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Saint Augustine
Jesus and Pacifism - Blessed Are the Peacemakers
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Article Index
Jesus and Pacifism
Personal Non-retaliation, Not Pacifism
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Turn the Other Cheek
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword
Two Kingdoms - The Strong Man
Jesus and the Roman Centurion -- Conclusion
All Pages



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

The Greek word for peace, εἰρήνη,  is found in the New Testament 92 times, with a range of meaning that is both temporal and eternal. It can denote national calm, or the absence of war; security or prosperity; spiritual peace brought only by the Messiah; a personal divine peace given by the ministry of the Holy Spirit; divine blessings resulting from faithfulness and obedience; and finally eternal reward and rest in paradise.19 The New Testament conception of peace is firmly rooted in the Hebrew “Shalom,’ which is translated in the Septuagint20 more than 250 times by the Greek word for ‘peace’ (εἰρήνη). Shalom translates into English as “peace, prosperity, well, health, completeness, safety.”21 Shalom can mean the ‘absence of strife,’ but also has that divine quality of wholeness or completeness that is only characteristic of divinely given peace.22 Shalom is always the result of God‘s interaction with humankind through covenant. “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17).

What is a peacemaker (εἰρηνοποιοί)? The Reformer, John Calvin, defined peacemakers as “those who have an enthusiasm for peace.”23 He went on to write: “it is a matter of toil and trouble to pacify those who are at dispute…Christ bids us look to the judgment of the Father, for as He is the God of peace.”24

That person, who would make peace, is surely not pacifistic in the sense of eschewing all force. Making peace in a conflicted and turbulent world is not only a matter of living on principle but of initiating and enforcing peace with justice between disputing parties. A clear, but violent example of this is found in the book of Judges where the tribe of Benjamin is confronted, evil is restrained, and peace is restored (21:13).

Recent American military experience confirms that making peace between belligerents is as dangerous and violent for the peacemaker as engaging in all out combat. Peacemakers often are targeted by all sides in a dispute. Peacemakers bear the blame for each belligerent‘s dissatisfaction. Peacemakers sacrifice wellbeing and personal safety for the establishment of peace. The preferred role of a peacemaker, even a military peacemaker, is one who exercises both active and passive means of deterrence to resist violence. Peacemakers are frequently wounded or killed in the process of establishing peace. Peacemakers sometimes are called to violently confront and/or restrain violent people in order to bring about the end of conflict and to enforce the peace. A harsh reality of life is that the death of a few violent persons may permit the whole of society to regain peace. The role of the peacemaker brings a reality check to the modernist conception of establishing peace without the employment of force.

Defeating evil reestablishes peace. In spiritual warfare, the peacemaker seeks to defeat evil on all levels – against spiritual powers, as well as humanly inspired evil in interpersonal and communal relationships. Jesus, breaking the Sabbath regulation as he fights a spiritual battle, heals “a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all” (Lk 13:11, NASB). The Messiah treats her as a casualty of war, cures her affliction by the power of his word, then confronts the critical hypocrisy of the religious leaders present.25 The woman finally knows physical peace coming from her healing and presumably finds spiritual peace in her Healer-Redeemer. The Messiah demonstrates that the believer establishes peace by defeating evil.

The Apostle Paul, writing in Romans 13, discussed the divine establishment of governing authority. The entire import of that chapter is that government is instituted by God to regulate order in society, promote justice, and preserve the peace. The principle that government is instituted by God is reiterated twice in the first verse. This divinely sanctioned order has the power of the sword (13:4) for the prosecution of its work. The work of government is to establish justice and keep the peace. Peace and peacemaking in the temporal realm are given to the governing authority. The establishment of peace and peacemaking may be accomplished by pagans (the Apostle‘s governing authority is the pagan Roman government). God‘s prevenient grace is worked out through human government as that authority does the work of justice.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 18:17