The text for Sunday morning’s sermon is the 7th beatitude:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5.9)
With each additional beatitude, the picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ gets clearer and clearer. I like how John Piper puts it:
With each beatitude another nail is driven into a coffin. Inside the coffin lies the corpse of a false understanding of salvation. The false understanding said that a person can be saved without being changed. Or, that a person can inherit eternal life even if his attitudes and actions are like the attitudes and actions of unbelievers….Therefore the beatitudes are like long spikes holding down the lid of the coffin on the false teaching which says that if you just believe in Jesus you will go to heaven whether or not you are merciful or pure in heart or a peacemaker.
If peace can be defined as “harmony in personal relations,” then one area where we need peace above all others is in our families. And it seems that harmony in family relations is withering away. The Institute for American Values has just released “The Marriage Index,” a comprehensive study of the state of marriage in the United States. The Marriage Index examines five essential measurements of the health of marriages and compares them to data from earlier to decades to trace trends.
The first indicator is the percentage of adults age 20 to 54 who are married. In 1970, 78.6% of adults were married but that number dropped to 57.2% in 2008. It seems that marriage is becoming a less attractive choice for young adults.
The second indicator is how many married persons self report to be “very happy” in their marriages. This figure has dropped slightly from 67% to 62%.
The third indicator is the percentage of first marriages that are still intact. 77.4% first marriages were still intake in 1970, but only 61.2% were intact in 2007.
The fourth indicator is the number of births to married persons. In 1970, 89.3% of all births were to married persons but that number has dropped to 60.3%.
The final indicator is the percentage of children living with their own married parents. In 1970, 68.7% of all children lived with their own mother and father. That number has dropped slightly to 61% in 2007.
When all five indicators are combined, the composite score reveals that marital health in the USA has dropped from 76.2% in 1970 to 60.3% in 2008.
The picture that the numbers paint is that when men and women unite together in a loving relationship and enter a marital covenant with each other, peace is very hard to maintain. Only three out of five couples are able to maintain enough peace to remain married. Two out of five couples lack enough harmony in personal relations to work together to raise their children. The picture is so bleak that almost half of marrying age adults choose to abandon the institution all together, a seeming admission that lasting harmony in personal relations is not possible, so why even try.
Against this backdrop, we hear the words for the apostle James,
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3.18)
Blessed are the peacemakers…