“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:9-12)
If you are a leader, you are in the peacemaking business. And, if you're leading well, you will have conflicts that need to be resolved. In fact, as we saw in our last article, Lead Conflict For Good, it is your responsibility to lead people in lively debates that produce better results through innovative ideas and higher quality decision making.
It is also your responsibility to foster an environment of trust.
Trust is essential for all healthy relationships, families, teams, and organizations. Therefore, in order for a team or organization to have lively debate within an environment that they trust, the leader must be an excellent peacemaker. The great peacemaker, Nelson Mandela, said “Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility.” Mandela possessed all of these qualities. He was able to lead others to peace because he knew the peace that comes from Jesus and sought to make peace in all of his relationships. He once admitted "until I changed myself, I could not change others.”
Jesus' words in The Sermon On The Mount explain perfectly how to make peace. Jesus continued teaching on peacemaking and forgiveness throughout His ministry.
Here five major principles from Jesus:
1. Peacemakers Lead With Love (Not Hate And Anger)
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:21-22)
Jesus makes it clear that we are to love our brothers and sisters the way He loves us (John 13:34), and that when we have hate in our hearts toward them we are guiltily of murder. When we look down on others in anger, or make judgments regarding their actions, we are not loving others.
2. Peacemakers Seek Peace When They Wrong Others
"If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." (Matthew 5:23-24)
Jesus uses incredibly strong language here to those who know someone has something against them. He is saying that God does not even want our gifts of worship until we have reconciled with the person who believes we have wronged them. Note that the requirement to seek reconciliation is not based on whether or not the charge against you is true, but is simply based on the recognition that the other person has something against you. Is that realistic? Surely all leaders have people with something against them.
Over twenty years ago John Piper shared some helpful advice that all leaders should consider when faced with the daunting job of seeking out the people they've offended. He explains to the congregation that they should not bring gifts to the upcoming capital campaign until they've attempted to make peace with their brothers and sisters. He tells the group to "Go back 14 verses to verse 9. There Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ Yes, and that is what this text is about too. Be a peacemaker before you worship. Be reconciled with those who have something against you.”
3. Peacemakers Seek Peace When Someone Wrongs Them
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17)
- The first step when someone wrongs you is to go to them and gently explain the offense to them, without judgement. We should not complain (Matthew 5:22) or gossip (James 1:26) before we go to them. The hope should be that there is a reasonable explanation for what they did or said. Remember—no matter the offense—the goal is reconciliation.
- The second step is to take another person (or two) with you when you speak with them about the offense. This provides accountability between the brothers or sisters and allows both parties to clarify and explain their actions. We are all much more gentle and open in front of multiple witnesses.
- The third step is to take it to the local church. If the two of you are not in the same church, you could seek a group of Christians who you both respect (perhaps a few from each of your churches). Ultimately, if the party refuses to listen you'll have to decide to either move on, leave their team, or remain part of a team that does not take reconciliation seriously. The key is to pursue peace through love in order to restore all parties.
- If you follow these steps and seek God’s guidance, you will know that as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18) you did everything you could to make peace.
4. Peacemakers Don’t Get Even On Earth
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)
Leaders who know they are loved by God, understand that it is a blessing to be talked bad about on earth when they are doing what is right. Christ-centered leaders do not need the approval of other men and women (Galatians 1:10 and Ephesian 6:6). This frees them to act in love because they know they do not have to defend themselves. Those who know they are loved by God understand their reward is beyond what they can think or imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9) and they believe their reward is eternal, unfading, and everlasting (1 Peter 1:4).
This is not an excuse to avoid a matter when someone accuses them, however, it does change the motive of the leader. Instead of defending themselves, the Christ-centered leader can truly seek to see if there is any offensive way in them (Psalm 139:24) and use the situation to show the love of Christ to their accuser.
5. Peacemakers Forgive Because They Know They Are Forgiven
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Peacemakers can freely forgive others when they've been wronged because they know that God has forgiven them for all of their sins. They know that the blood and sacrifice of Jesus wipes away every wrong they have done. They know that although He was completely innocent (2 Corinthians 5:21), Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The Christ-forgiven leader knows they have offended God far worse than any human has offended them. This truth leads to the kind of humility Nelson Mandela points us toward and the kind of humility that Jesus perfectly defined (Philippians 2:5-8). That is the kind of humility that will give you the power to live, lead, love, forgive, and make peace in the name of Jesus.