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Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

“Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!” Matthew 5:9 (GNT)

In reading the Beatitudes lately, something hit me like a thunderbolt. I have read this portion of scripture for many, many years (and have even taught over it), but it was not until last week that I finally caught the literal translation of this particular blessing: that of the peacemakers.

In Greek, the word for “peacemaker” is eirhnopoioi–literally, a founder or promoter of peace. And in Hebrew, the word for “peace” is, of course, shalom. 

This idea of shalom is key for me. Though we may typically define peace in terms related to a cease-fire or peace of mind, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., in his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, states that the Hebraic idea of shalom goes much deeper than just a sense of calm; rather, for the ancient Jewish communities, shalom meant cosmic wholeness, full human and communal flourishing, all things as they should be. 

Shalom begins, as Plantinga states, with the rightly ordered person; a person whose life is pointed in the right direction. Such a person, so rightly ordered, is one who hungers for justice (mispat-the defense of the weak, the liberation of the oppressed, justice to the poor) and righteousness (sedek- the active intervention in social affairs in order to rehabilitate society, to respond to social grievance, and to correct every humanity-diminishing activity). Such a person seems to have moved away from chronos time (time that can be measured, time dictated by the tyranny of the urgent, the incessant ticking of the clock, the never-ending race to move ahead, get ahead, be ahead; time dictated by appointments, calendars, alarm clocks, memos and to-do lists) into kairos time (the “right” time, the fullness of time, the opportune time, the appointed time, pregnant time, time that is ripe, time that is to be seized).  Such a person longs to weave together all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. These “peace-weavers” are the makers of shalom.

When I think about my community, I cannot help but think about all the wonderful shalom-makers I know:

There is Emilee, who has started a school for refugee students; Tim and Leann, who moved across the country to move into the most crime-ridden, drug, gang and prostitution-infested area of our city in order to learn how to “re-neighbor the hood”; Ben, who spends himself on the cause of setting the orphaned foster care child in forever families; Mike, who has started a giving platform to connect like-hearted folk around causes that create lasting change; Todd, who uses his land both to change the story of brokenness for boys and to serve as a place of refuge for shalom-makers (and who roasts some fine coffee!); John, who moved from Portland to this city to redeem the narrative of fatherlessness in our culture; Brad and Kim, who work tirelessly to give voice to marginalized people; Stephan and Scotia, who work to bring hope to inner city African-American youth; Michael, who works with middle schoolers teaching them how to be leaders and agents of transformation; Chris, who for twenty years has labored in the field of the deep inner city as a superintendent of a school in our city’s pipeline to prison zip code; Kris, who left his role as our state’s Speaker of the House to work with an organization that helps formerly incarcerated men reintegrate themselves into society; Wes, who turned a public political defeat into a higher calling for the city; Joe, who uses clothing to create community; Blair, who left a university position to design communities overflowing with shalom….

I could go on and on, but here’s the point: each one of these individuals (and so many others) are makers of shalom. Many left high-paying jobs and impressive career tracks to seek the well-being of our city. Many faced (and still face) overwhelming obstacles in their pursuit of loving their city, but each one has moved beyond the desire for profit, power, and pleasure into the transcendent space of working to see all things made new.

Blessed, then, are the shalom-makers; blessed are the peace-weavers; blessed are the persons of peace. Blessed are those who spend themselves, who weep, who grieve, who long to see shalom come. Blessed is the one who seeks to live sacrificially. Blessed is she who stops and listens to the guttural cries of the wounded. Blessed is he who is pierced by the primal scream of the utterly abandoned. Blessed are those who can no longer ignore the suffering, indignity, injustice, and oppression in their midst. Blessed are those who dare to enter into the muck and the fray, who dare to climb into the arena where death and chaos reign. Blessed is the one who comes away bloodied, bandaged, and broken each night, only to rise again and begin again every morning.

Blessed are those who work, who labor, who toil, who strain, who give, who open a vein to see shalom come. Blessed are the shalom-makers. Blessed, indeed, are they.