I remember Pastor Ken Gill once saying something to the effect that “if you stick your neck out you are more likely to get your face slapped.”
The implication is that action will lead to reaction. Whether we like it or not, following Jesus comes at a cost. Jesus often said things that indicated it would cost us everything, but would be so worth it in the end.
The last two Beatitudes are about sticking our neck out and the consequence of doing so.
Often the path to peace comes at a great price. Injustice and insult await those who follow God’s call to be peacemakers. The applause for peacemakers does not often come until they have suffered for the cause.
The cost of discipleship is very high, but the reward is found with God. His children will be rewarded in this life and the next. Peacemakers take a few punches and turn their cheek often because they see another Kingdom emerging through their obedience.
Who calls the peacemakers ‘children of God’? The persecutors are more inclined to demonize them and say horrible things. The recognition comes from brothers and sisters who share the family values. God calls those who love peace His own sons and daughters.
So what is a peacemaker? Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest who has written extensively on issues of justice and spirituality. He says:
A peacemaker is the one who reconciles quarrels and overcomes conflicts, first of all within himself or herself. Clearly you can see Jesus is not on the side of the violent but on the side of the non-violent, yet we did not have the English word “non-violence” until the 1950’s. You do not have a word for something that is not even in your consciousness.
It is almost impossible to believe how most of Christian history was unable to hear Jesus’ rather explicit teaching on non-violence. It seems that we started, encouraged, idealized, and fought in most wars that were ever available to us. The only time—until very recently—that a Pope ever condemned a war was when the Turks invaded the Papal States! But, thank God, there were a few smaller groups like the Mennonites, Quakers, and Amish who always took Jesus’ teaching seriously.[i]
This brings us to a serious question about the use of military force to do violence against those who reject national and international laws and rights. Should a Christian support military action of any kind?
Without going into lengthy explanations at this point, most Christians fall into one of three positions on this matter:
1. Just War – this position believes that war is not preferred, but occasions surface where it must be fought and in doing meet the criteria of philosophical, religious or political justice. There is a right time to fight, but you need to fight within a moral framework.
2. Pacifism – any form of violence is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.
3. Non-violent resistance – achieving socio-political goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience and non-cooperation with unjust policies.
In the camp that you find yourself, the words of Jesus still stand true. Peacemakers will be recognized as possessing the character of their Heavenly Father. The children of God will behave like the Father.
Though misunderstanding and hurt befalls the children, the Father is painfully aware of injustice and will reward those who live by His Kingdom values.