Peacekeeper or Peacemaker?
I sat on the carpeted floor of our rental home as my parents yelled accusations and indictments over my head. For hours, they screamed obscenities and spoke with cruel intention. I don’t remember how it started, but it ended at the sound of my own screams. This is my earliest childhood memory, and it’s brimming with conflict.
When you grow up in a vitriolic home, peace becomes an obsession. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the quickest path to peace came through silence, so that’s the posture I most often assumed. I thought peace meant the absence of conflict, but if that was true then why did I still feel so anxious?
Jesus talked a lot about what it means to be a citizen in the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 5, he begins painting a picture of what Kingdom-living looks like. He talks about things like anger, adultery, and divorce. Jesus asserts that Kingdom-living is more than just belief in God; it affects our relationships with others too. In verse 9 he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Children of God are known as peacemakers. The New Living Translation (NLT) says it like this, “Blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Oof! What does it mean to be a peacemaker? It means we work for peace.
I grew up being a peacekeeper, not a peacemaker. And even though the words are similar, the functions are quite distinct.
A peacekeeper is motivated by fear. A peacemaker is motivated by faith. Fear of conflict manifests when we hold the esteem of man over peace in community. But faith enables us to see the vision God has for his people, which is a Kingdom of unity and compassion.
A peacekeeper pursues the absence of conflict at all costs. A peacemaker pursues reconciliation at all costs. Peacekeepers will create an illusion of peace by avoiding conflict, but avoidance never results in reconciliation. Peacemakers aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the fight for restored relationships.
Isaiah 53 prophesies about what Jesus would come to do and how “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” He did not go to the cross as a man who chose silence over conflict. Jesus went to the cross as the willing and intentional Peacemaker. As children of God, we are called to willingly and intentionally reflect that which Jesus has modeled for us. We are the ones who work for peace.