2/16/10- Shrove Tuesday- Mardi Gras- Matthew 5:9,10- Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Calvin abridged: Peacemakers are not only those who seek peace and avoid quarrels, but who also work to settle differences among others and advocate peace and take away every occasion of hatred and strife. It is hard and irritable work to try to reconcile those who are at variance. Often peacemakers must endure the indignity of hearing reproaches, complaints, and criticism on all sides. Instead of wanting someone to just advocate our side, we should look up to the God of peace (Rom 15:33) who calls us his children.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted” is an important beatitude for us to hear. If we are truly Christ’s soldiers, the greater part of the world will rise in hostility against us, pursuing us even to death. It doesn’t make sense that people would so zealously criticize and attack those who follow Christ.
Thoughts: Peace is not the same as “anything goes.” Yet peace does mean patience and forbearance, and for that reason peace and enduring persecution go together. The ancient Romans persecuted the Christians and Jews because they would not believe in an “anything goes” kind of tolerance, but criticized the break up of family, sexual immorality of all kinds, along with dishonesty and bribery. Today we, like the old Romans, value tolerance without peace- for there is no peace for the wicked. Mardi Gras is often a fake- Christian holiday- with the idea that we need to be as bad as we can because we have to be good for lent. It was this kind of abuse that cause the Reformers to not like Lent- we should be true to Christ all the time- and not look for an excuse to forsake Him. The greatest peace is found in Christ. Christians should work to limit war and hatred, as well as spreading the good news of Christ which brings the greatest peace. Partly because of our lack of tolerance for every belief and every kind of wickedness, the world persecutes us. It is well documented that in the last 100 years more Christians have been martyred for their faith than all the other centuries put together (think Stalin’s gulags, Hitler’s Bonhoeffers and Ten Booms, Pol Pot, Mao’s cultural revolution, North Korea’s purging, et al.). In America, persecution is coming in different forms as never before. The aura of sacredness that churches once had has disappeared. It shows itself in many ways- the continual shootings (like Richmond, CA last Sunday), or the sixty church break-ins in three months in Richland, Lexington, and Newberry counties. But it also shows in the portrayal of the church in a negative light on TV and movies. Any time a Christian appears in “Law and Order” you know they’re the villain and the hypocrite- really? In Texas there have been eight church burnings, and many church burnings in South Carolina. When Christians say homosexuality is wrong, they had better duck, and watch out for hate-email. Christians need to promote peace, yet hold onto truth, and endure persecution.
Video of attacks on Christians in India: http://www.persecution.com/public/media.aspx?mediapage_ID=MjEz&clickfrom=c2lkZWJhcg%3d%3d
Prayer: Lord, help me to seek peace and pursue it today. Give me grace to endure any persecution I may face today for being true to you.