This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5
“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
So, as I study this scripture, I have to admit, this beatitude has always stumped me a little bit. It’s the promise that kind of makes me wonder…aren’t we all children of God? I mean, really, aren’t we all children of God, no matter how we act or what we do?
Obviously, I know that the Savior knows more than I do. I know that if the Savior says this then it’s not that He has to clarify, it’s that I need to seek clarity. I need to understand what He means. So…that’s what we’ll be doing today. Anyway – I’ve been trying to think of a succinct and organized way to write this post, but I’m not sure exactly how to do it. So, bear with me as I go through the thought process on 1) Understanding this Beatitude 2) Seeing how it Applies to Christ’s Atonement.
Children of God and Children of God
Nice heading, huh?
As I mentioned earlier, we are all children of God. I know this. I know that He is the Father of our Spirits. There is ample scriptural evidence of this. Heavenly Father (notice the title!!!!) formed us, created the earth, and provided a way for us to come and live on this earth so we could progress in our eternal lives. He knows each of us intimately. He is the father of our spirits.
There is absolutely no doubt that we are children of God, and I don’t think that Christ wass suggesting that we somehow have to “qualify” to become Heavenly Father’s children. However, there is a difference between being His Spiritual children of our Heavenly Father and then becoming a child of God (As in the Godhead, not solely Heavenly Father), through covenant. In fact, when we are baptized, it is referred to as being born again. To whom are we born? God.
King Benjamin Addresses the People
King Benjamin explains this well:
“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” – Mosiah 5:7
Alma the younger, shortly after His conversion also teaches:
“For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” – Mosiah 27:24-26
In the beatitudes, when Christ suggests that we can become the children of God, this doesn’t refer to what we already are: Spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. He refers to our receiving the blessings of the baptismal covenant with God. We are all spiritual children of Heavenly Father, but because of our fallen natures, we have been cut off from Him. In order to be a child of God, we need to covenant with Him and be spiritually reborn.
We know that Christ exemplified this Himself when He was baptized despite the fact that He was pure. He still needed to covenant with God to fulfill all righteousness. Being a peacemaker and being called a child of God is dependent on our covenanting with Him.
I think that understanding this is crucial to understanding the rest of the beatitude.
What is a peacemaker? What is peace?
The second point to understand with this beatitude is what Christ actually means by being a peacemaker. In order to understand that, we really have to ask “what is peace?” Is it simply not fighting?
Well, sure, not fighting is a part of it. (See 3 Nephi 11:29.) It is easy to think of peace in terms of how the world thinks of it – a lack of contention or war, but Christ has already explained that He doesn’t offer peace as the world defines it.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27
The “world” has defined peace largely as an absence of warring, fighting, strife. I looked up the definition of peace on dictionary.com, and the first six definitions have to do with an absence of something – war, strife, difficulty. The seventh definition – tranquility and serenity – is probably closest to what Christ means when He offers peace. In other words, Peace isn’t merely an absence of ill will, malignant deeds, or debilitating trial. It is, instead the presence of God’s Spirit and love. Christ offers us peace of conscience. We can experience peace, in Christ, even during the midst of the most difficult trial. No one or no thing else can offer this.
When we understand peace in the way that Christ means it, then peace becomes more powerful and more desirable. Peace becomes a transcendental power rather than some innocuous vacuum-like state. Obtaining peace, then, is the first step in becoming a peacemaker, and it all goes back to the covenant that we talked about earlier in this post. We can find an equation here…
1) Covenant with God → 2) Experience God’s Love for us and feel His Peace → 3) Proclaim peace to others by sharing the gospel and magnifying our callings. = 4)Being Called a Child of God
Covenant with God in the Waters of Baptism
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Does peace come before or after baptism? And I guess that the answer is – both. It can come to us in glimpses before baptism. This peace and comfort is what motivates us to be baptized. However, we cannot really obtain the peace that Christ offers without being baptized.
