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Sep 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 10, 2017 – Matthew 5:9

Islands of Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God Matthew 5:9

Intro: Early on in church history, an issue emerged that troubled theologians

There seemed to be two ways Christians were dedicat themselves to God
1. The contemplative life: for example, the theologian or monk
2. The active life: the missions, evangelism, ministry, hospitality, etc.
• almost every discussion was illustrated by two sisters:
◦ Martha (active) and Mary (contemplative) (Lk. 10:38-42)
• St. Augustine addressed this concern in the 4th century
(and Thomas Aquinas was still working on it in the 13th century)
◦ to this day, some people assume they refer to two different lifestyles
◦ but usually these people do not know much about contemplative spirituality
– there is only one way of being in God and it is both contemplative and active

St. Augustine observed, “Two virtues are set before the human soul, the one active, the other contemplative; the former shows the path, the latter shows the goal . . . .”

And through Isaiah, God said,
In returning and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength (Isa. 30:15)
. . . those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary
(Isa. 40:31)

• we silently wait on God and are refreshed in peace
• then, moving from there into the world, we promote peace
◦ if we listen to the Spirit and our bodies, we’ll know
◦ when it is time to return to God’s presence
◦ and when to return to our work in the world

The first book I wrote was on the Holy Spirit

It went for several hundred pages and was never published
– one editor did show interest, I was on to my next great book (that was also never published)
• something the editor said unlocked something in my mind
◦ in fact, it became a defining moment for me and for my ministry
◦ regarding the manuscript, she said, “I see this as a bridge-builder”
• I had not thought of it in those specific terms
◦ but it was exactly what I was attempting to do
◦ I wanted to provide a middle ground for Evangelicals and Charismatics
– this reminded me of something that happened a few years earlier
• during a week-long summer camp, we were randomly placed in small groups
◦ on the third day, the topic of speaking in tongues somehow came up
◦ the impression I got from the group was they found it disturbing and weird
• after some discussion, I volunteered, “I speak in tongues”
◦ previously, I had mostly contributed reflections on the Scriptures

After my admission, one a girl immediately responded, “I would have never guessed that you spoke in tongues. You had said anything about it until now, did not try to sell us on it or talk us into it. That’s how it ought to be! If it is important to people, they should keep it to themselves unless they are asked or the subject comes up naturally. Now that I know you speak in tongues, I feel like I can think about it more positively.”

◦ without trying, I had built a bridge
(not a very important one, perhaps, but a bridge nonetheless)

Development of bridge-building into a core value of ministry came gradually
– but now I see it as the heart of Jesus’ work in the world

A serious obstacle to bridge-building is difficult people

There is a sociological model that may help give us perspective on this




Radicals and Traditionalists tend to be held to their positions by emotion
– the extremists refuse to listen (respectfully) to anyone
• that is, except for other extremists
• they will not acknowledge the merits of opposing views
• they will also turn on their own for “fraternizing”
◦ this was the Pharisee’s criticism of Jesus (cf. Lk. 15:1-2)
Progressives and Conservatives tend to be held to their positions by reason
– moderates are able to listen to each other
• that is, to the degree that the other is rational, factual and civil
• moderates are also willing to listen to peacemakers (in the middle)

Peacemakers are attacked by extremists on both sides
– AND extremists tend to be more vocal than moderates
• their criticisms, accusations and ridicule can be brutal
• it can be so discouraging that many peacemakers give up
– Paul wrestled with extreme criticism in Corinth (see 2 Corinthians)
• but by turning his attention to God, Paul was able to not lose heart

One day last month I was meditating on a passage in Ephesians
– I thought how nice it would be if Christians posing as apologists were exposed
• in their defense of the faith, their lack of love betrays the faith
• some of them mask personality disorders with their supposed piety
◦ in those cases, they are expert in deviousness and deficient in conscience and empathy
◦ if you draw their attention, they will publically attack
– I would like everyone to see them for what they really are — troublemakers
• but in the passage that spoke to me, the message was clear
◦ Jesus died to build bridges, not barriers
• peacemakers become targets for hateful people
◦ that is simply how it goes – get a helmet

