It was a normal, hectic New York City commute. I was walking through the Staten Island Ferry terminal to the subway, when I witnessed two young men collide. What was clearly an accident quickly became a showdown. The men began hurling racial epithets at one another and squared off for a fight right in the middle of morning rush hour.
I wanted to keep walking. This was none of my business. But as I watched the interaction begin to escalate I thought: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The irony was not lost on me. In my devotions, I had been meditating on Matt 5:1–12, and there was no question that God had prepared me for that moment by reminding me that I was to be a peacemaker. As my heart began to pound in my chest, I said a quick prayer and then walked up to these two strangers, already embroiled in a bitter battle of words. Placing a hand on each of their forearms, I said gently but firmly, “Guys, it’s not worth it. Just let it go. I saw the whole thing. It was an accident. Neither of you meant it.”
After a moment, they did. Casting a few parting shots at each other, they walked separate directions. Crisis averted, peace restored—with a few simple, gentle words.
The world desperately needs peacemakers. According to Isa 59:8–9 (ESV), peace and justice go hand in hand:
The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
What would happen if, in our everyday interactions, we stopped to ask: “How can I be a peacemaker in this situation?” What if, when we encounter small injustices, we ask ourselves, “What would a peacemaker do?” In that subway station, I experienced that peacemakers can change the atmosphere of a situation. Peacemakers bring light into darkness. Hostility dissipates when a peacemaker enters the fray.
Isaiah 59 recognizes this. It does not merely present the problem; it offers a solution:
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him, that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” … And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.” (Isa 59:15–16, 20–21 esv)
The prophet was likely speaking about someone who would bring peace to Israel in his era, but his words also point to a future peacemaker: God’s “own arm brought him salvation” and God’s “righteousness upheld him.” Christ fits this description. As God’s son, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and resurrection were the way that God’s “own arm” could bring salvation and eternal peace.
Jesus is thus the ultimate peacemaker. Everlasting peace is only possible through Christ. As Paul remarks, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1 ESV).
I keep wrestling with this question: How can I embody and impart the presence of the greatest peacemaker into every situation I will face? How can I be a peacemaker today?
Will you join me in seeking to become a peacemaker?