BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS. Phil. 4: 4-9. Col. 3: 12-17 John 14: 23-27.

In the Bible: two main words are used to describe peace. The first: a Greek word, Eirene: largely relates to the absence of hostility, aggression and war.  A welcome situation maybe: but a negative one, in that, of itself, it can do nothing for us: having no power to lead us anywhere.
 
The second: a Hebrew word, Shalom: is very different. It relates to some part of God’s own nature; being added to our lives; something positive; strong, active and purposeful – and highly effective, when put to work.
 
In the Old Testament: God said: ‘I will give peace to this land, and this people’. (Lev.26: 6).  Jesus said, and still says: ‘My peace I give to you’ (John 14: 27). What the Lord gives, is not something to be tucked away, until needed. Instead, it is designed for immediate use: to be received, experienced, and shared.
 
Peace - positive ... strong ... active ... purposeful. Did we receive it? 
 
I once visited a friend, who told me that she had been looking for a particular book for a long time. She said: ‘If you find a copy, please buy it for me’. I pointed out that she already had one: in a crammed-full bookcase. She said: ‘I inherited those books from my father, twenty-odd years ago; but I’ve never really looked at them: and to think that what I have been trying to find; was there; all that time’.
 
Through Christ: we inherit many divine gifts and graces. As said, one such is peace: positive – strong – active – purposeful. When we received it; did it get put away somewhere, hardly looked at; and largely unused? Have we, from time to time; prayed for peace, in our own situations; forgetting that it was there all the time: waiting for us to utilise it?
 
Peace - for us to enjoy; benefit from; and share. Peace - that great quality, which, along with love and joy, gives sense, purpose and richness to life. Are we helping to create the context within which God’s gift may flourish?
 
In the Old Testament, through the prophet Zechariah, God spoke of the one-day coming into the world of the Christ, and said of him: 'He shall speak peace to the nations’. Christ not only speaks peace: but he also lives it out; through his followers; when they seek to fulfil his purposes.
 
I once read a book; written by a Victorian Englishman: who had lived for many years, among Polynesian islanders. He wrote that he had asked a chief: “Why do you take so long, before answering a question”. The chief said that; having no system of writing; he had to put the fullest meaning, in the fewest possible words: so that the tribal memory men could, the more easily, remember what was said.
 
They acted as a library of knowledge, of tribal, and inter-tribal events; accrued over many generations. One of their most important functions: was to live out what they knew: through preventing war, and maintaining peace. In family, or tribal disputes; the memory-men from both parties, met to discuss matters, until a solution was found. They would consider earlier, peaceful settlements: that might help in their present situation.
 
A practical safeguard was built into the system: to prevent fraudulent disputes, and to hurry things along. The safeguard required the ‘offended’ party to host the meeting; and feed the many, hungry, visiting disputants. A speedy settlement was usually looked for.
 
Today, Christians can act as ‘memory-men’. They can look back, at how Christ tackled things; recognize that his teachings apply in present situations; and live out what he taught; through doing what he would do.  
 
Jesus did not say: ‘Blessed are the peaceful’, but ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.  What is that special kind of peace, that Christ both taught, and gives; and requires us to live out?
 
When I was at theological college at Birmingham; I went with other students, to meet Rabbi Gold; at his synagogue. He greeted us with ‘Shalom’. When asked what was meant, by touching his forehead, mouth, and chest: he said that the forehead indicated his thoughts about the ones being greeted; that the mouth indicated what he would be saying to them: and that the chest indicated the heart; and his feelings towards them.             
 
We asked him to explain what ‘Shalom’ meant. He said that, to a certain extent, it could mean what you wished, as you spoke that word of blessing. The special meaning that he gave to it, was: ‘May the love and peace of God, fill the otherwise empty places of your life’.
 
Has the ‘Shalom of God’ done that for us: so that no empty places are left?
 
