"Blessed are the peacemakers, they are called the children of God," – Matthew 5:9. In June 1963, President John F. Kenney, while speaking on the topic of world peace, declared that he wanted, “Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave.
I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables [people] and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
That was 50 years ago, a time when America was divided sharply along racial lines. There was little peace for thousands of disenfranchised persons. That was a time when Gov. George Wallace of Alabama vowed in a speech, “Segregation today, segregation forever.”
That was a time when four little black girls were bombed while they were attending church services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. President John F. Kennedy himself was a victim of violence, assassinated in 1963.
Our country’s relationship with other governments was strained. What the world needed and deserved then was peace. And what the world needs and deserves now is peace.
Yes, things have changed for the better since 1963. Neither space nor time permits me to cite the several instances of positive change in local and world peace but, as a society, our pursuit of peace and tranquility must aggressively continue.
When Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He knew not everybody would understand their life’s purpose.
There are three kinds of people who occupy the world. First, there are the peace-breakers. These are the people who intentionally start trouble, making people who belong to the “other” group uncomfortable. Some peace breakers suffer from homogeneity where the only “right” group is whatever group or clique to which they belong.
Then there are the peace-keepers. These are the people who are busy not doing anything to bring about positive change. Peace-keepers avoid conflict at all cost, even when there’s a need for conflict resolution. They are quiet and uninvolved.
The essence of their non-action is summed up in the statement, “You keep over there and I’ll stay over here. There is no necessary intersection with your situation and mine.
As long as we are equal, separate is no problem. I don’t understand you – and don’t have a need to. I’m fine where I am and I’m perfectly fine with where you are, as long as I don’t have to deal with you. I’ll tolerate you but don’t expect me to embrace you. I’m a peace-keeper.”
But, then, thank God, there are the peace-makers. It’s more practical, more morally useful, more intellectually sustainable and stimulating to be a peace-maker. Jesus calls this group “blessed.”
They are regarded as content, because they understand life’s purpose. They are blessed, happy, content and fulfilled with knowing they are powerful enough to make a difference in the world.
Peace-makers are also, according to Jesus, recognized as children of God. God is love, peace and just. So all of God’s children have His traits. Peace-makers are also realized in Jesus’ statement as central to the Master’s mission to transform the world. Peace-makers know peace inwardly. For it is impossible to effectively change anything outwardly unless there is peace inwardly.
Peace is also a spiritual dynamic, which helps peace-makers make the right decisions as they pursue peace socially. Peace-makers are always involved resolving disputes, erasing divisions, eliminating strife and building relationships.
Peace-makers make peace, not just keep peace. George Bernard Shaw said, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
When our bodies are whole, we call it health, when our world is whole, we call it peace. What the world needs is peace, so let it begin with each of us. Amen!
*Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net Website: WTRMinistries.com