March 21, 2021
“All we are saying, is give peace a chance. All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”
The year is 1969… bellbottoms, long hair, and funny cigarettes are all the rage…
John Lennon and Yoko Ono released this song… all in the backdrop of America being entrenched in the Vietnam War.
One of my uncles, and one of my mentors, and many of your family members and some of you listening were dropping into hell on earth in the late 60s and early 70s.
America was divided… some fully supported our involvement and supported our troops, and others protested and passionately opposed any involvement.
My family tree was a house divided.
My uncle Gary, made it back in one piece, but his mind came back shattered. He came back different…changed. He didn’t share much.
My mentor Phil, on the other hand, found it cathartic to share his stories as a way of letting go and processing.
One story in particular he shared with me was about him being a new Christian… just starting to really dig in to what it meant to follow Jesus, and then life turned on a dime. One minute he’s holding a bible, the next he’s holding an M60, in the middle of the jungle, fighting for his life.
He shared with me that one day, while out on patrol, a young Vietnamese boy started walking towards their platoon, his body strapped with explosives…tears running down the boy’s face…
Phil made a choice that day to protect himself and the men he was called to lead.
He shared with me the torture his mind went through years later trying to reconcile Jesus’ words of being a peacemaker and loving one another… and the choices he made to survive in the midst of war.
Unfortunately, this story is not unique.
Men and women throughout history, in wars, foreign and domestic, were put in hellacious compromising situations.
I have never had to experience the hell of war…those close to me have, but I haven’t. And so, to all of you who served and are still serving. Thank you.
As I’ve talked with family and friends who have served, specifically those that follow Jesus, there’s a common question that comes up of “What do I do with Jesus?”
Or “How do I reconcile the life that Jesus is asking me to lead compared to the life I’ve actually led?”
And, this isn’t just for men and women who have served, this is for all of us.
There’s this tension in us that is real and sometimes painful.
The tension of ‘how do I reconcile my past life, my past decisions, and even my current struggles, with this life I’m called to live out as a Christ follower?’
I wish I had the perfect answer for them…for all of you. I don’t… but I believe Jesus does.
I believe Jesus does some of His best work in the tension.
That His grace is greater than our disgrace.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that regardless of the tension you feel or the baggage you may have, Jesus says: “You are loved… and chosen.”
He says, “(He) will never leave you or abandon you.”
He says, “(He) will give you rest.” That, “There is nothing that can separate you from His love.”
His invitation to salvation is not based on a life of good decisions, but on choosing to accept a gift of grace we couldn’t earn, but is freely given.
I’m just gonna ask ya, right up front…have you accepted this gift of grace? This gift of salvation?
My relationship with Christ is the only thing I’ve found that will actually bring satisfaction to my soul and purpose to my life.
If you’re on the fence with this whole Jesus, faith thing, first, let me say, I’m so glad you’re here…online or in the room…this is not a place for those who have it all together. This is a place where broken people come together to meet a God who makes broken things beautiful.
This whole year, all of us broken people have been walking through what is commonly referred to as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Week by week, verse by verse, digging into the teachings of Jesus and His invitation to live a life on mission for His Kingdom.
I believe God has been doing some incredible things through His word and through all of you these last couple months.
He’s up to something, and it’s powerful and beautiful…watching people’s lives being transformed.
All as we’re building up towards Easter…
You know Easter is coming right? In like 2 weeks.
Have you registered? If you are planning to be here in-person, I want to encourage you to get online and register.
We’re currently are offering three services… 8:30am, 10am, & 11:30am.
The 10am is already full, I love it. And both the 8:30 and 11:30 are filling up fast.
So, here’s the deal, you don’t want to miss this Easter. Nic and our team is cooking up some incredible stuff. David and I are gonna be tag-teaming the message. We’re gonna have an All-In baptism invitation. You’re gonna want to be here with a friend.
I’ve got a feeling this is gonna be one of those “were you there when” moments.