Where is such peace to be found? Divers tell us that; at the surface of a lake, or the sea; there may be great turmoil: but that, thirty metres down, and deeper, what is happening at the surface, has little or no effect. Just as surface happiness, or the lack of it, should have little or no effect upon the deep joy that Christ gives to his followers: so with peace.
 
However; all too easily; Christians can associate ordinary, human peace and quiet; with the deep peace, that only God can give.
 
Therefore, when they experience bumpy patches; or ongoing, hurtful situations; they mistakenly think that they have lost some, or even all, of the peace that the Lord once gave. Can this be so? It would be highly unlikely. Instead, all that they will have actually lost: is no more than a bit of surface ‘peace and quiet’. The true peace, that Christ gives his followers: lies too deep to be disturbed by surface tensions and commotion.
 
What God gives; he does not take away; but … neither does he force its useful application upon us. Continued lack of resort to a divine gift: not only leads to a lack of experience of its power and benefits; but can also, gradually, lead to a loss of belief in it.
 
We say that charity; (caritas) love, begins at home: because what we do not possess, under our own roof; we cannot share with others: and so with peace. If, through neglect of the Lord’s gift; or misunderstanding its nature; we do not experience deep peace; we cannot create the ‘at home’ context, in which it begins; or be a channel, through which it flows out; beyond our own roof.
 
How can we be peacemakers? Perhaps, after all, by being peaceful. To say this, is not to contradict Christ’s teaching.
 
The American preacher, Dwight L. Moody (of Moody and Sankey fame) once said. ‘A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do. All that we have to do, is to enter into the peace that is already made, and given by God, in Jesus Christ’. As said: this does not conflict with Christ’s ‘peace-making’ statement. 
 
The Polynesian memory-men from both parties, sat down together. They ate from the same pot: debated positive case histories; and recommended steps that could be taken to bring peace about, in present situations. To a certain extent; their life-style and attitudes, were a living witness; to what could be: and those all around; who were wise; took hold of what could be; and made it happen.
 
So it can be with us. We are not called to be arbitrators, in the disputes of others; or to be judges of behaviour; and decide where the boundaries of peace begin and end.
 
Instead: in living out the Shalom of God; we can give such an attractive witness, to the benefits of the peaceful life: that peace is ‘made’; as others; responding to what they see; desire and seek it for themselves.
 
Isaiah 48:18, tells us that, for true believers:  ‘Peace shall flow like a river’.
 
Just over thirty years ago: I went to a weeklong Christian Conference. I was nearing a ‘crunch-time’ in my life; where I would have to give up the security of enjoyable, London publishing; and step into the ‘unknown’ of theological training; and where it might lead.
 
One morning, I went down to breakfast, and sat next to a Christian doctor, who was cheerfully tackling his egg-and-bacon. He said nothing, to me, or anyone else.
 
Yet; sitting there; I felt that something rather special was happening, through him. Then I realized what it was. Peace was flowing from him to me. That event put a shine on my day: and on the rest of my time at the conference.
 
One of the Church's older hymns says: 'God is working his purposes out, as year succeeds to year'. We not only believe that this is so; but also believe that goodness will, eventually, prevail…
 
…that obeying the Lord’s commands, brings great blessing; and that playing our part, in the cause of peace, helps fulfil God’s purposes. This may seem formidably demanding: but it is part of a wonderful, spiritual adventure.
 
Christians are a people of great hope, and of enormous potential for good! And this is not simply ‘other’ Christians; separated from us, by time and place; but all of us, wherever we are. We are people of great hope, and of enormous potential for good!
 
Peace! Positive...strong ... active ... purposeful! In receiving and sharing it; we not only exercise a powerful witness to God's love; but may also touch, influence, and even guide the lives of other people.
 
There are some particularly beautiful words in the Old Testament, which say:
 
'The Lord bless you, and keep you. the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you ...
 
... the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
 
May the Lord bless us in this manner; so that we, being blessed: may become, and remain, a blessing to others.   Amen.