Children of God

Sermon on the Mount: Week 2

Children of God
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. . . . Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. —General Omar Bradley [1]

Today we continue discussing the implications of Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Pax Romana creates a false peace by sacrificing others. But the peace Jesus speaks of—Pax Christi, the peace of Christ—waits and works for true peace by sacrificing the false self of power, prestige, and possessions. Such peacemaking will never be popular. The follower of Jesus is doomed to minority status.

Jesus next warns us that we will be hated from all sides (see also John 15:18-16:2 and Matthew 10:22). When you’re working outside the system, when you work for peace, you will not be admired inside the system. In fact, you will look dangerous, subversive, and unpatriotic. One thing you cannot call Jesus was a patriot. He was serving a far bigger realm.

If you are truly a peacemaker, your very means have to be nonviolent and you have to be consistently pro-life—from womb to tomb. One of the most distressing qualities of many Christians today is that they retain the right to decide when, where, and with whom they will be pro-life peacemakers. If the other can be determined to be wrong, guilty, unworthy, or sinful, the death penalty is somehow supposed to serve justice. That entirely misses the ethical point Jesus makes: We are never the sole arbiters of life or death, because life is created by God and carries the divine image. It is a spiritual seeing, far beyond any ideology of left or right.

John Dear writes:

With this Beatitude, Jesus announces that God is a peacemaker. Everyone who becomes a peacemaker is therefore a son or daughter of the God of peace. With this teaching, Jesus describes the nature of God as nonviolent and peaceful. This one verse throws out thousands of years of belief in a violent god and every reference to a warmaking god in the Hebrew Scriptures. It does away with any spiritual justification for warfare . . . . Instead, it opens vast new vistas in our imaginations about what the living God is actually like, and what God’s reign might be like. With this Beatitude, we glimpse the nonviolence of heaven and join the global struggle to abolish war and pursue a new world of nonviolence here on earth. . . .

As peacemakers, we are nonviolent to ourselves, nonviolent to all others, all creatures, and all creation, and we work publicly for a new world of nonviolence. . . .

[We are called to] speak out against every aspect of violence—poverty, war, racism, police brutality, gun violence, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction—and at the same time call for a new culture of peace. . . . [2]

References:
[1] Omar Bradley, Armistice Day Address in Boston on November 10, 1948. From The Collected Writings of General Omar N. Bradley, vol. 1 (U.S. Government Printing: 1967), 588-589.

[2] John Dear, The Beatitudes of Peace: Meditations on the Beatitudes, Peacemaking and the Spiritual Life (Twenty-Third Publications: 2016), 89-90, 91, 98.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996), 140-141.

Image credit: Les victimes de la mer. Douleur (The Victims of the Sea. Grief [detail]), by Charles Cottet, 1909, Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. —Matthew 5:7
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