SO, invite your family and friends and get online and register, so we can plan accordingly If we need to add a 4th service… then we’ll add it.
Listen, if you guys invite enough people, we’ll add a 5th service. I ain’t scared. I don’t know if our team will show up… but I know Jesus will. He’s up to something.
Today, let’s see what Jesus is up to in his Sermon on the Mount… specifically Matthew 5, as we look at the Beatitudes…this series of simple but counter-intuitive statements.
Today’s beatitude is: Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
So, what does it mean to be a peacemaker?
What if I haven’t always been a peacemaker?
What if there are people in my life I don’t really want to bring peace to?
What if there are people groups I think don’t deserve peace?
What if most of my life, I’ve been more of a trouble maker than a peacemaker?
If you can relate to that last statement, you’re in good company.
The apostle Paul was a troublemaker. Don’t believe me? Read a bible. Wherever Paul went, there was either a riot or a revival.
And contrary to what some people may think, Jesus was a trouble maker.
Jesus even caused trouble with his parents. In the gospel of Luke, we read that Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem for a festival and when his parents left to go home, 12-year-old Jesus stayed behind.
Luke 2:46 says: “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
Three days of his parents trying to find him…can you imagine what was going through his parents’ minds? Can you imagine how embarrassing this was? “Umm…we lost our son…the messiah…yeah, we lost him.”
This is the Home Alone Gospel. The early years.
As Jesus got older, his ways didn’t change.
Jesus caused trouble for the Jews, the Gentiles, the Romans, the Pharisees, the Zealots, the High Priests, dead people, demons, even pigs. Nobody was safe from Jesus. In a bold, non-peacemaking statement captured in Matthew 10, verse 34, Jesus even said: “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.”
Jesus came to draw a line in the sand, between family members, friends, and enemies, saying…are you in or out?
I’ve come to seek and save the lost, to set the captive free and bring freedom to the oppressed…are you with or against me?
Jesus’ life and teachings force us to make a decision about who He is and what He came to do.
CS Lewis wrote, “Jesus is either a lunatic, liar, or the Lord.”
Jesus forces us to examine our motives, our purpose, our identity, and our calling.
As I look at the life of Jesus, especially here in the early days of his ministry on Earth, I kind of see Jesus making these bold, crazy statements. Some people don’t like it and some people leave and go temple shopping.
But those that stick around, I kind of see Jesus gather those that are still there with him and he kind of crouches down and is like…now, those of you who are with me, let’s go change the world.
And, that’s exactly what they did. A bunch of misfits, untrained, unqualified, less-thens transformed the entire Roman empire with the teachings of a carpenter from the wrong side of the tracks.
Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Jesus is saying, are you a peacemaker? If so, you are blessed because you are doing the family business. I’m gonna call you MY children. Sons and daughters of the King, and you will have a royal inheritance.
Are you a peacemaker? Are you a part of the family business?
Are you stirring up trouble with Jesus…but listen, it’s Good Trouble.
See, there’s a tension for all of us who have chosen to follow Jesus.
He will stir things up in us. He will cause things to be unsettled.
Having Jesus as lord and leader isn’t for the weak of heart. Yes, he offers comfort, but He also calls us into a radical life of transformation.
That will cause trouble for our family, friends, habits, and hang-ups.
See, we’re gonna cause trouble…one way or another. We’re human.
The question we have to ask is, will it be good trouble or bad trouble?
Good trouble is peacemaking…
Bad trouble is troublemaking…
If we actually breakdown the word “peacemaker” in its original Greek language… you know I was studying this week if I go Greek on you…
The word peacemaker in Greek is: Eh-raino -pollos (Eirenopoios).
Those who make peace … those who strive towards a harmonious relationship and not just the absence of war or uneasy truce.
I would argue that a peacemaker is someone who is actively seeking to reconcile people to God and to one another.
The word make in the term “peacemakers” comes from the Greek verb that means “to do” or “to make.”
