Nov. 2, 2013 Civility in Xian Scripture
Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Jesus does many surprising things in his teaching, and the passage we call the “beatitudes” is where he kicks off a major reordering of our lives. The idea of being a peace-maker is a lost art in most discourse today, even in religious discourse. Jesus called the peacemakers “blessed.” We sometimes call them derogatory things like weak, waffling, appeasing or losers. We too often prefer “winning” and at all costs.
We’re usually too concerned with “winning” or “dominating” to worry about peace. In a society that is drenched in criticism and division we gravitate to what we perceive as “strength.” We too often bless the harsh. We bless the clever and the sarcastic. We bless the scathing turn of phrase. We bless the spin. We bless the winner. Today’s social media and inter-connectivity is cool, but it’s also fast and furious. I’m not sure why, but alongside our increasing ability to share, we’ve developed an increased ability and joy in criticizing and tearing down. So our sharing becomes a contest, a war of images and words to see who can score a point, defeat an opinion or win a debate. The troll lives in each of us.
Jesus blesses a weird bunch of people in Matthew 5… poor, hopeless, mourning, hungry and meek to name a few. He blesses those who show mercy. He blesses those who strive for peace. As religious people and folks driven by faith, we sure spend a lot of time speaking of one another and acting toward one another in uncivil ways, peace-breaking ways. One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The gift of speech and language is an awesome responsibility.
The beatitudes present us with a picture of a reciprocating community in which the grieving are comforted, the merciful find mercy, the heart-full seekers find God and those committed to peace are named the offspring of God. I like to think of this passage as a wheel with spokes… there’s an integrity and completeness to the design that moves it forward. Strike out a spoke and the wheel is weakened. Supplant peace with coercion, force or discord, and the wheel grinds to a halt. If we cease to bring comfort and mercy, who will bring it to us?
I also like the language of inheritance in the passage. Inheritance is the created wealth and legacy of one generation imparted to the next. What inheritance are we leaving? Are we leaving an example and inheritance of peace by being a people devoted to one another? Are we leaving an inheritance of a faith in ruins from our cutting remarks and judgmental criticisms that bring more grief and less peace, even as they win arguments or bolster our own position?
Let’s meditate on the peace in which Christ has called us. Let’s meditate on the griefs in which we have been comforted, by God and by our community of faith. Let’s prepare ourselves to strive for a peace that does not require someone’s defeat. What do I bless?