If there’s one idea that is missing a lot from the current national discourse, it’s the idea of what peace can look like in the midst of all the turmoil and anger that is the currency of our emotional economy these days. Jarod and I wanted to talk some about what real peace looks like–not simply a lack of conflict, or not what happens when some group asserts itself as the new dominant force above others, but actual peace. And the answer, as always, lies in the words of Scripture:
Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 CSB
Now you may say, “What does this have to do with peace?” And truth be told there are dozens, even hundreds of verses I could have quoted that underline what a biblical view of peace is from different angles. But this one is particularly at the forefront of my mind right now because, for all reasons, it just happens to be trending on Twitter, and it’s getting the expected response on there. When you have a bunch of people whose righteousness is rooted not in the work of Christ for unworthy people who He gives Himself for willingly, but rather is rooted in their own correct thought and speech (at least, correct for the moment), then it should be no surprise that a command from Scripture towards an attitude of love, forgiveness and generosity that is itself pointed back to the work of Christ is angering to them.
But as Christians who do believe that, Jarod and I want to take the time to point to Christ as the only real, lasting, meaningful foundation of peace. We want to love our neighbors well. We want to see the sin in our own lives put to death. And we want to hold our own hearts up against this standard, not the standard of the world. Take a listen to this conversation, and let us know through email or in the comments below: how do you wrestle with this idea? What does it look like for you to put the desires of the flesh to death and to live in obedience to commands like the one above?
…[Y]ou will observe that the text not only says he is blessed; but it adds, that he is one of the children of God. This he is by adoption and grace; but peacemaking is a sweet evidence of the work of the peaceful Spirit within. As the child of God, moreover, he hath a likeness to his Father who is in heaven. God is peaceful, longsuffering, and tender, full of lovingkindness, pity, and compassion. So is this peacemaker. Being like to God, he beareth his Father’s image. Thus doth he testify to men that he is one of God’s children. As one of God’s children, the peacemaker hath access to his Father. He goeth to him with confidence, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven,” which he dare not say unless he could plead with a clear conscience, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”–Charles Spurgeon
I started this series back in February because I wanted to explore this particularly famous passage in Matthew, and in the aftermath of reading R.C. Sproul’s “The Holiness of God.” All that finally wraps up in this last episode of the Beatitudes series, and as I’ve gone through it (admittedly, very slowly), God has certainly been at work in my own life. He has been constantly sanctifying me and blessing me in ways that have led me here and to this last sermon, and how the words our good brother preached so many years ago apply to us today, as we seek to unpack the Scriptures.
But first, a bit of background
The last sermon on the previous verse was sermon number 3158. This sermon was number 424. That is a pretty big jump back, but it’s made necessary by the fact that Charles didn’t preach through whole books in general, at least not for his recorded sermons as I’m going through them here. But while this sermon was given by a much younger man than the preceding one, a man who had been through much less suffering and experienced a lot less of life than the one who delivered the sermon on the blessings for the merciful, the truth he preached did not change.
All of Scripture should press on our hearts as Christians. It may be in different ways, since while God’s truth is constant our lives are not, and the work of the Holy Spirit continues. I mentioned that this passage felt very important to me in the aftermath of reading “Holiness of God,” and it continues to. The truth is that in the West, and especially in the US, for a lot of people you become a Christian by saying a certain prayer…and that’s it. That’s the end of worrying about your relationship with God, and so many people do that with the belief that once they’ve said the magic words, it’s all good and they can go on back to life as it was.
Dissatisfaction in a lifeless walk
God’s mercy to me, thankfully, was that He did not let me roam through life believing that I could conjure and control Him through words, but to show me the same things we’ve seen as we’ve passed through this passage of Scripture together: He showed me that I had nothing that was not from Him and did not point to His glory, and that by contrast He was my immensely generous and loving Father. He showed me that my debt was likewise immense, and my guilt deep, and I felt the weight of them. I mourned the many, many ways I had sinned against God, the ways I had harmed others, the ways I had taken the good things He had given me and abused them for my own selfish desires.
When faced with that, when God opened my eyes to the reality of who I was–not who I wanted to imagine I was–there wasn’t room for anything else but to be on my knees. At the same time though, God began the process of transforming me, granting me a renewed heart and, step by step, changing my desires and tastes. The hunger for righteousness in the face of my great lack of it has been strong.
And I felt convicted to reexamine a lot of my ways of thinking and talking from over the years. I had been unkind to a lot of people. I had prioritized being the smartest, being the rightest, the most prepared adversary and the most talented man in the room. The result was that I was very unmerciful in a lot of ways, in the ways I thought of others and spoke to others. I certainly was not pure of heart, either in the ways I spent a lot of my private time or in the motivations I had for much of life. I certainly didn’t value peacefulness except insofar as it served to keep my life comfortable.
So when God broke my heart over my sins, He didn’t just leave me on the ground and say “Clean yourself up.” With that realization of my poverty came the truth that He has made me an heir to His kingdom–not because of anything I had ever done, certainly not! If anything it was in spite of everything I had ever done. It was pure love that led me to love in turn, and that has allowed me to love in ways I never could before. It is mercy shown that lets mercy show through me, as I remember the debt of grace I owe to my fellow man.
And so, I value peacemaking and peacefulness in a way that is rooted in the fact that God first made peace with me, by the blood of Jesus on the cross. I am not looking for some sort of humanistic “lack of conflict” peace, because such a peace is never really peaceful. What I desire is a true peace, under the rule of the true King. A peace where mercy has triumphed over judgment, with liberty for the captives and freedom for the oppressed. That is not something that will be known on earth apart from the name of Christ.
From peacemaker to persecuted
But the man who would see such a peace must also be willing to endure the persecution and hatred of the world. I’m not talking about the kind of “persecution” that gets Christians in America in a tizzy, but the real kind that involves suffering, loss, and worse. It’s the kind that will require us as believers to make hard choices between comfort and faithfulness. But my brothers and sisters…my faith rests in Christ for that day. My faith is in God, who has proven over and over again that He is faithful, that He will prove in the darkness what He has in the light.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” -Matthew 5:9 This is the seventh of the beatitudes: and seven was the number of perfection among the Hebrews. It may be that the Saviour placed the peacemaker the seventh upon the list because he most nearly approaches the perfect man in…
I wanted to remind again about the ongoing Morning and Evening podcast devotional every day at Theology Mix, which you can subscribe to through any podcast catcher. It was also a good opportunity though, with this particular episode, to remind about the ongoing series here as well. God willing, tomorrow will see part 2 of the Beatitudes series posted with sermon 3156, “The First Beatitude.” Come back tomorrow and listen, download and share!
“Though we are nothing, Christ is All. All that we need to begin with we must find in Him, just as surely as we must look for our ultimate perfecting to the same Source!”–Charles Spurgeon, “The First Beatitude”