It is a word bursting with energy. It mandates action and initiative. It elicits a picture of someone dragging two people who are at-odds with each other and bringing them to a table and building a bridge of reconciliation.
Notice Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the peace-wishers or the peace-hopers or the peace-dreamers or the peace-lovers or the peace-talkers.”
Peace must be made. Peace never happens by chance. A peacemaker is never passive. They are up and doing.
So, when these two words are taken together, “peace” and “maker,” it describes somebody who actively pursues peace. The peacemaker pursues more than the absence of conflict and they don’t avoid conflict.
In reality, peacemakers will at times create conflict…or…Good Trouble.
Peacemakers aren’t merely seeking to appease those who are in opposition and they aren’t trying to accommodate everyone.
Peacemakers are not people pleasers.
Instead, they are pursuing all the beauty and blessedness of God upon all that are involved and reconcile them back to God and to one another.
Peacemakers have a spirit of courage, but also a spirit of meekness, which is simply power under control.
Jesus’ brother, James wrote this about peacemakers (and any of you with a brother, you know if your brother says something about you, they’re not pulling any punches):
James 3:18: “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
To be a peacemaker is to be blessed, but it is not easy. The path of the peacemaker is the path of resistance.
In 1781, at the height of the American Revolutionary War, Ben Franklin wrote this to John Adams, “’Blessed are the peacemakers’ is, I suppose, for another world. In this world, they are frequently cursed.”
Unfortunately, too often, this is true.
Let’s just be real a second…in 2021, when we read the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers,”…if we’re honest, we kind of scratch our heads and say “sure, Jesus…BUT, have you looked outside the last year and a half ?!?”
“Peacemaking…sounds nice, Jesus.”
Because we know peacemaking is not nice.
Peacemaking is messy and hard. It takes time and a lot of emotional energy. It is like crossing a fast-moving river on slippery rocks with salmon jumping all around you and a grizzly bear looking at you for lunch.
Peacemaking is a risky, BUT necessary, journey. Sometimes you will fall. Your spirit will get bruised. Sometimes you don’t make it across the river.
But, to call yourself a Christian is by virtue to call yourself a peacemaker.
Being a peacemaker is foundational to our faith.
We have a God-given, scripturally-directed responsibility to pursue peace.
In Romans 14:19, the apostle Paul declares: “So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.”
Does that mean we agree with everything others say or do? No.
Sometimes we agree to disagree, agreeably.
Christian author, Ken Sande wrote a book called The Peacemaker about this very topic. He argues that there are three basic ways to handle conflict: peace-making, peace-breaking, and peace-faking.
Some of us are naturally peace-breakers. We want to stir the pot. We love the controversy. We love to drop the mic.
Others of us are peace-fakers. We won't acknowledge or even admit that there is any conflict…Mad? I'm not mad. Conflict? No conflict here. Everything is good. Praise God, Hallelujah!
As Christians, there can be a natural tendency to do this…to play nice…to keep the peace. We don't want to talk about the problem. That would be too messy.
We just want to bury it under a rug so it can fester and boil and turn into resentment and we can carry around guilt…because we’re used to that.
But, that’s not what Jesus calls us to!
Jesus doesn't call us to be peace-fakers. He calls us to get elbow deep in it and make peace.
He calls us to build bridges not barriers....
Peacemakers are Bridge Builders
A bridge by definition is:
1) a structure carrying something over a depression or obstacle.
We have been called to be people who will reach out, to cross a divide and carry people over obstacles…whatever they may be…to bring about peace.
For David and I, we have a hope that our Whitewater family will always be the FIRST to build a bridge across ANY divide.
Relational divides…Economic Divides…Racial Divides…Gender Divides…
We are called to build bridges.
Who are you being called to build a bridge of peace to?
Maybe it’s someone in your family. Someone in your neighborhood. Someone at school. Maybe it’s your spouse.
Jesus has been uniquely preparing you for this task…to be a peacemaker.
