‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’
17th February 2022
‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’.
HOM: Listening with empathy and understanding
In recent weeks I have been exploring ideas of peace, conflict and justice with the Shell and UTs as a part of their GCSE religious studies course. One thing that has become abundantly clear in our discussions, is the clear link of justice with peace. Without justice in society, there can be no peace and it will likely result in conflict. Peacemakers are not those who simply avoid conflict but those who actively engage in the pursuit of justice. In the words of Martin Luther King, ‘Peace is not simply the absence of conflict but the existence of justice for all people’.
In Greek the word for peace is eirene, and in Hebrew it is shalom. Shalom never means only the absence of trouble but means ‘everything which makes for a man’s highest good’. And so in the Bible peace means not only freedom from all conflict but enjoyment of all that is good. The beatitude also makes it clear that it is the peacemakers who are blessed and not merely peace-lovers. This is not a blessing on those who like the quiet life or who evade the issues to avoid conflict, but a beatitude that requires active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle. Jesus saw this as God-like work, establishing good relationships between people and it also involves dealing with our inner conflicts which can be the root to many external conflicts.
This week begins the Christian season of Lent. It is the season prior to Easter that encourages Christians to reflect on their lives, both inner and outer, and to consider whether they reflect the values of God’s Kingdom. Such values are very much those which we have been exploring in the Beatitudes over the past few weeks. Lent is a time of retelling the story of when Jesus spent time in the wilderness before he began his ministry, facing up to the personal temptations of material riches, earthly power and status. The time in the wilderness was a time of personal re-orientation towards values of eternal significance. Such values prioritise justice and peace-making rather than the seeking after personal influence and significance.
One Lenten exercise on reflection is to look into the palm of our hands as if into a mirror and consider what we see. What are our inner motives and our outer actions? In what ways can we be the peace-makers our families, school, communities and that our world needs?