5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
When we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the peacemakers” it tends to make us contemplate war as the opposite of peace. After all, war is one of the constants of human history and it has not diminished with the growth of civilization or the rise of democracy. Turn on the news at any given time of day and you will find a story on wars being fought in this very moment.
Many have proposed solutions. Some believe that an even distribution of the world’s resources would prevent war. Still others claim that if all nations lived by the Golden Rule, war would be eliminated. Others believe that if the entire world could be united against a common enemy (space aliens, climate change, political and economic ideologies, particular kinds of weapons, etc.), then there would be peace. But the Bible tells us that the entire world is already united against a common enemy: God.
WHAT ARE THE BEATITUDES?
We think horizontally far more easily than we consider our vertical relationship to God. So, we tend to plunge headlong into the Beatitudes as one long lesson of Jesus telling us how to roll up our sleeves and get to work making ourselves and the world better. Instead, we have been learning that the Beatitudes are a description of Jesus’ Kingdom powers available to those whom he draws into his Kingdom.
There are no commands in the Beatitudes. This is not a list of eight distinct kinds of people with differing spiritual gifts. These are eight distinctive characteristics of one King – Jesus – and of those whom he calls to represent him in a lost and dying world. One writer explains the Beatitudes are “actually describing eternal life. Biblically, eternal life is the life of the future brought forward and beginning now. Biblically, eternal life means the life of the age to come brought forward so we can live in the present world out of the power of the age to come.”
When we hear “Blessed are the merciful,” we mean Christ brings power from the age to come and transforms our relationships. The purity of heart means God’s power comes from the future age to now and transforms how we think. Today we’re talking about peacemaking, and that means not only do we have new relationships, and not only do we have a new mindset, but we actually have a whole new purpose in life. Blessed are the peacemakers.
You may have noticed that social media is a remarkably diverse collection of religions. There are infinite numbers of YouTube channels devoted to improving your life. Of course, not all of them claim to be religions. Many of them speak in terms of “total health,” or “mental fitness,” or “life renewal.”
Some of them have testimonials from satisfied customers. People happily tell how their mental performance has improved. They testify to their ability to get more work done or to improved relationships with friends and loved ones. Some speak of letting go of their inner tensions and achieving more peace. All of these self-improvement sites represent some kind of religion. All of them promise to help you achieve your goals.
Interestingly, Jesus never spoke like that. That’s not because the message of the gospel cannot help you in every area of your life. There is no doubt that Christianity can bring deeper and better relationships. It offers an entirely new outlook on our vocational work. It definitely offers answers for inner turmoil.
People who study missions speak of lift, where desperately hurting and impoverished people come to accept the gospel and it improves their lives, their family relationships, their relationships with their neighbors, and even their reputations at work. These converts often rise to a level of peace and comfort that strips them of their desire to evangelize. They simply become physically, economically, relationally content. Like the people from the self-improvement testimonials, they have gotten what they need out of this religion.
Christianity can bring those kind of life improvements. But never, ever does the Lord Jesus Christ sell it that way. Jesus does not promise life improvement in the way that self-help gurus envision it. He never says, “Come to me and I will deliver you from inner turmoil and make you an effective and successful worker in your vocation.”
Jesus is not looking to make parts of your life better or more manageable. No. He comes to give us an entirely new direction in life. Don’t come to Christianity because it’s relevant. It certainly is that. Don’t come because it’s exciting. It certainly is that as well. Don’t give your life to Christ because he will solve all your problems. Although, he will certainly do that in his own way. Don’t come to Christianity to solve society’s troubles. Christ has a plan for that in his own time and way.
Come to Christ because he is true. That may not be the answer you want to hear. Most of us in our modern Western culture want to know if something is relevant, if it is exciting, if it is helpful, if it will solve my problems. Jesus said:
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 
The only real reason to come is if you conclude Jesus is the King, the Creator, the One in whom there are no lies or falsehoods. Poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, meekness, starvation for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and making peace aren’t qualities we manufacture, they represent an entirely new direction in life, a new purpose.
