“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NIV)
As Jesus himself teaches us during the Sermon on the Mount, God has a special affinity toward those who promote and seek peace. How we come to understand the meaning of “peacemaker” determines how we come to understand this teaching. Because the book of Matthew was written primarily to a Greek-speaking Jewish audience, they likely automatically understood much of the undertones of Jewish culture that are often lost on a modern, Western audience.
For instance, rather than defining peace as “absence of conflict,” their idea of peace would likely be impacted by their understanding of shalom. At the 2018 Triennial, Barry Jones defined shalom as “everything the way God intended it to be.” Jones also digs into shalom in his book Dwell, where he writes, “When Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the shalom makers, for they will be called sons of God,’ he is saying that to be a person who invests his or her life in the pursuit of shalom is to be like God, to resemble his character, to be about his work in the world.”
When we pursue shalom – when we are orienting our lives around following Jesus in such a way that we are “about his work in the world” – we are embracing a Kingdom mindset and thereby changing the way we think about the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2). To pursue shalom in our lives, in our relationships, and in our world is to be transformed into a greater likeness of Jesus.
This past April, Barry Jones taught his last lecture at Dallas Theological Seminary. For his parting words to his students, he gave seven admonishments summarizing and reviewing his last fifteen years of instruction. His last point, the one he used to drive home all the rest, was, “Never give up on the dream of shalom.”
Especially during this Advent season, how are you going to be a shalom maker?