“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
When I started my career many years ago I commuted on the Long Island Railroad. Having grown up in semi-rural Illinois, it was a rude awakening to life in the city. I was amazed at how mild-mannered suburbanites could become rabid animals simply by stepping onto a train platform. Train commuting is dog-eat-dog — survival of the fittest. And what is the prize for the most aggressive commuters? You get to squeeze into a too-small train seat rather than stand for the hour ride to Penn Station. And then we then herded ourselves over to the even more aggressive platforms of the New York City subway system. I felt like I was being robbed — of space, time and money — every day. It was hard to be peaceful. All that aggression affects your spirit in ways I didn’t even understand at the time.
My solution was to take the 5:23AM. It was early, but it was a time for the more peaceful people to commute. Fewer travelers meant that there were seats available and the people seemed nicer!
Many years later I live in a place that is more like the semi-rural place where I grew up. I do not deal with the daily aggression of commuters. But my responsibilities require that I travel quite a bit — mostly in Asia. I am currently on a journey that takes me to Beijing, Hong Kong, Delhi, and Siliguri… I fly economy so I am used to being packed into spaces like sardines. Frankly it does not bring out the peace in me. On the contrary, it is a very disquieting thing to be packed into busses, shuttles, trains, and planes. It is anything but peaceful to endure long lines (and to endure those special folks who think lines don’t apply to them)!
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
As Kingdom citizens we are called upon to be peacemakers. First, we need to be at peace with those around us. There is no room for unforgiveness, bitterness and nurtured anger. We seek to be at peace with our family, colleagues, relatives, neighbors and companions on the road. Second, we are ambassadors of reconciliation. God is at work in Christ reconciling the world to Him. We have a message that brings a peace “beyond human understanding” to people whose hearts are hurting and without hope.
“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:18)
Thirdly, We should encourage reconciliation between people whose relationships have been broken. The realties of this world and the choices we make in it can create horrible relational breeches. Mistrust, betrayal, selfishness and pride all contribute to the divides that leave even loved-ones estranged. We believe in the restorative power of the Holy Spirit when people will surrender their conflicts to Him. As we devote ourselves to being ambassadors of peace we begin to show the family resemblance to Jesus. This is what it means to be called a sons of God.
I have a friend who lives in a remote part of Alaska. It is stunningly beautiful and peaceful. It can be a hard life, but dealing with crazy crowds is not something he ever deals with. His parting words to me when I was with him last were, “When you find yourself in a crowd or in traffic I want you to ask yourself, ‘I wonder what my buddy Joel is doing.’” He was grinning ear to ear. He is certainly not dealing with crowds or traffic. I know his daily life is more peaceful than mine. But I don’t think I can determine whether I am peaceful by conditions conducive to it. On the contrary, I want to know that I can be at peace when I am packed like a sardine on a flight in India where the seat in front of me is digging into my knees. I want to know that I would contend for peace at such times.