Thirteen times in the Gospels, Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
What does that phrase mean? And what’s the difference between a Christian and a Christ follower? A subtle difference in the English language, but quite a large difference in reality. To be a Christian is to be labeled as a believer, but this word is so generic today almost anyone can claim to be a Christian. On the other hand, to be a “Christ follower” is to follow wherever He leads, and to be His imitators on Earth. Imitating Christ was never promised to be a walk in the park. In fact, we can be sure that journey will chip off more and more of our fleshly desires the longer we follow Him, and as His mission becomes our mission.
This understanding of “Follow Me” is playing a big role in my understanding of the Beatitudes (Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount). The Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5 and they describe the foundational character qualities Jesus wanted to be at work in his people. The Beatitudes are the heart attitudes that should govern, guide, and be evident in every Christ follower’s interactions, just as they were evident in His.
One Beatitude in particular has been on the forefront of my mind, and heart, this past year. It has been resonating so much in my spirit, and I feel like it holds a lot of rich truth for us to consider and remember. And not simply to be understood cognitively, but to be lived out physically.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”
I’ve spent months being really intrigued by this direct quote from Jesus. I grew up memorizing the Beatitudes, but it wasn’t until recently that this one really struck a chord. The part that I am seeing in a whole new light these days is the phrase that immediately follows “Blessed are the peacemakers.” And that is, “for they shall be called children of God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5:9, KJV
This statement speaks directly to our identity as Christ followers. Until recently, I had never thought of this verse as an identity verse. But how profound—God made sure that the phrase “for they shall be called the children of God” directly followed “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Why is this a big deal? When Scripture says someone is a “son of”, it is a term of identification. Several times in the Old Testament we see people referred to as “sons of Belial” which is to associate them with wickedness and evil. On the contrary, when someone is referred to as a “child of God”, it is identifying them as one who has a desire to live in a way that pleases God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If we do not continually look more and more like our Heavenly Father in thought, word, and deed, we are most likely not really His.
Now we’re really getting to the heart of the matter. Peacemakers are God’s children. God’s children are makers of peace. Whew! We could stop right there. But let’s not! Because we’re really onto something big.
Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” and completed the work to reconcile people with God—to bring us back into a peaceful standing with God. As Christ followers (those who follow His example) we cannot escape this call to pursue peace with God and with each other. God not only makes peace between us and Him. He makes US peacemakers! It’s not something we’re “supposed to do”. It’s who we ARE! “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God”.
Are we acting as God’s children inside the church? Outside the church? Do we have a burden to see reconciliation brought? Do we have a burden to recognize when we are not orientated toward love and forgiveness toward others?
From a Biblical perspective, Christians should be FAMOUS for making peace. But, in general, we are not. Why? We haven’t fully believed or understood that being a peacemaker is part of our core identity as Christ followers. But I would dare to say that if this understanding permeated our very beings, and if we sought to understand it as it was meant to be understood, the modern Church would be a more powerful force for good in our world and we would please the heart of God.
Being a peacemaker does not mean we avoid conflict or that we don’t seek justice. It doesn’t mean we don’t speak or act. Really quite the opposite. It seems to be all about engaging in actions that foster future harmony. It means that we view ALL humans as image bearers of God, flawed as they (and we!) may be. It means we seek to understand before we are understood. It means we don’t stir up anger with harsh words. (Proverbs 15:1).
What would our world look like if Christians could be deployed as an army of peacemakers?
How would it change our neighborhoods and our churches and our cities if Christians desired to act as “children of God”? As “Christ followers”? As “imitators of Christ”? As “makers of peace”?
What if we pursued peace MORE than we made excuses for why we don’t pursue it?
What if we lived with humility and viewed ourselves and others as God views us—as image bearers of God?
What if we prayed before we made our next social media comment? Whoooo weeeee. I’ll just leave that there. (But seriously.)
I suppose it could be said that there are many nuances of being a peacemaker. And to that we remember Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Meaning, with a heart of great humility and respect, we should seek God’s will for how to live and be in this world, and how to respond to conflict.
This phrase, “Blessed are the peacemakers” is quite possibly one of the most convicting messages we’ve ever put on a shirt. But we believe it is a reminder that can transform the modern church and lead us to better live out Christ’s call to “Follow Me.”
Our hope is that when you put this shirt on, or when you see its message on someone else, it would lead you to pause in a prayer that simply says, “Lord, make me a better peacemaker.”
There are really two ways to view this message. 1) It’s really soft and “feel good” OR 2) It’s one of the most challenging phrases you’ve ever read. Here’s the thing. Peacemaking is not easy to do. It’s not something we are naturally “good at”. In fact, we’re terrible at it! Seeking and making and pursuing peace with one another is something that happens supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. When we are struggling to make peace, may we humbly pray for the ability to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Romans 12:18, ESV