Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Peace these days is usually interpreted in terms of either noise or warfare, and is usually characterized by the absence of one or the other, or both. When we have peace in the house, we attribute it to a lack of noise (from the kids or the neighbors), or a lack of warfare (between the kids, or between us and the neighbors). When we have peace in the nation, it means a lack of unrest or warfare.
The peace that is spoken of in this verse is more about warfare than noise. (As far as I can tell, heaven is actually a fairly noisy place, with thousands of angels and billions of redeemed souls all shouting the praises of God simultaneously. Not exactly a recipe for quiet!) Before we come to Jesus in repentance and surrender, we are in a state of war against God and against His ethical requirements. We are the center of our universes, and we are the bosses of ourselves (although we may allow God a say from time to time, as long as His will meshes with what we want to do!). Now, when we have that attitude with our parents or our teachers, it is a cause for concern, as it shows a rebellion against authority. But when we have that attitude against the God who made, and therefore owns and rules, the universe, it is a declaration of war against the rightful ruler of our lives.
The only way to get peace in this war is for each of us to lay down our lives, and give an unconditional surrender to the King of kings and Lord of lords; to admit and renounce our rebellion, and to pledge undying allegiance to our rightful Ruler and Lord. No half measures will do. We either totally surrender, or the war continues. And laying down conditions for our surrender will also cause us to remain at odds with God; because He is the absolute sovereign, and because He owns all things, He won’t allow us to set the terms for our capitulation.
But, if we will actually lay down our weapons through repentance, come out with our hands lifted high in acknowlegement of Who God is, and acknowledge God as our only King and Ruler, committing ourselves to follow Him completely all the rest of our lives, then and only then can we experience the peace of God that passes all understanding. (People who have never taken this radical step of complete surrender really can’t understand the peace that we who have can experience on a daily basis – it really is beyond all understanding and rational explanation!)
The next step in the process, though, is essential to lasting peace. We must help others find the same peace with God that we have, through the same process of repentance and surrender. When we actively engage in the process of winning people to the Kingdom of Heaven, we are engaged in the work of God on earth. The work of God here and now does not consist of building church buildings, or mowing the church grounds, or coming to worship services. (All of these are good things to do, but they are not the work of the kingdom!) The work of the kingdom is to GROW the kingdom the only way that it can be grown: by each of us becoming ministers of reconciliation, bringing more and more people into relationship with Jesus, and helping them to find the same peace that we ourselves found when we came to the Lord.
When we are engaged in this vital work of the Kingdom, then we will be acknowledged by God as His children. But, especially in the Hebrew language (which Matthew most likely thought in, even though his gospel has come down to us in Greek), the words “son of” means something like “resembling” or “having the character of”. (That is why Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “sons of snakes” (KJV “brood of vipers”). He was saying that they resembled or had the character of the serpent, satan, in the way that they conducted their business. It was NOT a compliment!) So when we become peacemakers, we are also “sons of God” in the sense that God gave His all to help reconcile people to Himself, all the way to sending His one and only Son to die on the cross. So, when we help people to be reconciled, even when it costs us in time, energy, money, and reputation, we not only keep the peace that we received from God, but we start to resemble the God we serve, and we become legitimate sons. And that’s a very good thing!