9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Peacemakers are not found in the anti-war crowd. They are not in the anti-abortion crowd. They are not in the environmental groups like Greenpeace, despite the name. And they are not found in marriage counselors, arbitrators of in the United Nations. You see, the peace that God talks about passes understanding.
Peace, here, is not an external absence of hostility. It is a state of mind and heart and soul. Peacemakers come in all shapes and sizes and share the peace of God with others. They give comfort in trying circumstances, hold you when you are grieving, visit you when you are sick (and often with chicken soup and a kind word). Peacemakers share grace and in so doing inspire and instill peace in the hearts of others. Someone is at their wits end, and a peacemaker will whisper in their ear, “I believe in you.”
Everyone knows someone like this. These people are exactly as they are often called: “A blessing.” And no one doubts that these people truly belong to God. We may have doubts at times about others, but these people pass the test. We know these peacemakers are God’s children, abounding with love, hope and positive words and deeds to inject in every hard and hurtful situation. To make a real difference, to strengthen faith, give hope and grant peace. They exude peace in the heart, and here God is saying he would like us all to be more like these.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In this present world there is nothing so reviled in so many places as Christianity. Anti-Christianity has certainly supplanted both anti-Semitism and racism as the world’s number one prejudice. Israel has found a home, and while the borders are rough, there is certainly sanctuary there for the Jews. Racism may be underlying sentiments everywhere, but apart from a few remarkable incidents of late, it has become dormant or gone underground in many places. Christians, by contrast are having churches bombed, churches closed and some are being dragged into the streets and simply being shot. Darfur, in case you forgot, was all about killing off all the Christians. They call that genocide.
Every Muslim country in the world outside of Saudi Arabia has a Christian minority, often as much as 10% or more of the population. With the rise of fundamentalist Islam, those people are being persecuted in ways and to an extent not seen in centuries. Meanwhile, in China they are continuing to attack any church or Christian gathering outside of the approved three-self patriotic movement. You know, the church went through this same sort of thing back when Hitler wanted to tell the preacher what to preach. Can you imagine facing 20 years in prison for bringing Bibles to your people? America and some portions of the west are not there yet. But I don’t see it getting any better.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In America, land of freedom of religion and expression, Christianity has been all but outlawed in the public sphere. The ten commandments are gone from our courts, the nativity has been removed, crosses erected on private property are forcibly taken down, and any political candidate who claims a belief in God and prays for guidance might as well not run. In many of our high schools and colleges, Christianity is portrayed as a belief system for fools and blamed for wars, the environment, and seemingly every ill ever visited on the human race. Islam is promoted and certain Eastern philosophies like Buddhism. Judaism is given a fair shake in most places. Only Christianity is denigrated, and there seems to me to be no limit on the amount of ridicule, accusations of evil and verbal abuse heaped on the faith. Christians are those stupid people who cling to their Bibles and guns. And again, I don’t see it getting any better.
But here, and around the world, the word is to hold on. Though he tarry, he will not tarry long. Run the race. Fight the good fight. In the Book of Revelation we are encouraged not to be lukewarm and not to turn aside but to be overcomers. It seems to me this is is what God wants and what he is telling us all to be in these beatitudes.