He invites us:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
When we come unto Christ and take His yoke upon us, which is taking His name upon us, which is done in the waters of baptism, then we will find rest unto our souls. When we take on Christ’s name, we’ll be able to have peace.
In order to be a peacemaker, we first need to have peace in our souls. This comes when we humble ourselves, have faith, and take upon Christ’s name in the waters of baptism.
Experience God’s Love for us and Feel His Peace
I know that this seems kind of obvious, but I want to list it as a step because it is important to recognize that we cannot possibly share something with others that we have not first obtained ourselves. We cannot make peace without first having peace.
When the people who had listened to King Benjamin’s speech accepted it, they wanted to covenant with God. They had experienced the peace that comes when we covenant with Christ.
” And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” – Mosiah 4:3
Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying our Callings
After obtaining our own peace of conscience through repentance and covenanting with the Lord, we can proclaim peace to others.
How does this look? Does this mean that we go around, making peace signs, telling people, “Give Peace a Chance”? Does this mean that if your kids are fighting at home, then you start singing, “Love at Home”?
But, really, that’s only a surface solution. Being a peacemaker is proclaiming peace. I think that Christ wants us to be the kind of peacemakers that will establish everlasting peace and joy – the peace that He offers.
A few years ago, I was on a walk listening to the radio. Several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were being announced. I didn’t disagree with the nominations, yet inwardly I thought to myself, “We have this all wrong, the real peacemakers are simple, young men and women. The real nominees should be the missionaries.
Elder Quentin L. Cook has taught:
“My heart rejoices when I realize that in our day tens of thousands of young men, young women, and senior missionaries have accepted the call to be emissaries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are taking the restored gospel of peace to the world, one person and one family at a time—a work of righteousness to bring this peace to Heavenly Father’s children.” – Quentin L. Cook, Personal Peace: the Reward of Righteousness
The missionaries, one by one, are accepting the call to serve. They are set apart, and they leave their families, their lives, their ambitions, their futures to serve God and proclaim His gospel of peace. It is beautiful. This scripture comes to mind:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” – Isaiah 52:7
This duty and blessing doesn’t only apply to missionaries. We can all establish peace in our homes, in our communities, and even in a worldwide setting by sharing the gospel.
There are two examples I want to share. The first is of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon. In the Words of Mormon, we read:
For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—
Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.” – Words of Mormon 1:17-18
King Benjamin had followed the aforementioned pattern. He was a holy man. He had covenanted with God. He knew the peace of the Gospel. Through the authority he and other prophets held, they spoke the word of God with power. This is how they established peace in the land. They didn’t enact programs or laws. Instead, they bore pure testimony with authority. They taught the gospel of repentance. They established a culture of faith and peace.
Another example is Melchizedek. He was a prophet in the Old Testament and was also known as the prince of peace.
“But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.” – Alma 13:18
Melchizedek, like King Benjamin, established peace by preaching the gospel.
We are Called the Children of God
We’ve already talked about what it means to become a child of God by covenanting with Him in the waters of baptism; however, being called a child of God comes after we proclaim peace – not after we covenant with Him. In other words, covenanting with God isn’t quite enough. It is when we keep our covenant, which includes sharing the gospel with others, that we are then called children of God.
The Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ
When Christ was born, the angels declared:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14
Even though the Savior was born, warring didn’t cease, fighting and opposition didn’t disappear. In fact, Joseph, Mary, and the very Prince of Peace would have to escape to Egypt to hide from the edict sent by Herod to kill all of the children under the age of 2. Yet we know that Christ brought peace to the earth.
We can look at the pattern discussed in this blog to determine how Christ did bring peace to the earth.
1) Covenanting with God
Christ, to fulfill all righteousness, was baptized. He covenanted directly with Heavenly Father – even though He was pure and didn’t need the cleansing effect of baptism. He exemplified what we all must do; He covenanted with God; and by doing so, he inherited all that God has – including peace and rest.