Peace is made by sacrificing our pride, meeting people where they are, posturing our hearts and our ears as listeners and learners, all in the context of relationship… through conversations not comments in a post.
Let’s just be really honest with each other…to be a bridge builder, we have to first look at the condition of our own heart before we can try to build a bridge to someone else’s.
And, we still have so much unhealth in our hearts towards those different than us.
This isn’t a gender problem, a race problem, or a skin problem…this is a sin problem.
The answer to this problem is not ever going to be a law, it will be LOVE.
Until we are broken and re-born by the love of Christ, we cannot extend the love of Christ.
There are so many bridges left unfinished that still need to be built.
Bridges to lost people. Bridges to those different than us. Bridges to those trapped in bondage and oppression. Bridges that will reconcile people back to God and to one another.
Will you be a bridge builder? Will you be a peacemaker?
In the 1940s, there was a young bridge builder named John Lewis who, from as early as he could remember, knew he wanted to be a minister. At the age of 5, he could be found preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen. Most of the time, his congregation were chickens on his family’s farm.
Later in life, Lewis would go on to graduate from seminary and became an ordained minister. He then graduated from Fisk University with a degree in religion and philosophy. In 1987, he became a member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.
John Lewis had a profound understanding of holding tight the reigns of building bridges to reconcile people back to God AND fighting for civil rights and reconciling people to each other.
In 1965, Lewis led the first of three civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
The first attempt to make this march happen was met with brutal force from state troopers and mounted police.
It became known as Bloody Sunday. As the protestors walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met with tear gas and nightsticks, as mounted police charged the crowd trampling over them as they went.
Bloody Sunday was one of the first nationally televised attacks on protesters, leaving the nation horrified.
Two weeks later, Martin Luther King, Jr. and 25,000 other men, women, students, and clergy of all races from across the nation, joined John Lewis to go on the 55-mile march from Selma to Montgomery.
Last summer, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the outrage that sparked throughout the nation, my family had to chance to get away for a few days. (David wondered if I was gonna come back!)
While we were away, our family went to Selma, AL to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
As a family, we walked across the bridge. We prayed. We wept. We talked to Noah and Isabel about who we are as bridge builders. We talked about the bridge builders that have come before us, that walked across that same bridge…and we talked about why.
The bridge is now an iconic symbol of the struggle for civil rights in America, and its name is as significant as its imposing structure.
The bridge was named after Edmund Pettus, a former US senator, a Confederate general, and grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
Just prior to his death last year, John Lewis was asked about whether or not the Pettus Bridge should be renamed. This was his response:
“The Edmund Pettus Bridge symbolizes both who we once were, and who we have become today.
Renaming the Bridge will never erase its history. Instead of hiding our history behind a new name, we must embrace it —the good and the bad.
The historical context of the Pettus Bridge makes the events of 1965 even more profound.
The irony is that a bridge named after a man who inflamed racial hatred is now known worldwide as a symbol of equality, justice, and peace. I find it quite biblical—what was meant for evil, God now uses for good.”
Where is God asking you to build a bridge of peace to today?
Even if there are things in your past, experiences or relationships you think could never be mended or made whole again, God will use all of our experiences, healthy or not, and he will use them for good.
There are some bridges that are not burned…they just need re-built.
I want to invite you, today, this week, to ask some simple but challenging questions…
In your sphere of influence, where is a peacemaker desperately needed?
Where does reconciliation need to happen?
Will you answer that call?
Friends, this world needs peacemakers right now.
With another senseless shooting spree and hate crime in Atlanta, unrest still permeates across our country…in our communities…in our hearts.
I’m challenging all of us to be peacemakers, to enlist in God’s Peace Corps.
To be men, women, and students that will build bridges of peace and reconciliation, back to the Father and to each other.
I know this path of peace is hard, but it is the path of Christ and all who choose to follow Him.
In the words of John Lewis…
"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
Good trouble…I think Jesus would understand.