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Matthew

Beatitudes - III

Matthew 5:9-12

Lesson audio

Until verse 10, there is no indication of the trouble that such virtues will bring. Now, however, the Christian is told to face the opposition which will surely come. It is convenient, then, to ask why such trouble will arise? I submit to you three possible answers:

  • It is not possible to be a peacemaker without “interfering” in the lives of others. There are many for whom peace is simply the deprivation of the causes of war. Grudges are very often cherished.
  • It goes further than that, You will be persecuted for pursuing righteousness, for evil is (in the eyes of the world) fun and profitable.
  • Ultimately, you will be persecuted for bearing the Name – for this world is Satan’s own system, and he will hunt down those who bear the name if he can. The battle is spiritual, as well as physical.

Peacemakers

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

(Mat 5:9 NASB)

An expensive hobby

How expensive? Hear the story of Dan Sickles:[1]

In the 1850's Dan Sickles was a prominent Congressman, elected via the Tammany Hall machine.  He moved in the graft ridden circles of Washington wheeling and dealing.  One of the men he dealt with was Philip Barton Key, an attorney and the son of Francis Scott Key.  Key did legal business for Sickles, and soon the two men became fast friends.

This would be unrecorded except that Key also became friendly with Mrs. Sickles.  Too friendly, to the point of adultery.  One day Sickles walked into the shabby downtown apartment the lovers kept for such trysts and shot Key through the head.  He then went to the Attorney General's office, handed in the gun and surrendered himself.

The trial was a national sensation.  His defense attorney was Edwin Stanton, later Secretary of War under Lincoln, who used - for the first time, evidently - the defense of "temporary insanity."  He used it successfully.  Sickles was acquitted.

When he returned to the halls of Congress every other member publicly ostracized him.  No one would sit near him;  when he spoke all the other members would leave.  Perhaps you think this is the just treatment of a murderer who got off on a technicality like that.  Perhaps it is just.  But murder was not the reason that Sickles was treated like a leper.  The real reason:  he forgave his wife, and took her back.

Perhaps the man just wanted the tranquility in marriage he thought he had.

Peacemaker: it’s a man who overlooks the cause of the squabble, letting it go. The urge to argue and squabble is indeed great in the human species; it is the peacemaker’s virtue to rise above the cause of the argument, and let peace prevail. This will be at the peacemaker’s expense; the squabblers would rather continue the argument.

The issue applies in the great as well as in the small. At least one party to war will state its aims to include a just and lasting peace.

The spread of peace

Let’s begin with the obvious: those who are at peace in themselves are most likely to spread peace to others. All can see that. But do you not see that peace, like beauty, proceeds from within?

  • It begins with peace within. When I am at peace with God and myself, it is a short step to include those I hold dear.
  • It spreads first to family and friends, for they know us best.
  • Then, it may spread to the world.

It happens the same way in the church. If there is peace in the church, there is unity. If the church is united, it is also at one with God.

Reward

To the peacemaker is given the reward of becoming one of the sons of God. And why not? Our Lord is the supreme example of the peacemaker, for He is our peace.[2] He is the one who reconciled us to God, bringing the peace that surpasses all understanding.

We, then, as His children, should imitate what He did. Indeed, we are told that we are ambassadors of reconciliation between God and man.[3]

There is a curious numeric point in this. This is the seventh beatitude; seven, the Hebrew number of perfection, for God rested on the seventh day. The seventh day was a day of rest, and thus a day of peace. Being a peacemaker, a child of God, brings us much closer to the perfection we imitate.

First purity, then peace

There is a reason this is given to us immediately after the blessing of the pure in heart. In gaining the purity of heart we fortify our souls, so that when peacemaking turns ugly, we will not compromise.[4] The Truth has no alliance with evil.

A Chinese proverb puts it this way:

If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty of character. If there be beauty of character, there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

Persecution for Righteousness’ Sake

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 5:10 NASB)

Note, please, that the persecution here does not refer to the supreme cause of persecution, the Name of Christ, but just ordinary, everyday righteousness.

The price of peace- and righteousness

Sometimes the price of pursuing peace is the persecution by the wicked. It is the same with righteousness. Thomas á Kempis put it this way:

All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.

