"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - Matthew 5:9
Here is a great Christian story. Dirk Willems was a Dutch Mennonite imprisoned for refusing violence and arguing against infant baptism. After his arrest in 1569 Dirk was held in the prison tower of his hometown.
After months of little food and constant prayer Dirk Willems escaped. He tied together strips of cloth to make a rope, which he used to slide down the prison wall. As he raced across the countryside, a guard spotted him and gave chase. In Dirk's path was an ice-covered river. It was late winter and the air was warm. The ice was thin. Dirk took the risk and crossed safely, aided no doubt, by his prison emaciation. As he ran atop the ice he could hear the frigid water gurgling beneath his feet. His pursuer was a well-fed man. He broke through the ice and fell into the deadly water.
Was this God's rescue? No. For Dirk knew that it is Christ's peace that saves us, not our violence. He turned back, waded into the icy water and saved his enemy. That was God's rescue.
It is a great story. But it is a Christian story. Which is to say it has a cross in it. As soon as his pursuer was on dry ground Dirk was arrested. Later that year he was executed near his native village.
In our violent world just how crazy is Christ's insistence that we practice peace? Tough question. But we ought to remember that Jesus doesn't promise peacemakers will make sense. All he guarantees is that they will be called the children of God.
Dear God, give us the faith we need to practice your peace so that we might be counted among your children. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.