“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The Greek word for “peacemakers” in the quote from Jesus above is οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί. The word does not refer to people who are merely peaceful, or peaceable; rather, it speaks of truly courageous leaders who act as “founders of peace.” Literally, they are peace makers. Through keen wisdom and gracious leadership, they create order and peace out of the chaos of divisiveness.
If ever we needed leaders to take up this mantle of courageous peacemaking, it’s now.
“Our nation, states, cities and churches need peacemakers more than ever in the weeks and months ahead. Peacemakers do not hide safely behind the status quo, ignoring the rise of violence, while thanking God for personal safety. Peacemakers show up boldly with love and deepen relationships with those who are most vulnerable to bodily and systemic violence. Peacemakers consider the complexity of violence—that structural systems of oppression are already operating in violent ways. Peacemakers look at the roots of violence and join the work to seek transformative justice for all.” — the Mennonite Church USA
“To seek transformative justice for all.” Yes. Isn’t that ultimately what we all want for ourselves, and one another? If we ever hope to achieve that outcome, we have to lead from there—from a mindset of peace. That’s the quality of mature leadership the world needs now. It’s needed not just at the highest levels, but at all levels. Whether you are leading in a corporation, a church, an NPO, a political office, a military post, or in your family & community—now is the time for Peacemaker Leadership.
But what does that look like, exactly? Here are 8 fundamental things leaders-as-peacemakers do:
Lead yourself first. Leaders, at their best, create order out of chaos. But they cannot do that until they’ve brought order to their own inner life. You cannot lead a divided organization or community or family if you yourself are caught up in picking sides. To inspire peace, you need to bring a humble, peaceful presence that creates a space where all the opposing sides can belong.
Speak to the whole as a whole. Don’t get sucked into "us vs. them" language. Speak to the whole as one community, to remind people of their fundamental belonging to one another, and the deeper, truer story of who “we” are.
Promote healing. Don’t minimize the injury or the gulf that exists. Rather, name it honestly and boldly. And, at the same time, call people forth to the work of healing—both their own, and the healing of "the other"—in a way that creates transformative justice for all.
Focus on what you want to create, not what you fear might happen. Help your people find their common dream—the outcome they all want for their future. Then point their attention and energy toward making that dream real.
Address the concerns of contrarian voices. Recognize that these concerns are rooted in pain that’s very real, and that will not go away just because the dominant voices want it to. Pain that is not heard goes underground, and poisons the entire system. Bring it into the light in a spirit of respect and curiosity. Invite all sides to join in the work of creating solutions that work for everyone.
Lift up the bright lights. Where is the solution you want to create already happening—even if only in small ways? Lift these up as examples and faith builders that a different future is possible.
Encourage creative synergy in diversity. Invite oppositional groups and voices to stop facing off against each other and instead stand shoulder to shoulder to consider the challenges facing us all. New ideas emerge out of the synergy created from a diversity of perspectives. The answers we seek do not lie in one side or the other, but in the creative synergy waiting to be activated between them.
Serve the community together. Nothing brings people together as powerfully as working side by side in service of others, especially when that service is hard and requires us to lean on one another. Look for needs in your immediate surroundings that your people can meet, then challenge them to get out there and serve side by side.
"It isn't enough to talk about peace,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. “One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it."
So to all the leaders, artists, speakers, pastors, parents, and influencers of every kind out there, this is what I say:
It’s time to get to work.
Take the lead. Be a Peace Maker.