Monday, March 27, 2006

The Peacemakers - Part 2

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

If I’m going to figure out what Jesus meant by the term peacemaker (assuming he intended “one who makes peace”), then I guess the place to start here is by trying to figure out what Jesus meant by the term which we translate “peace” in English.

My Scribner-Bantam English Dictionary defines peace this way, “1. freedom from or cessation of war; 2. friendly international relations; 3. any state of calm or tranquility; 4. public order”

Now we’ve got four slightly nuanced understandings for the same word. Did Jesus mean one of these? If so, which one? If not, what did he mean?

I mean did Jesus mean to say, “Blessed are those who make friendly international relations, for they will be called sons of God.”?

That seems a little silly and wide of the mark to me.

Because of the potential to misunderstand the actual intent behind the words, I’m not willing to just assume Jesus meant, “Blessed are those who make freedom from or cessation of war, for they will be called the sons of God” either.

If I’m going to get anywhere, I’ve got to go to the source. What is the Biblical understanding of the word peace? Throughout the Bible does the term peace simply refer to an absence of war, or does it mean something different?

And here’s where it may get interesting. A word search in my Bible software shows that the NIV translation of the Bible uses the word peace 250 times. The King James Version uses the word 429 times.

This is obviously going to take me some time. And then once I finally get an accurate understanding of the Biblical concept of peace, I’ve got another question to answer. Who actually are the sons of God? Because it is in that half of the statement that we see the blessing part of Jesus’ statement (i.e. the good stuff).

But right now I’ve got to go to work.



Dan Trabue said...

Some thoughts from someone who doesn't know much:

I think we can know some of what "peacemaker" doesn't mean based upon the life and actions of Jesus.

Given Jesus' actions in the temple (driving out the moneychangers) and towards the powers that be, it doesn't mean non-confrontative.

Given Jesus' statement, "I haven't come to bring peace, but a sword..." it seems that Jesus recognizes how divisive a message of "Peace" may be and the possible fate of those who'd follow him.

Given Jesus' fearless and bold nature, it doesn't mean milquetoast or weakling or passive.

Given Jesus' fairly clear teachings (Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, overcome evil with good, turn the other cheek, go the second mile, put away that sword, etc), it seems clear to many of us that it does not include killing your enemies.

There's a great quote from Gandhi where he said that it's pretty clear to everyone except Christians that Jesus was a pacifist.


Dan Trabue said...

You asked:
"Who actually are the sons of God?"

And I'm not sure if I understand the question: Isn't the passage saying that peacemakers are the children of God? Those who make peace/shalom?

Incidentally, I read where the Bible uses the word, Peace, it often from the word Shalom, which means:

The Hebrew word shalom includes such English ideas as peace, well-being, wholeness or health, welfare, prosperity, and safety.

Shalom involves positive relationships between peoples and persons.

Positive relationships within the community mean that the needs of all persons are met and there is material well-being, economic security, and prosperity for all.

All of that, as well as "the absence of war," according to a Presbyterian website.

For what it's worth.

Chris Cree said...

Good input!

I'm not ignoring you, Dan. Its just another busy day at work. And our small group meets tonight so please don't be offended if I'm not up for any heavy thinking at the moment.

But as far as my "sons of God" qustion, what I'm getting at is this: Is there anywhere else in the Bible where the term is used? (There are several.)

Then by looking at the other passages where the term is used, I figure we can learn additional insights into the character of the folks for whom the term applies. And then perhaps in turn by applying the additional insight into the character of the "sons of God" learned, we will also shed even more light on the peacemakers.

At least that's my theory. We'll see how it works out!

But first I plan to look at the term peace as used in the Bible.

Oh, and please don't be offended by my choice to use the Bible as my authority, not Gandhi (great man that he was) or even the Presbyterians for that matter (many of whom I consider good friends)...

Dan Trabue said...

"Oh, and please don't be offended by my choice to use the Bible as my authority"

No offense taken. It's my authority, as well.