“The Sermon on the Mount”, best known of all of Jesus’ discourses, spans chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s gospel and begins with “The Beatitudes”. The seventh beatitude says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9).
Much could be said, but I’ll highlight just two things. First, it says, “peacemakers,” not “peacekeepers”; this is active, not passive. It is not peace at any price with varying degrees of compromise, but peace at personal cost, based upon clear and definitive convictions.
The second thing is that peacemakers make a difference. A peacemaker will stand for something and subsequently, not fall for everything. Telemachus was such a man.
Telemachus was a Christian from the 4th century. He came from the east (modern day Turkey) to Rome, but when he arrived he was appalled that while many Christians lived in Rome, the populace still enjoyed watching men kill each other in gladiatorial sports. He immediately went to the Coliseum and heard the gladiator chants of “Hail to Caesar; we die for Caesar!”
As the participants entered the arena, Telemachus bounded into the stadium and placed himself between two gladiators. He dramatically raised his arms and shouted, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” The crowd screamed, “Run him through!” A gladiator dropped him with the butt end of his sword, but Telemachus rose and again proclaimed, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” The gladiator immediately thrust his sword through Telemachus’ slight body. (The story has variant endings)
Ronald Reagan shared one possible ending in a prayer breakfast in 1984. He said that as Telemachus lay dying on the sand, the crowd felt shame and within minutes all 80,000 spectators left the arena making this the last known gladiatorial contest in Rome’s history.
No less powerful in its impact, but more reputable historically, is that Telemachus did die in a pool of his own blood, but the crowd angrily and callously stoned him, even after he was dead…and the show went on. Emperor Honorius, a professing Christian himself, heard of the shameful murder of Telemachus and it ultimately motivated him to outlaw gladiator events. Either way, Telemachus’ courage resulted in the end of the barbarous sport. As a child of God, Telemachus was a peacemaker!
We will not likely have to enter the Roman Coliseum or confront gladiators in order to be peacemakers. But becoming children of God by making peace with Him, we have the potential to become peacemakers with our families, our friends, those in our workplace, our church and our communities.
And we make a difference because, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church