What does it mean to work for peace? Peace doesn’t just mean no war. In some ways, Jesus’ statement about those who work for peace is kind of saying that an apple is an apple. His fellow Jews understood that there was a “peace” (their word is “Shalom” – which you’ll still hear today, along with the Arabic equivalent ‘Salaam’) which was really “how things are meant to be”. Shalom is that sense that everything is right in the world.
So, in one sense, you could read the above and think it means – “Rich are those who work to see a world where everything is as it should be, for they will belong to God’s family”. And what would it mean to “belong to God’s family”? In those days family was very important. It was part of your status. Whose family – and ultimately whose inheritance you had – that was, well, everything.
Yet again, the juxtaposition of “rich” adds real weight to what’s being said. “Rich” are those who have an inheritance from God. Far richer than any riches that could be inherited from their human family.
In a narrower sense, Jesus was someone who always promoted non-violence – ultimately mocking the oppressive act of state execution by being raised from the dead after his crucifixion3. It’s pretty conceivable that nonviolence falls under the definition of “how things should be”. And nonviolence doesn’t just mean not bombing the middle east (or North Korea). It also means communicating in a nonviolent way to those around us.
The Good News
The good news is that we get to be inheritors of God’s fortune! That might mean all kinds of things to people, but fundamentally it speaks of shalom – the sense that everything is as it should be. That’s what we are told we have to look forward to. And how do we get there? We can help make it happen!
People often have this view of God that says that everything that happens is through him and not through us. That God ultimately will judge and then there will be a heaven and a hell and the heaven will be perfect and everything will be right.
Jesus is saying we can have that now if we work for it to happen.
- What do you think it means to promote peace? Perhaps you could start in your own life by reconciling areas of conflict with others – especially if that conflict is longstanding. If you feel able, perhaps you could work for peace in your place of work or your neighbourhood – reconciling people or groups of people who are in conflict
- We’re lucky in the UK not to have the death penalty. But many countries still do, and there are campaigns in those places to fight against it. Perhaps you could in some way lend your support.