“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
For every person who reads this verse, it is vital that they don’t misread the word “peacemaker” as “peacekeeper” instead, because the two words have very different meanings.
I made this error when I first read through this part of the book of Matthew, the Beatitudes, a list of blessings that Christ discussed. At the time, I didn’t think that reading this verse as “Blessed are the peacekeepers” is inaccurate due to a fundamental lack of understanding about the definitions of these two words.
The main difference between “peacekeeper” and “peacemaker” is the goal that the two pursue: the former yearns to keep the status quo, the “peace”, as is, while the latter desires the completion of a goal that results in true peace.
Christ, the best example of a peacemaker, actively challenged the Jewish religious leaders who imposed a legalistic view of God and scripture. Jesus, in his sermons and actions, fought against this interpretation by proving that mercy, instead of rigorously adhering to a set of laws, was what truly mattered in the eyes of His Father. All of this severely angered the Pharisees and Sadducees, who joined together in a plot to have Him killed for teaching things so against their doctrine and what they held dear.
Something important to also remember about Christ is what he said about what He came to bring upon the earth: not “peace”, but a sword:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Matthew 10: 34-36)
As He states in these verses, choosing to follow God’s ways instead of the ways of the world will inevitably result in conflict with others, even those whom one could never imagine having any conflict with.
One must understand that pursuing God’s justice in this world will always, soon enough, result in many others being offended and angered at that person’s choice to fight against the status quo of the earth. This world is filled with oppression, bigotry and discrimination, and if you choose to fight that alongside God instead of feigning apathy and accepting that evil, then people who adore the status quo instead of abhorring it will turn on you.
Even then, you can’t let fear of conflict stop you from pursuing God’s justice for others. As Jesus also said:
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10: 26-28).
It is pointless to be afraid of another human who might want to hurt you for doing what God wills for others.
The peacekeepers will fight to maintain the status quo that they cherish, while the peacemakers will fight for the sake of God’s justice, seeking to overthrow the status quo and all the evil that it entails. You can’t possibly hope to straddle the fence on this issue; you’re either one or the other.
As the battles to end discrimination against all peoples continue, it is vital that all who call themselves children of God strive to be peacemakers and fight against the hatred and evil in this world, rather than accepting it.