When to Pursue Peace

Epiphany 4 Saturday

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Here the Lord praises, by a lofty title and excellent fame, those who make an effort to make peace, not only for themselves but also among other people, by helping to reconcile bad and confused matters, end discord, prevent war and bloodshed. This is also a great virtue that is very rare in the world and among the false saints. For those who are not Christians are both liars and murderers like their father, the devil, John 8:44. This is why they serve no other purpose than to create disagreement, discord, war, etc. … We now see how, when a prince becomes angry, he right away thinks he must start a war. He incites and badgers everyone until much treasure and blood has been lost – but then the indulgence is offered and he pays a couple thousand dollars for the souls that perished. They are and remain bloodhounds; they cannot rest until they have avenged themselves and cooled their wrath, until they have led land and people into calamity and misfortune – all the while they want to be called Christian princes and have a just cause. But more than a just cause is required for starting war. For although it is not forbidden here to wage war – as I said, Christ does not here wish to take anything from the political authorities and their office, but only teaches individual persons who want to live in a Christian manner for themselves – it is not enough for a prince to start a war with his neighbor if the prince is in the right and the neighbor in the wrong. Rather, it says: “Blessed are the peacemakers,” so that those who wish to be a Christian and a child of God not only do not start war and disagreement, but help and counsel toward peace wherever they can, even though the right and sufficient reasons would justify war. If you have tried everything and nothing worked, it is enough that a prince must act in self-defense to protect land and people. This is why the angry lords who immediately sharpen their sword and pull it out of its sheath because of a single word are not to be called Christians but children of the devil. … Against this attitude it is written here: When injustice and violence is done to you, it is invalid to take advice from your foolish head and soon wage a campaign to avenge yourself and strike back. Rather, you should think and seek how to bring about reconciliation and peace. But if such is not meant to be and you cannot put up with it, there is law and the civil authorities where you may seek redress in an orderly manner. … See, this is the first thing Christ here demands against the vengeful and restive heads. And he calls peacemakers, first, those who help their land and people toward peace, e.g., good princes, councilmen or lawyers, and authorities. They have their offices and governmental powers for the sake of peace. But then Christ also has in mind good citizens and neighbors who straighten out discord and strife – created by evil, poisonous tongues – among husband and wife and among neighbors and bring reconciliation and peace by their healthful and good tongues. … We engage in slander because the shameful, devilish dirt sticks to us all: we all gladly hear and say the worst about the neighbor and delight in finding fault with him. … We are such muckrakers who only seek out what is foul and stinks and wallow in it like pigs. Look, these are also true children of the devil who himself has his name from this … as one who delights in … creating discord in order to create only murder and calamity and in not leaving any peace or concord among brothers and neighbors, husband and wife. … But if you want to or have to say something bad about another person, do as Christ taught you in Matthew 18: Do not go to others, but privately go to him who did it and admonish him to shape up. … But if this does not work and you must talk to others, go to those whose office it is to punish, fathers and mothers, lords or ladies, mayors and judges, etc.


St. Louis ed., 7:388-393.

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