Recently I was going through boxes that had not been unpacked from my move to Juneau and found some of my old Navy things. One of the items I found was the program from when I received my Surface Warfare pin. While I enjoyed paging through the program and reminiscing about those times, one thing in particular caught my attention — that one thing was the scripture reading for the ceremony, which was, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 KJV).
This caught my attention because I remember when I first saw it I did not understand the reference. I was not a Christian at the time and I remember thinking, “How can I be a peacemaker while I am serving on a U.S. warship?” It did not make sense to me. After 25 years of thinking about this, I have come to understand that although I was in the military and serving on a warship, I was bringing about peace.
I understand this in the following context. Because of my service in parts of the world where there was strife and tension, I knew that those who were back in the states were enjoying a period of peace. Now I want to thank all those who have served and are serving. It is because of their sacrifices and putting themselves in harm’s way that we are allowed to live in peace. They are, in my eyes, peacemakers.
While I am no longer serving in the military and providing a peaceful environment through that means, this passage holds a personal significance for me now. First, as a Lutheran pastor I believe that I am a sinner. Because of sin in my life, I have been in rebellion with God; I am not at peace with Him. I also believe there is nothing I can do to alleviate this rebellion. However, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross I believe that I have been reconciled with God. Being reconciled to Him I have peace with Him.
Nevertheless, I do not just have a relationship with God. Theologically this relationship is usually referred to as the vertical relationship. In addition, I also have relationships with other people, usually referred to as the horizontal relationship. Now the question for me is, in the horizontal relationships, am I a peacemaker?
A way of being a peacemaker in the horizontal relationship is by loving my neighbor as myself. While this can be done in many different ways, it is easier said than done. For myself, I think I can take as a model our military personnel’s example. I see the military personnel’s model as being selfless and sacrificial. With this said perhaps one way I can be a peacemaker is to be selfless. Being selfless for me means putting my neighbors first and serving them. In addition, I can sacrifice so that my neighbor’s needs are met.
I have to admit I do not always succeed in doing these things. However, being a peacemaker is not a onetime shot. By this, I mean, I am constantly building relationships with people. Since I constantly build relationships, I can constantly try to be a peacemaker.