How do you know those Kingdom powers are alive and at work in you? How do you know you are becoming a pure-hearted person of peace? If you are trusting into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial blood-shedding death of the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ, then you possess Christ in you, the hope of glory. That means that the Spirit of God within you is constantly at war with your flesh, your sin nature.
You will be the very last person to see any spiritual progress that you are making. Paul describes his Christian life like this:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 
So, how do you know Christ’s Kingdom powers are at work in you? Jesus will spend the last two verses of the Beatitudes teaching you that you will know you belong to his Kingdom because you will be persecuted. You will know you are on mission when you experience mankind’s hostility against God directed at you personally.
As one scholar put it:
“Blessed are the peacemakers. They are children of God.” That means you’ll be like your Father. You’ll be like your Brother. You’ll have a family resemblance. You’ll be like the Prince of Peace, and if you’re like the Prince of Peace, you’ll have nails and thorns and spears coming at you. …It’s very searching, isn’t it? We have to immediately ask ourselves (and you should all be asking yourselves), “Am I a peacemaker?” And here’s how you know if you’re a peacemaker: you’re getting it in the chin.
WHAT IS PEACE?
We really need to ask two questions about this Beatitude. First, we need to know what “peace” actually means as the Bible defines it. Second, we need to know what peacemaking is. But we cannot MAKE peace if we don’t know what “peace” means.
The peace of which God speaks in scripture is not so much “the absence of anxiety” as peace that is opposed to hostility. Biblical peace is primarily the opposite of war. “When the Bible talks about peace with God, it’s not talking (at first, usually) about an inner tranquility. It’s talking about the end of hostility.”
Paul writes in Romans 5 that we are saved through Christ and now have peace with God. More precisely, God is at peace with is. He has exhausted his wrath and judgment against sin by hanging his own unique Son on a cross in our stead to pay the wages of our rebellion and warring against him. God’s hostility against us is gone, buried, tossed into the deepest sea, and remembered no more.
But we don’t cease being at war against God. Romans 8:7 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  Can you grasp what that is saying? All human beings, in their natural condition, are at war with God. We are born fighting against God. What is our proof that such a statement is true? The only time God ever became vulnerable to us, the only time he set aside the massive weight of his unbearable glory and came down to live amongst us in left-handed, upside-down power (poverty, meekness, humility, truth), we killed him.
The Bible says that all human beings are hostile to God. We are at war with him. However, most of the time, we don’t realize that we are at war with God. It is a hatred we hide from ourselves. We are experts at hiding things from ourselves, particularly our honest-but-uncomfortable feelings. Unfortunately for us, those honest feelings we stuff down deep inside can distort our lives.
Scripture says our hatred hides down deep below everything else in our lives and warps the fabric of our existence until we come to realize that we can never manufacture our own peace. Our war with God reveals itself in three basic areas of our existence: the mind, the will, and the emotions. Most pre-believers would never admit to being openly hostile to God even if they believe he exists. At best, they will only admit to being indifferent to the idea of a God.
Our hostility with God is not based upon how we imagine God to be but how God actually reveals himself in the Bible. When you read the Old Testament, you see God exercising a great deal of direct, right-handed power. You see God on display as a judge who will absolutely never clear the guilty. God commanded that no one should directly touch the ark of the covenant. He struck dead a priest who reached out to steady the ark as it was being moved on a cart when it looked like it was about to fall.
That doesn’t sound like a God most of us would honestly want to meet. He sets out rules and kills people for not following them. That sounds more like our idea of an evil dictator, not someone we would choose to be our Father. He talks about things like sin, punishment, and death. We might say we like the God of the New Testament better. But Jesus talks more about hell than any other figure in the Bible. It’s impossible for us to snip out all the things we don’t like about God from the Bible and have any Bible left at all. So, we mostly ignore it instead.
