On Sunday morning at Capitol City, we sat under Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes, where he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). I made the point, based on Colossians 1:19-20, that here Jesus is calling Christians to a ministry of gospel proclamation. We are to be peacemakers by proclaiming in word the way men and women can experience peace with God; we are to proclaim the gospel.
But we see in the New Testament another kind of peacemaking that Jesus would surely implore us to. As we pursue peace by proclaiming the gospel, Christians should also pursue peace through relational reconciliation. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 2, where he tells the Ephesians that the gospel has ended the ethnic and national relational disunity that once existed between Jews and Gentiles:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the [relational] barrier…His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15).
Because both groups (Jews and Gentiles) are reconciled to God through the cross, Paul says that they should be reconciled to each other (2:16). In this way, Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (2:17). It is appropriate, therefore, to think of two aspects of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross: he reconciles us to God (by paying the penalty for our sin and transferring us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light), and he reconciles us to other believers (by transferring our allegiance to his kingdom rather than any earthly kingdom or agenda). To put it another way, our identity in Christ trumps any other identity to such a degree that distinctions like Jew or Gentile are irrelevant.
How does all of this relate to peacemaking? Paul goes on in Ephesians to tell these newly reconciled Jews and Gentiles to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Christians are to labor to preserve the unity of the Church through peacemaking, through the bond of peace. Peace is what binds the members of Christ’s church together, and we are to strive to make this kind of peace. The Puritan pastor John Owen described the Church as a bundle of sticks of different sizes, shapes, and lengths, tied together by the bond of peace. Jesus carries us home as a bundle, not as individual sticks. That’s why its so important that we make peace – that we do everything we can to strengthen, not weaken, the bonds that tie believers together.
Are you honestly and earnestly invested in this kind of peacemaking? Are you doing everything that you can to strengthen the bond between believers in your church, or in the universal Church? How do you need to pursue peacemaking within the Body of Christ?