What a Christian is: Part 9
There may be no higher value in America than tolerance. The only thing we shouldn’t tolerate is people who are intolerant, themselves. (The irony of that inconsistency is missed by most).
We don’t have to look hard for an example––recent riots and civil unrest were defended in the name of that principle. The racist system was intolerant of African Americans and so “intolerance” was justified against it. Violence was lauded as a means of pursuing a real and better peace.
Meanwhile, Christians aren’t afforded any place to disagree. For one, disagreement is intolerance and earns violence in response. For another reason, they appeal to the Bible… “Christians are supposed to be peacemakers,” they say (misusing the Beatitude we’ll look at below). “You can’t judge my choices; you need to be tolerant” (misusing Matt 7:1). The not-so-subtle suggestion is that truth needs to be silenced in the name of peace. It is suggested that any belief must come second to tolerance, that peace is more important than truth.
Jesus would beg to differ.
He came to earth to bring peace. But, the peace he brings won’t compromise truth nor will he justify evil for the sake of peace. That’s because the peace Jesus has in mind is not tolerance (i.e., the absence of conflict), but something better. Those of you who are married know that peace in marriage isn’t the same thing as not fighting. You may not be actively fighting but still know that things aren’t right. Likewise, peace with God is not the absence of conflict; it is the presence of rest.
And that is the peacemaker’s goal––he has been forgiven and enjoys peace with God. That’s the peace Jesus brings. Now, those who follow in his example will want their neighbors to have the same blessing. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Jesus’s point in this beatitude is to say that our own forgiveness will spur us to want others to be forgiven themselves. Those who have become meek, merciful, and pure of heart, naturally become peacemakers. There is a symmetry to these beatitudes. Jesus is carefully and precisely describing the transformation that begins with repentance.
The blessing that comes along with being a peacemaker is stunning: “They will be called sons of God.” Jesus is the son of God. His whole point is that the mercy that flows from Christ transforms everyone who experiences it into a pattern of heart and life that reflects the Lord. In other words, our response to Jesus makes us like him. Repentance produces godliness.
Our culture is mistaken in the kind of peace it needs. Let’s not settle for tolerance. Let’s not settle for an absence of conflict when our neighbors are headed to destruction. There is joy inexpressible in the good news of Jesus Christ. Having been shown mercy ourselves, let’s not bury our talent in the ground, but look and pray for ways that our peace might increase.