Another serious obstacle is the fact of barriers

A boundary line or wall is most obvious marker of identification
– walls enable groups to distinguish us from them 
• we use them to identify what belongs to us (property, etc.) and what does not
• many churches publish “doctrinal statements”
◦ this allows visitors to instantly recognize whether or not they belong
◦ in fact, many people read them and decide they do not belong
(even if they do not understand everything in a doctrinal statement)

Donald McGavran made a classic statement regarding evangelism. He indicated that people are more likely to come to faith if they can do so “without crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers.”

– he argued that what holds many people back are not the basics of the faith,
• but the add-ons
• we need to be clear on what is negotiable and what is not
◦ for example, norms that are purely traditional or cultural are usually negotiable

In his poem, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost describes repairing a shared wall with his neighbor
– they came to a place where no wall was needed
• so he asked his neighbor why should they build a wall here?
◦ the only response his neighbor would give was, “Good fences make good neighbors”
◦ Frost says:

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.”

• to make peace, some barriers have to come down

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity which is the Law . . ., so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both in one body to God . . . (Ep. 2:14-16)

– I was going to elaborate on the places where we run up against barriers
• families, churches, neighborhoods, the world
• instead, I’ll jump to our ultimate concern with everyone we know:
◦ “What is keeping you from God?”
◦ “Is it a barrier that can be removed?”
• peacemakers will do what they can to break down walls
◦ if those walls have trapped people in hostility, hatred and darkness

All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also (2 Cor. 5:18, GNB). The New American Standard Bible uses the word reconcile instead of changed us from enemies into his friends, but that is what reconcile means. In the NASB we read, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19)

When I hear Kim Jong-Un, supreme leader of N. Korea

Has worked for and achieved a nuclear missile that can reach US mainland,
– what sort of bomb immediately goes off in my heart?
• if I can be turned from peace to war that quickly,
• what hope do I have of being a peacemaker?

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Ro. 12:18)

– we do not only make peace between others and with our enemies
• we make peace anywhere and everywhere
• in the hearts of grief-stricken families, anxious friends, obnoxious coworkers

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Ro. 14:19)

• Jesus taught us to make peace first and then worship

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Mt. 5:23-24)

Conc: for they shall be called sons of God

In the Scriptures, “called” is used when a person is called by name
– or when a person is given a name (cf. Mt. 1:23)
• what a person is called is an indicator of his or her identity (Mk. 3:16-17)
– “son of” can be a literal reference, but it can signify something else
• a person was known in relation to someone, some place or a distinguishing feature
◦ Simon son of John (Jn. 21:15), Simon of Cyrene (Lk. 23:26), “Nabal [foolish] is his name and folly is with him” (1 Sam. 25:25)

William Barclay explained that son of God “is a typical Hebrew way of expression. Hebrew is not rich in adjectives, and often when Hebrew wishes to describe something, it uses, not an adjective, but the phrase son of . . . plus an abstract noun.”

• for example, a son of Belial refers to someone who is obnoxious, a troublemaker (e.g., 1 Sam. 25:17)
◦ what is interesting here is that Jesus did not say peacemakers would be called sons of peace 
◦ the peacemaker is someone whose identity is defined by their relation to God

Jesus shares with us his unique relation to our heavenly Father
– he includes us in all that he is and has
• we need the kind of peace that is independent of circumstances
◦ that is the peace that is found in Jesus
◦ his peace becomes our peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (Jn. 14:27)

– it is only when his peace rules our hearts that we can make peace
• every Christian is a change agent, a peacemaker
• so we might begin every morning asking God for opportunities to make peace

We are peacemakers,
because Jesus shares with us,
not only his relationship with the Father
with all the privileges and inheritance that is his,
but also all the chores and responsibilities of carrying his message

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ,
as thought God were making an appeal through us;

we beg you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

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