Meet the Makarioi (Dispensers of Grace)

Peacemakers continued

Peace has and shall continue to be elusive because humans keep on negotiating from strength. The man with the big stick is no longer a threat to the small man with a nuclear weapon. It does not matter how many long-range missiles one nation has. It matters how many lives it cares to lose. We are playing a game that no one can win because we may not be around to enjoy some victories. The rhetoric of superiority is not only harmful, but it is also senseless. It no longer intimidates those that dislike us but insults them. Our diplomats, politicians and world leaders keep adding oil to a fire when they should be extinguishing it. Curbing the provocative language alone would open doors to more acceptable ways to peace. Benjamin Franklin, the first diplomat of the USA, lived through such a time and concluded, “He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows, nor judge all he sees” (Do. 184). James, the half-brother of Jesus, appears to have influenced Benjamin, “If anyone thinks he is wise and does not control his tongue, he fools himself and ruins his own reputation (James 1:26). He also was familiar with Jesus’ warning. “Why do you look for a speck in your brother’s eye when a log blocks your own sight? How can you tell your bother, ‘let me take out the speck’ when your own log disables you from removing the speck? You prove yourself dishonest by trying to correct your brother, when first you should correct your much larger fault” (Matthew 7:3-5). Using fault finding to reach an understanding is like feeding what is sacred to dogs or throwing pearls to swine. It insults the other party and the stronger one turns and tramples on the weaker one (Matthew 7:6).

Peace is priceless because it saves lives. I come from a part of the world where we gave up everything just to stay alive and we were grateful that we were let go. The part of Poland where I was born along with my father and grandfather was given to the Russians in World War II. East Prussia and one third of Germany was given to the Poles for compensation. The allies considered that to be a fair peace settlement with Germany. Is it any surprise that these people that lost their breadbasket to Poland are living with hate? On our return trip to Germany after forty years, we saw some despicable signs accusing Roosevelt of selling out Germany to Stalin. The solution turned out more heinous than the Nazi atrocity. Yes, we are reminded that they killed six million, actually they liquidated twelve millions, but the allies hushed up seventy millions by the Soviets alone. How many did actually die. In my immediate family, four lost their lives and they were not counted. This type of peacemaking only fuels revenge. It is not the “makarioi” way.

The Jesus’ way was not the sword. Man has turned the cross into the sword. Jesus told Peter who used the sword to defend his Teacher, “Holster your sword, for he who uses the sword will die by it” (Matthew 26:52). According to John, all were apprehended only Jesus asked for their release. “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for me, then let these men go” (John 18:8). Jesus did not let the arrest become a fatal encounter. Jesus employed common sense. “While you are on the way to the court with your accuser, reach an agreement before he turns you over to the judge, who has to option to sentence you to forced labor until you pay your debt in full” (Luke 12:57-59). “A sensible king will not pick a fight with a stronger king before he takes serious inventory of his resources and the cost involved. He will send peacemakers to the other king and ask for terms before they engage in a war” (Luke 14:31-32). Persistence in seeking help with little demands is an admirable approach to getting what one needs. Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman over her daughter is an example for obtaining peace. Jesus deliberately delayed helping her until her had fully disclosed her “makaria” attitude. She was not seeking the bread the children needed, but only the crumbs they dropped for their doggies (Matthew 15:21-28). The demand for equal treatment is not an option, because wars do not end in draws. It is usually the stronger that has to be persuaded to be more merciful.

Peace offers no easy road and blessings come in small packages. Peacemaking between a victor and a victim is a godly gift of grace. It is the art of practicing mercy at the highest level humanly possible. There is no joy in sitting or even listening between two enemies boiling over with hate and the intent to kill. The world follows the present ruler of the world, Satan and he commands to kill the opponent. The Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ forgave his executioners because they did not know what they were doing. How can a peacemaker turn the sword into a cross as Jesus did? The “Cross” is the sign of death to hate, to violence and to death itself. Jesus was willing to die without the sword to bring peace between men and with God. If there is no peace between men, then there is no peace with God. That is why the peace of heaven has to become the peace on earth (Matthew 6:10). It is until man negotiates at the foot of the cross and bows under it, there never will be peace on earth. Man will continue to turn the cross into a sword and use Jesus to gratify his reasons (Matthew 10:34).

Peacemakers do not have great records and seldom the kind of peace Jesus had in mind. They can lead some to stop fighting but seldom to lasting peace. In my own experience as a pastor, people had to get a bloody nose before they realized that they too bleed and that it hurts before they were willing to sit down and at least talk. It is much easier to start a fight than to end one. Especially in our part of the world where people can speak their minds, fires of unrest are easily kindled. The little thing in our mouth called the tongue is a bigger threat than a bomb. James had this description, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boats. Consider how a great forest can be set on fire by a small spark? The tongue too is a small fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his/her life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6). Hell, for James was Satan’s seat and James believed that a peacemaker could mind the devil (James 4:7). Peacemaking begins in a person’s mouth and everyone can start the process. We must do what we sing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Peacemakers that have the “Peace of Christ” in their hearts longing to be with their Lord, but for the sake of the rest of us, Christ keeps them in this world to help us become peacemakers. Paul the Apostle uttered such a wish, “I struggle between heaven and earth. I long to leave this world and be with Christ, that would be better for me. Fore your sake, however, it is better that I remain in the flesh” (Philippians 1:23). It is while we are in the flesh, that we have the only time to seek peace and pursue it (I Peter 3:11). The question is, “Do we have enough common sense to realize that without peace we cannot be called children of God and that without being children of God we cannot have peace nor can we be peacemakers?” We desperately need help from heaven to become children of God. Praise to God, such help has come in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. He in person extended the invitation and endowed those that are willing to come with the ability to do so (John 1:12). He passed his peace on in person. “Pease I leave you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Again Jesus repeated the bestowal of peace, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive then, they are not forgiven'” (John 20:21-23).

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, merely repeated what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you (child of God) do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus gave the same instructions to those who go into the world to offer His or His Father’s forgiveness, “As you enter the home, ‘greet it with peace.’ If the home is worthy, let your peace rest on it’ if it is not, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:12-13). Jesus was not speaking to the world but to his disciples and to all of us who will represent his peace on earth and good will to mankind (John 17:20). Peace is Christ’s endowment to his follower and they alone can claim it and then share it with the world and what they share is forgiveness. All efforts of peacemaking must begin with forgiveness and end with being forgiven. It is when we forgive each other that peace passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Peacemaking is beyond understanding and is insurmountable. Jesus, Himself, could not achieve it. He ended up causing division and even violence (Luke 12:51; Matthew 10:32-42). The reason why peace remains elusive is because of a lack of fear that someone like God will hold man accountable. There has to be a certain amount of fear to drive us to seek reconciliation and restoration with each other. Jesus spoke of such a fear that will hasten peacemaking, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). I had come home from Seminary for a few days, and I found my father with packed suitcases sitting in the middle of the room telling me, after thirty years of marriage, that he could no longer live with this woman. I asked him one simple question, “What are you going to say to God?” In five minutes my parents had reconciled and stayed married for sixty-six year. My parents feared God and so do I. The fear of God is the fastest way to peace; but it must settle in our inner most being to affect our world. There is a Chinese Proverb that says it in brief, “If there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.  When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world” (Wa. 435). The makarioi dispense grace by making peace.