Not only is our mind hostile to God, but our will is also at war with him. Think of all the things you know God has told us to do and to not do and yet we still ignore his will to do what we want. Since I was raised in the church, I can think back to all those promises I made to God every summer at Christian youth camps as I, yet again, re-dedicated my life to Christ. And every year my new-found devotion slipped away within a few days of getting home.
My desire to do what God wanted gave way to my will to do what I wanted. We treat God more lightly than we do other humans. Most of us would never put up with another person that constantly broke their word to us. Would you be able to keep your job if you kept going back on your word to your boss? We would never tolerate someone who broke their word to us with impunity.
Not only does our hostility toward God show up in our intellect and our will, but it also shows itself in our emotions. When someone does something kind for us – gives a gift or performs a big favor – we feel a sense of gratitude and debt to that person. You feel a sense of warmth and comfort. But give me one grueling day, much less a difficult week, and God’s ultimate act of peacemaking – Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension to glory for me – isn’t much of a consolation at all. My emotions are at war with God.
When nature witnessed Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, the ground shook, rocks shattered, graves split open, and the sun hid itself. But my heart tends to stay intact because of its lingering war with the God who has declared unbreakable peace with me. Most of my enmity is buried deep down and only bubbles up to the surface when things aren’t going the way I want them to go. Then my heart declares war on God yet again.
If you are trusting into the person and work of Christ, there is hope for you because you have been given the Holy Spirit to re-create your heart by showing you your enmity against God and by granting you the ability to confess and repent and for Christ to live out his peace through you. The Holy Spirit is our special envoy of peace with God, pointing out to us that God is not at war with us, we are at war with him when we sin. Unless you’re willing to admit you are at war with God, you can never have peace.
What are the signs that you are becoming increasingly at peace with God? One sign will be that you find worship to be a great celebration, rather than a chore. Instead of seeing worship as something you have to do, or as something to which your parents drag you to listen to some old guy talk about God, you begin to take joy in the fact that although God could have crushed you for your war with him he forgave you. He accepted you – warfare and all. You are still skirmishing against him, and he STILL loves you. He delights in you. If you can’t see your hostility, there’s no way you can worship.
The second sign that you are entering more fully into God’s peace is that you will no longer be terrified of failure. Before you understood that you were at war with God, and therefore your acceptance by him is a matter of sheer grace, you based your whole life on your performance. It was only when you thought you were performing well that you could pray to God. Only when you thought you were performing well could you look yourself in the mirror, even if you were not a religious person.
But when you were drawn into Christ’s Kingdom, you entered with the knowledge that you are already a failure at the most fundamental and necessary relationship of your life but that your Heavenly Father loves you infinitely. He is not mad at you. He is not disappointed in you. You are completely free to confess your failures because his grace has dealt with that. Who cares about horizontal approval from your fellow serfs when you have the inexhaustible favor of the King? You may lose some battles, but the war has been won and God is at peace with you! The question is: Do YOU have that peace?
WHAT IS PEACEMAKING?
Our last question is: what is peacemaking? Many people think peacemaking is simply keeping your mouth shut and being the kind of person who doesn’t create waves. Jesus Christ made peace by confronting people, by setting his face like a flint to die. Real peace always makes waves. Peacemaking always makes waves.
We can only have peace with God when we admit that we are at war with him. Peacemaking is announcing the good news that God has first made peace with us. Peacemaking is letting people know about their desperate condition of hostility toward their Creator and his offer of peace with them through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peacemakers have a new attitude toward the people around them. Instead of asking whether I like the person, or they like me, or wondering what they think of you, you realize you are no longer living under the burden of a performance-based life. You are free to enjoy everyone around you and ask what God is doing in their life and how can you participate in their entering into God’s shalom, his wholeness, his peace.
What is peacemaking? It is extending God’s offer of peace, of wholeness, to those who by nature are at war with God. The apostle Paul put it like this to the Colossians as he wrote of Jesus, the Prince of Peace:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:1–12.
 Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:32–33.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 7:21–25.
 Keller, op. cit.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:7–8.
 Keller, op. cit.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.