Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
As a child, I saw Jesus’ crucifixion as a grotesque absurdity, surely unprecedented and never to be repeated. How could reasonable people crucify an innocent man who healed the sick, welcomed children, and taught kindness? Surely demons possessed the religious authorities, Romans, and people crying, “Crucify him!” Surely his resurrection dispelled those demons, and we could expect people to be reasonable now.
As an adult, I see the crucifixion as a common event that recurs whenever someone crosses a line for love and pays with ostracism or abuse. Crossing a line for love can mean openness about oneself, like the person in an evangelical church who announces her committed relationship with a same-sex partner. It can mean befriending prisoners in a society that wants them out-of-sight and left to rot. It can mean loving a mentally ill spouse and taking the stigma upon oneself.
Crossing a line for love happens every day in smaller, more subtle ways than those. Take a moment and think of a way you built a little bridge between yourself and someone lonely or gave someone a break. Every time you do that, you take a small risk of suffering for it.
Reasons scholars cite for Jesus’ crucifixion include threats his popularity and teaching posed to the Pax Romana (Roman peace) and to the purity and social hierarchy systems that kept Israel distinct and orderly. All explanations indict Jesus for threatening the status quo by crossing a line for love. To stop the disturbance, they killed him.
If peacemaking means only keeping tension down and avoiding conflict, Jesus failed, his life ending in an unspeakably violent scenario with blood flowing and bystanders jeering. But if peacemaking goes beyond that to building bridges and extending God’s blessings outside the city gates, Jesus remains a massive success wherever people of all walks and origins join his ongoing peacemaking program. Thus, Paul wrote,
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us…that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it (Ephesians 2:13-16).
Do you find yourself isolated for offering to others your authentic self in goodwill? Do you find yourself stigmatized for your loving care? Do you find yourself caught in the crossfire as you build a bridge to others? Do not count yourself a failure at peacemaking. No, you are blessed. You share in Christ’s sufferings. Hold on. Easter is coming.