May we heed our conscience

Matthew 5.9

I hate to admit it, but I prefer to read Mathew 5:9 without Matthew 5:10-12.  In Matthew 5:9 Jesus announces, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  I like that beatitude—with one slight modification: I tend to be a peacekeeper rather than a peacemaker.

A peacekeeper, as Kaitlin explains in The Barefoot Blog “desires to maintain peace by avoiding conflict. They typically give in to the tension or steer clear of disagreement to keep others happy. Peacekeepers hate rocking the boat; therefore, they will sacrifice their own inner peace to maintain the “facade” of peace with others.”

Sadly, that is often me.

But Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:10-12 that He is not one to encourage His followers to avoid conflict for the sake of not “rocking the boat.”  Matthew 5:10-12 states, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Evidently, from Jesus’ perspective, peacemaking is not devoid of conflict.  Indeed, the New Living Translation renders Proverbs 10:10 as “People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.”

The Hebrew word for peace is shalomNelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines shalom as “completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person.”  So a peacemaker would not be a person who is skilled at avoiding conflict but a person who contributes to the soundness, completeness and well-being of others.  A peacemaker would be a person who works for the establishment of what is right and good and healthy for people.

William Barclay suggests that peacemakers are those who are “engaged on the very work which the God of peace is doing,” then he adds that peacemakers are “those who make this world a better place for all men [and women] to live in.”

This is why it is essential that we not separate Matthew 5:9 from Matthew 5:10-12.

In an article in Relevant magazine Stephen Arterburn comments, “Southern white men and women who were complicit in Jim Crow segregation were peacekeepers. They wanted to maintain things as they were without discord or change; they wanted to keep the peace as it was—racism disguised as peace. Civil rights activists had to sometimes disturb the peace in an effort to make room for real peace.”

Sometimes peacemaking—making “this world a better place for all men [and women]—demands conflict and means that we might be “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. once remarked, “Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe?  Consensus asks the question: Is it popular?  Conscience asks: Is it right?”

Our country needs more people who will heed their conscience, who will ask themselves more than whether it is safe or popular, and who will strive to “make this world a better place for all men [and women] to live in.”

I pray that God will protect me from divorcing Matthew 5:9 from Matthew 5:10-12, and I pray for God to give me strength to be guided by the question: Is it right?

 

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