Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 40: The Beatitudes part 4: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 40: The Beatitudes part 4: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Violent people always believe that their actions are justified, and violent resistance only heightens their righteous indignation. However, Jesus said, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). The only way to stop the cycle of escalating violence is to be a peacemaker.

Jesus’ instructions deviated from traditional teachings. Remarkably, he told his listeners to not follow the ancient Hebrew rule “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24). Such reciprocal violence has always been a recipe for escalating mimetic violence. Instead, Jesus advised “Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the left cheek also” (Mt 6:39). Along this vein, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 6:43) This is the only path towards peace, because retributive violence always begets more violence. Showing love for one’s enemies is the only path towards reconciliation.

Notably, Jesus exhorted his listeners not only to be righteous, peaceful, and merciful but to avoid even thinking about hurtful actions. I think Jesus understood that behavior is the outward manifestation of feelings. Sometimes we repress our feelings in order to avoid saying or doing things we would later regret. But, if those feelings persist, we will express them eventually, often transferred from the original target to a scapegoat. Consequently, Jesus admonished against remaining angry with one’s brother or regarding women lustfully.

Does peacemaking apply to animals? Given that animals belong to God, blessed are those who protect them. Avoiding cruelty to animals, and attending to those in need, is one aspect of faithful living. Indeed, the Hebrew Scriptures mandate than one must rescue an animal on the Sabbath, even if the animal belongs to one’s enemy. In addition, I think peacemaking, to be effective and meaningful, must be a way of life, not something that is done selectively when it’s convenient. I think anytime we close our hearts and minds to the suffering of victims, whether human or not, we become increasingly calloused to all forms of violence.

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that Jesus stressed the immanence of the Kingdom of God. Christians have often envisioned the Kingdom of God as other-worldly and remote, but I think Jesus teachings, including the parables, were trying to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God also applies to here and now. Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. If we are to share Jesus’ hope and dream, if we are to be genuine disciples of Christ, we must be peacemakers, because God is not about violence, hatred, and destructiveness. And, we must be peacemakers for all of God’s Creation, because otherwise we are just posturing. When we care for a select fragment of God’s Creation, that usually means caring for members of our family or ethnic group or being concerned about people who, if provoked, might threaten our well-being. Such a stance may be prudent, but it does not engender lasting peace. Jesus was teaching that true peacemakers are not grounded in pragmatic self-interest; they seek to be peacemakers for all God's Creation, because God is about love, not violence.

Next week, I will explore more teachings of the Beatitudes.

Go on to: Part 41: The Sermon on the Mount
Return to: Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence Table of Contents
Return to: Christian Living Table of Contents