Text: Matthew 5:1-12
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
There is no easy way to digest the events that unfolded in Charlottesville this past week, and the ripple effect it has on our society as a whole. One would like to think that pictures of such racism, bigotry, and hatred should be the material of history books, not images that fill up 21st century news headlines.
We are living in days of unprecedented national and international upheaval. These are volatile and uncertain times, where acute social discord is now the mainstream. And there doesn’t appear to be anything on the political radar offering hope or ushering reconciliation to our wounded nation. We have to ask ourselves what has created such madness. Who can we blame for all the rage? As we tune in, the vitriol beckons us to become part of the hostilities like a bird getting sucked into a jet engine (the end result is never pretty).
There is a reason why God commanded us to guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Your heart is the source of what you flesh out on a daily basis. King Solomon described the heart as the “wellspring of life.” If the well is bitter, bitterness will spring forth. If your heart is full of anger, you will inevitably become a conduit for hostility. Scripture reminds us “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Martin Luther King, Jr. cautioned his generation:
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
The madness can not only be demoralizing if we don’t guard our hearts, it can make toxic and vitriolic ambassadors of us all.
Yet in the midst of all this social mayhem, there ARE images of HOPE…
A Few Images of Hope
One image from Charlottesville captured my spirit. In the picture, you have two opposing groups in a heated exchange as one woman stands unwaveringly between them. She is wearing a big bright sign with the words: “Free Hugs.” This woman may or may not have thwarted measures of violence that day, but one thing is for certain: while others made a demonstration she made an impact.
There was a second image that gave me hope from Charlottesville. It was of one of the people who suffered the most on that fateful day of bloodshed. His message was one of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was the father of victim Heather Heyer—she was killed when a man callously drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“People need to stop hating and they need to forgive each other. I include myself in that in forgiving the guy who did this. I just think of what the Lord said on the cross. ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,’” Mark Heyer said.
Heyer said he hopes his daughter’s death will encourage others to try to make a difference in the world.
“Everybody has a circle of influence, no matter how small it is. Affect those people around you positively. Give them a cup of coffee, buy them a sandwich, tell them a joke, give them a smile, bring them joy into their life. You don’t have to do the masses, do the people you deal with,” he said.
Similarly, following terror attacks in Barcelona, Christians in Spain made a societal appeal for unity in prayer as an antidote to hatred: “The risk is that pain and despair drag us to hold values similar to those that inspired this barbarism, however we believe that it is the moment to bet on the values of the gospel… The gospel shows us that the only way in which evil is overcome is not with more evil, but with good.”
These images from Charlottesville and Barcelona remind me of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when he taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (notice He didn’t say they shall be called Democrats or Republicans!). The Greek word translated “peacemaker” is used in only one other place in the New Testament, in a slightly different form. Colossians 1:20 says, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
God is Calling Leaders of Reconciliation
What may masquerade as worldly peace is merely a momentary restraining order on the chaos (John 14:27)—a temporary band-aid. Yet Jesus shows us the way of real and lasting peace (Romans 5:1). The Son of God laid down His life to tear down the wall of hostility between God and sinners, and by carrying this message of peace to others we are not only called “peacemakers,” we are referred to by Jesus as “the children of God.”
God delights in those who reconcile others to Himself—those who bring the gospel are called “beautiful” (Isaiah 52:7). God has given His children the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Those who flesh out this reconciliation in a broken world are carrying on the redeeming work of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
By heeding the counsel of Ms. Meyer’s father and those believers in Spain, we can make a difference in our world—one relationship at a time, one act of kindness at a time, one word of gentleness at a time. We can have our interactions seasoned with grace as opposed to being poisoned by the venom of hate, anger, malice, and vengeance.
Perhaps a simple and practical place to start this week is to find someone who is different from you and offer them a gracious hug.
Think about that as you seek to abide in His reconciliation this week.
Heavenly Father, our world seems like it is falling apart at times. Remind us that YOU are still sovereign and grace us with your presence to be peacemakers in times of upheaval. Holy Spirit, teach us to guard our hearts so that we don’t get caught up in the divisiveness, but truly serve as ministers of reconciliation. This isn’t easy given the climate we live in, so we lean into your wisdom and mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
From Charlottesville to Spain, I see images of HOPE that evil will be overcome with good. Tweet this
Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:
- When have you lacked peace in your life? When have you experienced peace the most?
- Would you say that the work of “peacemaking” is easy or complicated? What makes it so?
- Would you say that forgiveness is correlated with how we experience peace? Why or why not?
- Have you allowed cultural hostilities, sociopolitical stereotypes, or racial prejudices to fuel anger and malice in your heart toward other human beings (regardless of contrary views/beliefs)? Have you failed to guard your heart in this matter? Have you failed to see them as people for whom Jesus died?
- Is there a sin you need to confess as it pertains to malice and bitterness?
- BONUS: Following the example of Mark Heyer, how can you be a part of the solution rather than the problem? Politics aside, how do you treat, respect, and speak to people who espouse to different views than you? This is a true reflection of how we genuinely “love our neighbor.” It’s too easy to dehumanize a person who is different from us as “the enemy” rather than a human being who may need a medicinal hug—and a long-term prescription of the “ministry of reconciliation.”
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