Sometimes the way of peace seems to conflict with the way of righteousness. So it appears to those who want to be comfortable. But to those who understand Christ’s example, the conflict can be resolved by our willingness to sacrifice. But there is more to it than just sacrifice.

Reaction to persecution

This is often unfamiliar territory. We are accustomed to living at peace within our society; what happens when we stand up for righteousness?

  • We will be met with intimidation. We are not to fear such intimidation;[5] greater is He within us. This action on their part will be dealt with at the Judgment;[6] it is our task to reject the intimidation.
  • Indeed, we are to count such persecution as a joy;[7] which means that we are going to get a lot of joy in this life.
  • The root of the matter is this: the man who is at peace with God and with the church can say, “Fear God; dread naught.”
Our reward

Your heavenly Father knows that you must have motivation. You didn’t like the idea of being poor in spirit, nor will you like the idea of persecution. But both of these have the same reward, the kingdom of Heaven. When Satan takes you seriously, it means you are genuinely on the Lord’s side.

For the sake of the Name

"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Mat 5:11-12 NASB)

May I give you a parallel here? The Apostles were joyful when they were judged worthy of being persecuted “for the Name.”[8] The early church, when persecuted, phrased it that way. But “the Name” seems nebulous to us, where it was clear to them. May I give you a parallel? To the patriot, Old Glory is not just a scrap of cloth. Many in this world hate that flag; some even in this land. It does not matter to the one who loves this country; the flag is the visible sign of the heart of liberty. When someone insults it or burns it, we are aggrieved as well.

The Christian should have the same reaction to someone who misuses the name of Christ. To do so is to insult the name I love. So, picture the Name as taking the same role as the flag, and you will understand this section better.

The fools for Christ

One of the first things our persecutors will complain of is that we are not acting rationally. Why won’t you Christians just get along and go along?

  • First, there is the example of our Lord. He didn’t make an alliance with the Pharisees; so He went to the Cross a sinless man. If the cause of Christ is greater than life, so we too do not fear persecution.
  • The Apostles, too, looked like fools[9] – throwing their lives away following the way of Christ. Our leaders must lead, and this is where they must go.
  • Indeed, we are the servants of Christ – and the servant is not superior to his Master.[10]
Persecution today

Please, realize one thing: such persecution is inevitable. The Scripture tells us this over and again; yet we are always surprised (and not very peaceful either) when it happens. We see the blessings of God on a Christian nation to be our heritage; the world sees wild-eyed right-wing fundamentalists (hereafter, WRFs). And what does our Lord tell us to do about it?

and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

(Mat 10:18-20 NASB)

Persecution tomorrow

Is it going to get worse? You have but to look elsewhere in the world. May I give you one example? In India, the headlines in one of the party newspapers read, “Evil Mother Teresa part of Global Christian Conspiracy!” It will not be long coming here in America; indeed, the Chinese church is praying that it comes swiftly, so that in persecution the church might be purified and become the center of this nation once again.

When it comes, aim high. Do not ask by what weasel method you can slink out of it; rather, take it as the great honor it is. As the Gospel tells us:

"You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

(Mar 13:13 NASB)

Epilog

May I share with you an illustration which may offend? Please take it in the Spirit; you will see the point soon.

Here’s a picture I found on the internet:

Wheelchair vet stands for the colors

You see the Marines in full dress uniform, preceded by the color guard with the flag. Only the man in the wheelchair – a disabled veteran – stands as Old Glory is paraded. The others? They enjoy the benefit of living in the land favored by God, where they may say what they please and worship as they think best. But the veteran has sacrificed for that flag; therefore it means much more to him than it does to the others. They see only one more element of a parade to entertain them; he sees the flag – and the nation – for which he has sacrificed so much.

It is much the same for Christians. If you have been persecuted little and sacrificed little, then the Name is just a name. If you have endured the persecution of this world and sacrificed all for the kingdom, it is the Name above all names. Have you put your life and fortune on the line for Jesus Christ?


[1] Yes, I know I’ve used this one before. They recycle Beethoven’s Fifth too.

[2] Ephesians 2:14

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[4] I am indebted to C. H. Spurgeon for this point.

[5] See also 1 Peter 3:13-16

[6] 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7

[7] James 1:2-5

[8] Acts 5:41

[9] 1 Corinthians 4:10

[10] John 15:20

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