“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9
What does it mean to be a peacemaker? First, let’s look at what peace means. In the Bible, it has several different meanings. In terms of human beings, peace has to do with a sense of well-being in all aspects of our lives. It is sometimes described as a feeling of harmony or tranquility. In the Old Testament, the Israelites came to realize that peace is a gift from God. There's a great story in Chapter 6 of the book of Judges that illustrates this realization.
The story goes that the Israelites were being terrorized by the people of Midian because they offended God. For instance, as soon as the Israelites had finished sowing their fields, the Midians would swoop in and destroy the produce and even the livestock. The Israelites were left with nothing for food, and they were reduced to misery. They turned to God for help. Here’s where we meet Gideon in a surprising twist. God sends his angel not to a great warrior or a famous leader who could save the Israelites in a single bound. No, God sent his angel to Manasseh, the lowliest family of the Israelites. And God chose Gideon, the youngest and most insignificant member of the family, to save Israel from the Midians. After much protest, Gideon listened to God, for God promised that he would be with Gideon and would give him strength, saying “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” (Judges 6:23) Gideon built an altar to God and called it Yahweh-shalom, which means “the Lord is peace.” Gideon came face to face with the God of peace, the one who could transform the lowest of the low into a great leader. Gideon went on to save Israel from the Midians and to bring peace to the land.
This story tells us not only how the Israelites came to realize that God is the source of peace, but that God empowers us to be bearers of peace. Sometimes we might feel insignificant like Gideon, especially when the problems we face are huge: a relationship in conflict, violence in our communities, or poverty and hunger. There are no easy answers to these problems.
Sometimes we are called to tackle issues in a big way. A 12-year-old boy named Craig Kielburger started an organization with some friends to help children throughout the world who were being exploited in the workforce. He didn't give into the temptation to believe (as Gideon had tried on God) that he was too insignificant to do anything. He stepped up to the plate and went to bat for children around the world.
How are you going to be a peacemaker? How will you help develop a sense of well-being and harmony in your own life? What social problems move you to want to make a difference? Remember, even when you feel like you're the last person in the world who is cut out to be a peacemaker, think about Gideon’s story and God's promise of peace, strength, and courage.