When Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States, he was quoted as saying, “the people of the world want peace so much that that one these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” Here we are many years later and still the saying of President Eisenhower rings true.
If we could take a survey of the nations of the world, I am sure we would discover that one of the deepest desires of all people is to live in peace. At least, that’s what we say. And yet peace always seems to elude us. Everyone says he or she wants it, but somehow, we never quite achieve it.
So what’s the problem? Could it be that human beings are not saying what they really mean? Maybe we’re not really for peace but just against war. Those two are not necessarily the same. Most of the owners and operators of hotels and motels, for example, are against fires. We would expect that. But not all of them are for fire safety. That costs too much.
And maybe that’s a large part of our problem where peace is concerned. Everyone with any common sense and human compassion is against war. But then people get to look at peace and see how much it might cost, and they are not sure they are for that either.
But Jesus tells us in His Sermon on the Mount: “Blest are the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus did not pronounce His blessing on the peacewanters or the peacewishers. He said, “Peacemakers.”
You see, peace is an active achievement. It doesn’t just happen; it is caused. Someone had to make it. At times it seems that people are sitting around waiting for peace to break out. So far that hasn’t happened, and surely we can understand by now that it isn’t going to.
Recently, one of our news commentators looked into the eye of a television camera and said, “War broke out today.” And we all knew what he meant, but that wasn’t really what happened at all. War didn’t break out. It was deliberately started. Someone flew the plane; somebody crashed it into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The result was war.
So it is with peace. It never just breaks out. It is always an active achievement. Wherever and whenever peace becomes a reality, it is always through the positive efforts of at least one peacemaker.
That’s how it is between nations, and that’s how it is between people. For people to live together in peace is always an active achievement. It never just happens.
So then what is involved in the making of peace? The first and most obvious necessity is communication. Adversaries must come together to both talk and listen. There must be an honest effort to hear, and understand, and respect the position of the other side. This open exchange of ideas is an absolute imperative. Peace is always made and maintained in an atmosphere of communication, and that isn’t easy. One of the most difficult things for any of us to do is listen to an opinion that contradicts our own.
Once communication is established, there comes an even more difficult step; and that is concession. The reason people and nations go to war is because their purposes and desires conflict.
Now in a world such as ours, it should be perfectly clear that all of us cannot have everything that we want. Too many of us are contending for the same things. Somebody is going to have to give up something.
Peacemakers are people who know how to talk and listen and make concessions. Jesus called peacemakers “sons of God.” By that He meant they bear a family resemblance to our heavenly Father. Peacemakers are concerned about the same things and involved in the same work that God is. In this world, there is no greater business than the making of peace and no greater need than for more people who are willing to do it.