Where are the peacemakers?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” As I consider the news this morning, I am reflecting on two of the nine Beatitudes our Lord employed to begin his Sermon on the Mount.
We live in troublesome times. Times of protest. Times of a pernicious virus. Times of violence in our streets. Times in which many of our citizens fear that their jobs are permanently lost. Times in which our politicians pose, point, and pontificate, but do nothing to unite us as a people. When William Butler Yeats wrote his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” in 1919, the turmoil resulting from WWI raged throughout Europe. Yeats’s own Ireland was divided over the violence of the Easter Rebellion in 1916. His lines not only spoke to his times but are prescient; they now speak to our times, too.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
“Lack all conviction…full of passionate intensity.” As in Yeats’s day, our center disappears as the edges become ever wider. When our center disappears, there is no comfort or peace. I am addressing the priesthood of all believers. Our role in times such as these is to comfort and reassure and to seek peace. People are living in fear. People need us as believers in the Gospel to be compassionate representatives of our Lord, and who speak with the voice of our Savior words of comfort and reassurance, words that unite.
So often our politics demonizes others, which means we often do not see those in opposition as creatures created in the image of God. We lose sight of their humanity, of people in need of respect, compassion and reassurance. Our earthly politics are not going to save us. Our earthly politics are not going to be the vehicle which will comfort husbands, wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, and lovers who have lost a precious soul to this virus. Our earthly politics are not going to do away with the black mother or father having to give the talk to their sons. Our earthly politics are not going to change the heart of the person determined to do violence, to loot and burn, to shoot unarmed citizens. The only politics that changes hearts and minds is the heavenly politics of the Kingdom of God, the politics whose mandate Jesus articulated in Matthew 5-7.
I am not saying not to vote. I am not saying not to even have your own earthly political opinions. What I am saying is that we who espouse the politics of Jesus are not to allow our earthly political beliefs to divide, but to rise above them as we seek to comfort and to make peace.
The problem with being a peacemaker is that being a peacemaker means you listen to both sides, and then seek common ground and reconciliation. People rarely want common ground. They want you on their side. If two sides are to reconcile, both sides must give up a certain control over their respective narratives. People rarely want to do that. Peacemakers are thus very unpopular people. Others only want you to affirm their positions, to take sides, and it often doesn’t matter if their side is right or wrong.
If we seek peace, we will be blessed by our Lord, but attacked by others. I am convinced that if the priesthood of all believers were to listen with unplugged ears to the voice of Jesus, our hearts would yearn to be ministers of comfort and peace, not proponents of division.