In this episode we will be exploring the topic of forgiveness by looking at Yeshua’s admonition for believers to be peacemakers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”Matthew 5:9
I have paraphrased this verse as “Make peace; do peace, and you will be blessed, being recognized as a child of God.” It is our obligation as believers to be the vanguard of peace among the lives of those around us.
What’s interesting in this verse is the active nature of what is being expressed. Yeshua appears to be emphasizing the doing or the making of peace. By this reckoning, peace is not something that just happens; it involves work and effort to bring it about. That’s what we are discussing today; what is involved in bringing about peace in our lives and the lives of those around us?
So let’s explore the definition of peace, to find out what it is that we should be actively working towards in our relationships with others.
The word in the original Greek is eiréné (i-ray’-nay) meaning oneness, peace, quietness, rest. In usage it conveys peace, peace of mind. It is also the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom, an invocation of peace and a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraic sense of the health (welfare) of an individual.
HELPS Word-studies focus on the wholeness aspect of this term as coming from a root word which means “to join, tie together into a whole”. It essentially conveys when all necessary parts are joined together there is peace (God’s gift of wholeness).
Through these definitions you can see that the biblical notion of peace brings so much more to the table than just attitudes of non-aggression; it has to do with a sense of wholeness and essential unity. Wholeness and unity can only come about when individuals are in agreement or have a common purpose or emotional bond. If this is the case, and if we are to be peacemakers, it is our responsibility as believers to bridge disagreements and work to bring others towards common purposes and feelings towards us and towards each other.
One aspect of being a peacemaker is to be reconciled to a family member or someone you are close to.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.Matthew 5:23-34
This word for reconciliation carries the idea of changing or exchanging something for something else. It means to thoroughly experience change, such as where people in conflict come together through meaningful change. Enmity or disagreement has been exchanged for friendship.
Many times, disagreements between friends or family exist because no one wants to be the first one to budge from their position of perceiving they have been wronged by the other. But according to Yeshua, we as believers need to actively work towards these types of resolutions. It is our responsibility to initiate these exchanges; that’s what makers of peace do. So if we have unresolved conflict in our close relations, then it is upon us to to be the ones who begin to pave the way toward resolution of these conflicts.
However, if we continue to be caught up in dissent and factionism by pressing our righteous indignation at every offense, we are denying our heritage as makers of peace in the character and likeness of Messiah and his kingdom.
“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this [way] serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” –Romans 14:17-19
When wrongs are committed between individuals, the faithful believer must look beyond the immediate injury to the larger objective of peace and unity. There is no denial a wrong has been committed, just a positive affirmation that is intentionally offered to overcome the sting of whatever injustice was perceived to have been incurred.
Sometimes our perceptions are incorrect, or we misunderstand someone, and we react to a perceived injustice. This is why we must exercise care. If we focus on peace rather than justifying our perceptions, we are saved from potentially creating an issue where there was no real threat to begin with.
Another aspect of being a peacemaker is in reconciliation with an adversary:
Reconcile quickly with your adversary, while you are still on the way to court.Matthew 5:25
Your adversary can be anyone who is simply working at cross-purposes with you, or who could be actively working against you at every turn. In the example Yeshua provides, this adversary would be someone taking you to court over some legal issues. This adversarial behavior can be frustrating and can cause our emotions to run high, wanting to reflexively do them harm, or to avoid them at all cost so no interaction has to occur to continue to feed into your emotional distress.
And yet, Yeshua says we need to be the instigators of reconciliation; we need to be the ones who begin the process of trying to find common ground for the establishing of a stronger relationship.
The type of reconciliation mentioned in this verse about our adversaries is a form of being well-minded toward someone else, to think kindly of them or to be favorable toward them. Who wants to do that with an adversary? Wouldn’t we rather want to respond in kind by trying to see how much harm we could do them because they were escalating things in the legal court system?
That may be our initial emotional response, but it should not be our continuing motivational attitude toward that individual. We are commanded by Yeshua to initiate reconciliation, to look kindly toward those who might be trying to do us harm.
These are the types of peacemakers we are to be: to be coming together with those who are near to us through exchanging our enmity for friendship, to be well-minded towards our adversaries. Being a peacemaker involves all others we interact with.
Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.Romans 12:14-18
Notice how Paul says our responsibility is towards everyone. That word is a primary word meaning all people, every person, the whole of everyone we interact with.
This goal of peace is so much more than just joining hands and singing kumbaya around a campfire; this type of exchanging enmity for reconciliation or being well minded towards others involves a difficult and sometimes emotionally painful exercise of a typically latent faculty that we all possess: forgiveness. When it comes right down to it, forgiveness is the basis of all peace.
So let’s explore this idea of forgiveness as a driver of the making of peace a little further.
Forgiveness comes from the Greek word charizomai (khar-id’-zom-ahee) which means to show favor or kindness, to give freely. It’s root meaning comes from the word xaris (char’-is) which is where we get our word for grace, that is, freely giving favor or to grant forgiveness or pardon. (xarízomai) literally means, “to willingly (“graciously”) bestow.
I think you can begin to get the idea of where this topic is heading.
Now, we love all of these definitions as we apply them to our relationship with God: he forgives us, extends his mercy when we don’t deserve it, there is nothing we can do to earn it, but it is freely given.
But when we look to others who may have wronged us, we are not necessarily as quick to apply those same principles towards them. Why not? Because forgiveness isn’t something that is a natural response; it has to be intentionally bestowed upon someone else. This takes effort, and in some respects doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t reflexive. It has to be thought about and not carelessly offered.
Additionally, forgiveness involves another quality that does not always come easily: humility. It takes a humble person to not take action in pressing their potential advantage over someone else. To be willing to concede a perceived wrong is generally thought of as a weakness, but in God’s eyes this is a strength.
The saying is that we may have lost the battle but we win the war. Forgiveness and humility both give us an opportunity to step back from the immediate conflict and gain perspective on the overall relationship. From the larger perspective, “losing” a battle for the sake of maintaining the relationship has real value, even if it doesn’t seem like it at that time. Forgiveness is full of hope because it looks to a future of reconciliation, even if it isn’t readily apparent in the moment.
Now, the caveat in all of this is that while we may do all of these things from the truest intent of our hearts, our overtures of reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness may still fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. Those we are attempting to exhibit peace with may still remain at odds with us.
I believe this is why it says in Romans 12:18, “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”
The phrase literally says “if possible, out of you, with all men live at peace.”
This implies that “out of us” should always be coming overtures of peace, even if met with resistance. It also implies that it may not always be possible to be at peace, at least not at the present time, due to whatever else the other person may be dealing with. But that doesn’t mean that their emotional state won’t be changed at some future point. For this reason, we are commanded that our stance should always be one of unending peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In short, we should always act in love.
If we are to be mimicking God and representing his character and values in this world, then we should adopt the stance of God towards us. He constantly continues to offer his reconciliation, forgiveness and peace, even in our most rebellious and hard-hearted times. Yeshua admonishes us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfection in this instance refers to a measure of completeness. When we are agitated toward others, we are in a sense incomplete, however, when we advocate for peace and reconciliation, we are pursuing wholeness and unity, and we ourselves become whole in the process.
We are to be the makers of peace, the doers of peace. When we do this faithfully, we will be considered the children of God, because we will be doing what he does with us.
Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground today that I hope provides you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Being a peacemaker can be hard work, and forgiveness does not come naturally or easily. But we need to keep in mind that forgiveness is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.
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