Blessed are the Peacemakers
We live in a Christian society and most people in this country consider themselves Christians.
It is a good first step for people to embrace a concept or religious teaching, as it begins to prepare the mind for the steps that one needs to take. But it does not go far enough. The true realization of any religious or philosophical teaching is the actual practice of that religion in action.
So when Jesus says:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
We have to accept the fact that Jesus is trying to reach us, and teach us, the lesson of life relating to resolving conflict.
Who are these peacemakers? Are these people other than ourselves? Where do we find them? If we read the texts carefully we see that Jesus was speaking to the common people, that is, people like you and I. When he speaks about peacemakers, he is not pointing to someone else, other than ourselves. It is therefore our opportunity to begin to practice his real teaching of peace.
If we read further in the texts, we see that Jesus in fact gave substantial guidance that is practical relating to the practice of peace in our lives.
For instance, he asked the person who is totally free of sin to cast the first stone. Clearly he was working to resolve the conflict between the village people and the adultress by mediation and through peaceful means.
If we look further, we see that he spoke at length
about forbearance, and a heart of compassion.
He indicated that if someone struck you across the cheek, you should
“turn the other cheek”. Clearly he is
asking us avoid both aggressive action, and even, in this example,
self-defense. He is falling back on some
other principle greater than war, even “justifiable” war of self-defense. We see this theme taken up by Mahatma Gandhi
when he practiced active non-violence to free
He asks us to give up greed, and to seek to support and aid others, treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated. This is a prescription for creating a social order based on peaceful principles. He points out that “the meek shall inherit the earth.”
If we apply these principles to our current world situation we can see that we are in fact not practicing anything even remotely approaching Jesus’ teaching in our society, and we are not really even trying. We have rendered our lives and our minds to Caesar, and seek to acquire material wealth for ourselves (and by extension our country). We revel in our military and economic power and use it to force others to obey our will. We, being about 5% of the world’s population, feel no shame or compunction in using more than 20% of the energy resources and creating more than 20% of the pollution, despite the suffering this creates all around the world.
We have no “meek” or “humble” thoughts, but rather, assume that we have an inherent “rightness” in our “culture” and “way of life” and that this gives us the right to tell anyone else, anywhere else on the planet, what to do, how to organize their societies and we force ourselves on them.
It is no wonder that we have a world of tension and conflict as opposed to the world of harmony that we, as a Christian culture, could be expected to be working toward.
We may say that we WANT to do this, but in the real
world, we have to “defend ourselves”, that it is “dog eat dog” and “every man
for himself”, but is this not simply a direct
repudiation of our true Christian heritage?
Is this not in fact the creed of the
What would happen if we began to apply the teachings of Jesus in any kind of a meaningful way? Would we not go out of our way to ensure that our actions are not causing harm or discomfort to others? Would we not express our humility in the face of other peoples and cultures and not impose our own viewpoint or will on them? Would we not ensure that we are not aggressors? Taken to the next step, would we not indeed think many times before taking up weapons even in defense? What thought is given to any of these issues nowadays? Have we simply abandoned any pretence of attempting to live a life according to the teachings of Jesus whom we assert we believe in and follow? How can we call ourselves “Christian” when we don’t practice these teachings?
There are many great shining lights in the world who
have truly attempted to show all of us that there are different, not
necessarily worse, ways to develop our lives.
These individuals are usually quiet, but they touch our hearts with
their clarity and focus. These are
people who stand for peace, and who suffer for it at the hands of those who
The fact that these shining lights of peace and the realization of a deeper meaning and truth were tortured or put to death does not invalidate their teaching or methods but illustrates how far we, the masses of people who allow our fears and our greed to rule our social organization and decisions, have to go to become true practitioners of our respective religious traditions or teachings.
The fact is, we need to start somewhere. Would it not be worthwhile to try some risks for peace? We know what the results are when we practice war. Innocent people are harmed on all sides. Economic well being is disrupted. People die or are maimed. Families and communities are destroyed. People fall into a cycle of revenge and hatred that builds up over generations making the problem ever more intractable. The results of war being so well known, what more is there to lose if we try the methods of peace, which have never really been tried anywhere on a large scale.
For instance, and these are just meant as examples,
but can be applied to any peoples and any conflicts in the world, if the
Israelis truly are desirous of peace, let them unilaterally withdraw from the
West Bank, leaving all the settlements and infrastructure intact. Let them turn them over to the Palestinian
people who are living hopeless lives in camps, and let them pledge to work
together with the Palestinian people to build opportunity for economic
development, infrastructure and mutual respect.
It is of course a risk for the Israelis to do this. The United Nations should agree to
guarantee the integrity of the state of
If we look at each conflict area in the world,
similar methods applying the principles discussed by leaders such as Jesus, the
Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King could
be developed on a case by case basis. At
the root of all these methods however is the inherent change we must make
within ourselves, the change toward humility, the change toward compassionate
hearts, the change to find balance and appropriate use of resources to share
the planet among all its residents, both human and not human, and the
understanding of the inter-connectedness of all beings such that the pollution
we create here affects the climate patterns in Africa, or the chemicals we use
here change the ozone layer for all humanity.
As we begin to examine our own lifestyles in the light of the leadership
provided by the peacemakers of history, we can see that the root of the
conflicts is based in the essential nature of the
I reflect on this today, as President Jimmy Carter was today given the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize, and is formally recognized for his attempt to live a life of peace and to address, on a world scale, some of the underlying root issues that prevent peace. It is not a surprise that he has spent much of his life after leaving the Presidency of the United States working on humble things like building low-income housing, things which point us vividly toward the economic inequalities and the social injustices that are the true roots of conflict, both in terms of the hopelessness engendered in the disenfranchised, and in the arrogance and the fear of loss in those who hold the resources and use or misuse them as they may choose.
Each one of us, regardless of our spiritual direction or religious inclinations, can take away something from the teachings of these great souls of peace, whether expressed in writing, verbally, or as is done so eloquently by President Carter, in his practical focus and application of energies to address, in a small, but nevertheless significant way, the problems.