“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
The word “pax” in Latin means peace. In the English language, we get the word “to pacify” or “pacifist” from it. Yet when Christ speaks of those who are “peacemakers” here, he does not mean those who are passive or those who are pacifists. The pacifist is the one who rejects war entirely, the one who says he will not stand up to fight for those who need defending. The same Christ who uttered this beatitude told His disciples that He had not actually come to bring peace, but a sword. He told them to strap on their sword when he sent them out into the villages to evangelize. The early Christians were not pacifists. They worshipped a God whom the Psalms called “a Man of War.”
But if all this is true, what is it that Christ means here? Paul said that wherever it is possible, we must be “at peace with all men.” The peaceable are those who are ready to show strength but have the wisdom and virtue of restraint. Pacifists refuse to fight, even when the wicked man bursts down the door and threatens wife and children. Peacemakers don’t seek conflict but are ready for it when it comes. Calvin puts it well when he says in his commentary on the verse, “By peace-makers He means those who not only seek peace and avoid quarrels, as fare as lies in their power, but who also labour [sic] to settle differences among others, who advise all men to live at peace, and take away every occasion of hatred and strife.” What we see here is that peace is something that it is hard to attain, and sometimes, as ironic as it sounds, it must be fought for.
This is true in a political sense. Many times there are conflicts that must be resolved with force. A country being unjustly invaded “fights for peace.” In our everyday lives, the hard work of bringing people together often feels like fighting. We are not peacemakers merely by trying very hard not to fight with people. We are peacemakers when we recognize conflict in our relationships and seek to put things right. This means we put others first in our lives, showing love for them and going out of our way to serve them. This means we recognize our faults, being quick to apologize to them. This means that when there is a difference between us, we do not ignore it, but we seek to address it with love and respect in such a way that peace is sought between both parties, and in our friend’s best interest. As Calvin said, “we labour to settle differences.” We do the hard work. We fight for peace.
The word “pax” has been adopted by empires to describe the peace that they bring. When Rome conquered the known world, she entered the time of the Pax Romana. There was no more war. There was peace within Rome’s borders. Britain briefly did the same under her Pax Britannia. While we may question the efficacy of empires, it is no question that we are fighting for one. And no, the American Empire is not what I speak of. Christ is called the King of kings for a reason. This is no mere superlative. It does not mean “He’s the best king.” It means that those that we call sovereigns actually answer to the sovereign. The word “emperor” has not always been a common term. In ancient days, emperors called themselves “kings of kings.” The Kingdom of God is an Empire.
This means that when we go an evangelize the world, as God uses us as His instruments to grow His kingdom, we are fighting for Pax Christus, a time when peace will be had on earth because all is under His reign. As the Lord uses us to fight for this kingdom, He has made us into peacemakers. We must act like it. We must show the world the peace that passes all understanding that has been given us. We must strive for the kingdom, not accepting defeat for we know that we shall attain the victory in He who goes before us. Let us seek peace in as much as we can, not passivity, but a courage that is tempered with love and a zeal for the gospel of Christ.