we’ll be judged for following the will of the devil who is the father of contention rather than following the Prince of Peace.
It’s true we can be forgiven of our sins and not have to suffer for them, but that can only happen upon the condition of repentance. The Lord has been clear on this, saying that those who do not repent must suffer even as he has (D&C 19:17). If we have destroyed peace by the things we’ve said to others, then repentance is the means by which we need to reestablish peace with those towards whom we have been angry.
This principle is especially important to remember “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (verse 11) As wickedness increases in the world, anger against those who believe in Christ will increase. How we respond to personal attacks on us can affect whether the other person’s anger remains low or whether we help it to increase.
Jesus taught that the way to be a peacemaker in a situation like this is to resist giving an eye for an eye, but to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (verses 44,45).
God loves all of us, as evidenced by how he provides sunshine and rain for the benefit of both “the evil and the good.” Therefore, if we want to be known as “the children of your Father which is in heaven” then we need to love others the way God does. As Jesus went on to explain, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (verse 20).
The way we become “children of God” is when we behave like God, because if our level of righteousness is no different than that of the world, we will not enter into heaven. This is why Jesus taught us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” because it is by becoming righteous that we will have all other things added to us (Matthew 6:33,34).
Jesus went on to say “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15). We all do things we regret and when we forgive others for their mistakes and faults it makes them feel better about themselves and us, which helps promote peace between us and them.
On the other hand, holding grudges is a form of hate which breeds distrust and destroys any attempt to promote peace. Even when someone asks for forgiveness, a grudge acts as a barrier to peaceful reconciliation. But the real danger with refusing to forgive others is that God is slow to forgive us when we offend him.
All of us commit sin in one way or another every day and often multiple times a day, and all of us want God to be merciful and forgive us when that happens. But when we refuse to forgive others their faults, God is not inclined to forgive us of our faults, and when that happens, neither the person who has offended us, nor we ourselves can find peace.
Closely associated with this is the counsel to “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1,2). We all make judgments about people every day because if we didn’t we couldn’t function as a society, but the kind of judgment Jesus is taking about is when we find fault with others.
The Book of Mormon teaches, “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged” (Moroni 7:18). There is a righteous way to judge people, and there is an unrighteous way. Jesus taught to “Judge not according to the appearance but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24). To judge according to appearance means to judge people according to what we see, but in nearly all cases, what we see tells us very little about them.
Judging people without knowing all the facts, is like trying to bake a cake without having the full recipe. When we judge people only by what we can perceive through our senses, it’s easy to misjudge them because we don’t know what problems they may be struggling with that’s affecting the way they behave. No one will dispute that it’s unfair and not right to misjudge someone, but when we do, that’s when we are judging people unrighteously.
On the other hand, a righteous judgment is one in which we give people the benefit of the doubt, where we show patience with their perceived faults, and where we treat them with mercy and kindness. When we do that then we are following another teaching of Jesus which is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:38).
When people do things they know are wrong, most of the time they find reasons to justify their bad behavior. We call this making excuses. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, instead of criticizing them, we look for reasons to explain their behavior, just like we do with ourselves. That doesn’t mean we condone what they do but we judge their actions according to the righteous principles of love and mercy. In this way, we make a friend, and friends are at peace with one another.
This is why Jesus told us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we develop the attitude of being a peacemaker, it becomes obvious to those around us, and just like light dispels darkness, our very presence as a peacemaker helps dispels contention, bitterness, conflict, and anger.
In his sermon on the mount Jesus taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (verse 48). Jesus lived a perfect life and taught us how to do that. It’s when we strive to love others as Christ loves us that we become closer to being like him and our Father in heaven, and the more our attitude becomes like theirs, the easier it is for us to be at peace with others, even when they may not be at peace with us.
But the best way to be a peacemaker is to help bring people to the Prince of Peace because as they come to accept Christ into their life, then they too begin to adopt the be-attitudes that Christ taught, and it’s when people live by those principles that we come closer to having true world peace.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of Spiritual Growth