In the first century, only Roman emperors were deemed “sons of god” and “peacemakers.” The notion of Pax Romana (Roman peace) aimed to unify the imperial empire. However, the way of ensuring peace and unity was by silencing or eliminating dissension. Social harmony meant forced conformity.
Of course, Jesus had to turn Pax Romana on its head. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). OK, so what does Jesus want us to do?
In a recent study, entitled, “Hidden Tribes,” it was revealed that we have not two—but seven political “tribes” in the United States. There’s Devoted Conservatives, Traditional Conservatives, Moderates, Politically Disengaged, Passive Liberals, Traditional Liberals, and Progressive Activists. How in the world can Jesus expect anyone to be a peacemaker these days?
In Jesus’ day, tribalism flourished. The Romans mocked the “lazy” Sabbath-observers. The conservative Pharisees sparred with the progressive theology of the Sadducees. Militant Zealots plotted a violent uprising because they loathed the Roman government. The Essenes withdrew to the desert because the Jews had contaminated the temple. And the Jews and the Samaritans simply despised each other. These groups hated each other—and yet they all united to get rid of the only One who could reconcile them to God and one another.
The life of Jesus clarifies what true peacemaking is all about (note: peacemakers are not peacekeepers). Peacekeepers avoid conflict by trying to keep warring factions at bay. Peacemakers enter the fray by trying to make transformational changes. Peacekeepers triangulate to maintain the status quo. Peacemakers enter the mess despite the personal backlash from those unwilling to change. Peacekeepers may eventually persecute the peacemakers if their power or position is threatened. “Peacemakers,” as E. Stanley Jones puts it, “must get used to the sight of their own blood.”
When you read about Elijah hiding from Jezebel, or Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace, or Jeremiah being thrown into a miry dungeon, do you ever think, “This is crazy! I’m so shocked people hounded them!”? Not likely. Persecuting peacemakers has never been and will never be weird.
Be like Jesus. Be a peacemaker. Show the world what kind of King you serve.