“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”Matthew 5:9
Are you a peacekeeper or a peacemaker? There is a massive difference between the two. A peacekeeper typically avoids conflict and works to maintain the status quo during a time of relative peace. A peacemaker is one who dives into the confrontation and seeks to bring about peace in an already divisive and contentious environment. To be a peacekeeper is more passive, while a peacemaker must take initiative and be active in the midst of strife in order to calm the storm. A peacekeeper requires relatively little energy, while a peacemaker must exert physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in order to bring about peace in the midst of conflict.
In our current state in America, you can likely classify people into three categories: peacebreakers, peacekeepers, and peacemakers. Peacebreakers are pretty easy to spot and are constantly around us stirring up strife and stoking division. One could say our national news media is a prime example of this as much of the coverage that you see on the nightly news is designed for emotional reactivity rather than thoughtful contemplation of current events. You have indoctrination from various sides of the political spectrum, but none of it is designed to build a sense of community. They speak of wanting “peace”, but I fear that that is a word that they do not fully understand.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in the gospel of John as Jesus says:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful.John 14:27
But what is this word “peace” that Jesus uses and what does it mean? The Greek word used is eirene which simply means “the absence or end of strife.” But the word for “peacemaker” is slightly different and injects a new thought of peace as an internal state of existence. The word eirenopoios is best defined as one who makes peace in others having first received the peace of God in his own heart, not simply making peace between two parties. Now we have a clearer understanding of what Jesus meant when he said “not as the world gives, do I give to you.”
The world’s version of peace is primarily external in terms of a lack of strife or conflict between two warring parties. It would say that two neighbors who settle differences over the placement of a fence yet refuse to speak to one another in the light of day were “at peace.” It would say that two countries that aren’t actively engaged in armed conflict are at peace, even if that peace were tenuous at best. Some would say that World War II ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947. I would submit that these treaties were just the beginning of more smaller wars that have been ongoing ever since.
For over 40 years after World War II, we lived in a state of “Cold War” between the United States and the former Soviet Union which played itself out in armed conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. As Israel was established as an autonomous country, it has come under constant attack ever since because of the animosity of its surrounding neighbors towards the Jewish nation who have finally reclaimed the Promised Land of their heritage from Abraham. For over 40 years the Eastern bloc of Europe was hidden behind the Iron Curtain of the Berlin Wall, and any who tried to escape over it were often shot on sight by the guards seeking to keep them in. The ending of the World War II arguably was not the peace we hoped for even if the armed conflict had been mostly eliminated.
But the kind of peace Jesus refers to is an internal peace in the heart of each individual person, that manifests itself in loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is a peace that seeks to actively embrace one another in spite of our differences instead of avoiding one another because of our differences of opinion. It is a peace that is designed to be contagious and spread through human touch from heart to beating heart.
It has been said that peacemakers are bridge builders spanning the chasm between opposing sides divided by a gulf of uncertainty. In order for real peace to exist between opposing parties, it must first begin in the hearts of the individuals. And more often than not, it requires another to step in and share the peace that is in their own hearts with the opposing factions. Sometimes simply offering peace into the heart of one of the two parties is enough to spread peace to all parties in the conflict.
So I must modify my earlier question just slightly and ask it again: are you a peacebreaker, a peacekeeper, or a peacemaker? If you are a peacebreaker, I pray that God’s peace finds its way into your heart and that you seek to make peace with your neighbors instead of resorting to conflict, strife, or violence. If you are peacekeeper, I urge you to rethink that strategy and seek to cross the lines of division and embrace your neighbor in a spirit of real peace before the bitterness and resentment take root and build a wall around you. Eventually, as a peacekeeper you could even get caught in the crossfire of conflict between others.
However, if you are indeed a peacemaker who has found the peace of God in your own heart, then I pray that you have the strength to endure the fight to bring peace to those around you. It is often a harder battle to fight in order to breach the stone walls of a closed heart. But once you get that first chink in the armor, the rest of the wall is sure to eventually come crashing down allowing the other heart to beat anew with the same peace that lives in you.