2) Experience God’s Love
Throughout Christ’s life, He experienced God’s love. He had a close relationship with His Father. When Christ was baptized, Heavenly Father announced, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17
It is this love, I believe, that empowered Christ throughout His ministry. Because Christ was pure, He was united with God. He could feel God’s love purely. He understood His relationship with His Father, and He also expressed this pure love to others throughout His ministry.
I want to think of this feeling of God’s love and peace, however, within the context of the Atonement, itself. Did Christ feel God’s love for Him while He performed His great sacrifice? I think so.
While Christ suffered in Gethsemane, he called out, asking for the bitter cup to be removed. Yet He did Heavenly Father’s will – which was to endure the bitter agony of the Atonement. Heavenly Father didn’t leave Him alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read,
“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” – Luke 22:43
Of course, later on, Christ would be forsaken by God. I think that, in a way, this teaches us about the companionship of God – when we’re doing what is right; and how God’s love gives us unparalleled peace.
So, I invite you to follow my logic for a second.
Christ was perfect. He was pure. He had never committed any sin or infraction against the laws of Heaven that would have warranted a separation from God. Unlike the rest of humanity, He had a unique dual-nature. He was both man and the literal son of God. This may be hard to understand. Certainly, I can’t pretend to comprehend it. However, we know that His nature was literally divine. He is the literal offspring of God.
Because of this, He wasn’t bound by the effects of the fall. His purity and His godly nature enabled Him to have a closeness with God that none of us can achieve. The Savior, because of His perfect life did not know what being cut off from God felt like.
I think it is safe to say that every one of us understands being “cut off” from God. Sure there are times when I’ve felt close to God. Yet, I sin, and I’m learning, and there have been times I’ve cut myself off from God knowingly. There have also been times when I have felt like Joseph Smith when he asked, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:1 I have experienced this before. As I get closer to God, I find how precise and pure He is. I guess that what I’m saying is, as I become a more spiritually tuned being, I’m seeing how sensitive the Spirit is. In my life, the pavilion that covers God’s hiding place is often a result of my own imperfections, and unfortunately, that happens more often than I’d like.
However, the Savior hadn’t really experienced any kind of disruption between His closeness with God. He was perfect and had access to God in a way that I can’t imagine. Up until that moment on the cross. In that brief, terrible moment, in order for Christ to truly descend below all, Heavenly Father had to “forsake” His perfect Son. And when this happened, Christ immediately recognized. He cried out:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
Christ was accustomed to peace. He didn’t fret. He didn’t worry while He slept and the tempest raged. He didn’t freak out when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. He didn’t fight Pilate, Herod, or any of the high priests who condemned Him. He was filled with the peace of God and proceeded through the work of the Atonement in a peaceful manner.
3) Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying His Calling
Okay – so this is the final part of being a peacemaker. And, boy, did Christ proclaim peace. The entire work of the Atonement is a proclamation of peace. His calling was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin, so we could experience peace.
I love the scripture in Isaiah:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
The phrase, “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him” has always stood out to me – probably because it is relatively difficult to understand. My thought is that Christ took on the chastisement that would come as a result of our sins so we could feel peace. Mercy cannot rob justice. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was chastised so that we could experience peace. His stripes heal us.
The Atonement is the greatest proclamation of peace in the history of mankind. It is because of Christ’s Atonement that we can experience peace. Truly He is the Prince of Peace, and we become peacemakers when we share the message of the Savior and His Atonement.
4) He is called a child of God
This point is pretty obvious, and my blog post is already long, so I won’t go in depth here, but it is worth mentioning.
Christ covenanted with God. He experienced Peace. He proclaimed Peace. Because of what He did: suffering, dying, and being resurrected – He was able in inherit all God has. He is a child of God. And because of Christ, we can also partake in this inheritance.
Pretty amazing, huh?!
I have loved studying this beatitude. What do you think of it? What have you done in your life to cultivate peace in your own heart? How have you shared this peace? What do you do to be a peacemaker?