Blessed Are The Peacemakers, Those Persecuted For Righteousness’ Sake, And The Reviled.
Matthew 5: 9 – 12.
The Lord Jesus is our exemplary Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). He did not shy away from conflicts when immorality, prejudice and injustice surfaced, often putting His own life on the line against the ruling authorities of the day. Peacemaking can be dangerous work, but it is definitively blessed! In this respect, a peacemaker is never passive, but engages with conflict in a posture of ceaselessly working towards securing a peaceful, reconcilable and honourable outcome. It then makes sense that in order to be a peacemaker, one is secured in his own public position as a man of peace: both at peace within himself, before God and man, and filled with the Spirit of Peace, a son of God (Rom 12:18; Gal 5:22-23). There is a level of spiritual maturity in peacemaking that enables one to stay above the fray, without compromising his own values, but able to graciously empathise in the process with the engaged protagonists and pray for them; a trait called mercy, that is inherently Divine. Peacemakers ultimately are dependent on the strength and wisdom drawn from our intrinsic position in Christ.
The final two Beatitudes draw our attention to the ongoing worldwide pursuit against Christians that began with the advent of Jesus Christ. As the world increasingly lurches into deleterious identity politics and hate spin, whether defined by ethnicity, race, religion or politics, these Beatitudes specifically delineate the cost of discipleship in Christ; whether they surface as mockery, a denial of rights, ostracism, physical violence, ethnic cleansing, or murder. Persecution is the 8th Beatitude’s focus, and it is due largely because the world hated Jesus and so it hates His followers, as they represent Him (John 15:18-19; Heb 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11-12). Hence, it is not presumptuous to expect persecution at some point in our lives, unless our testimony has become indistinguishable from the world. Our union with Christ is our witness when persecution surfaces, as Paul attested to it in his counting everything as loss in order to become like Christ. Are we then able to identify with Paul, when he said that to know Christ is to grasp the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and being conformed to His death (Phil 3:8-16); after all, the indisputable reward of the kingdom of heaven is synonymous with Christ’s presence.
To rejoice after being insulted or falsely accused for His Name’s sake does not come naturally, as it requires a mindset that is other-centred in Christ. We have to be watchful that our human indignation in reaction to being reviled in His Name, does not reach the level of hate speech, a typical reaction in our fallen world. The fact that the Lord couched this Beatitude in the second person pronoun (i.e., ‘you’), emphasises its inevitable application to His hearers. The challenge is to consider these persecutions as a momentary light affliction producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, because we do not look at things which are seen, but at things which are not seen; for things which are seen are temporal, but things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18); where humiliation gives rise to glorious praise, and criticisms is followed by blessings. Although there was mention of a reward, there was no specific detail provided of its form. Nevertheless, Christ remains our sufficient reward.
The Beatitudes are not a mere list to be targeted for kingdom rewards. They are the innate spiritual qualities in Christ, already possessed by believers. Ultimately, as we mature in Christ, these traits with their accompanying covenantal blessings are the evidence of God’s calling to us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt 5: 13-16).