Leading Biblically: Where Peace Can Happen, Part 8

Jun 20, 2008 |Bruce E. Winston

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

PART 7: Be Pure Hearted »

In the first article I mentioned that I've found the Beatitudes to be in a sequence that matches the consulting problems I encounter. The seventh most common problem I find with leaders and people in organizations is that leaders do not create organizations where peace can occur. This article presents the meaning of this final Beatitude — "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God" — and shows how we might live our lives because of this principle.

What does it mean to be peacemakers?

The Greek eirenopoios, from which we translate "peacemaker," carries with it a sense of creating and sustaining, similar to the Hebrew bara where we get the idea of "create" in Genesis 1:1. The leader must do more than just create/make peace but must also sustain peace. This does not mean that conflict does not exist but that conflict is resolved quickly before it escalates.

When I first started studying this concept it seemed odd to me that this was the last Beatitude. It seemed to me that peacemaking was rather important and should be higher up in the order of Beatitudes.

As I continued studying this, though, I began to see why it was last. You can't have peace unless you are humble enough to want to learn from/about others in the conflict resolution process; until you are concerned about others, controlled in your discipline, seeking what is right, showing mercy, and focused on what you are to do. When all six are working, then creating and sustaining peace is both simple and easy.

Conflict occurs whenever an individual's or group's desires/actions prevent another person or group from achieving their own desires. This can be as simple as two people wanting to read the same book in a library or two countries wanting to annex the same adjacent piece of land.

In a prior article I used an example from my time running a union-labor printing company; another union labor example here helps explain what I think this Beatitude means.

During the first few years that I was responsible for negotiating wage rates, I engaged in an antagonistic style of bargaining, fully believing that this is what I was supposed to do. It was the way I was trained and it was the way I saw the union negotiate.

As time went on, though, I questioned the validity of this approach. I did not understand the Beatitudes then, but I lived out the principles nevertheless, even if by accident. I found that if I spent more time finding out what the union wanted and, in turn, spent more time explaining what I wanted, that the union representatives and I found agreement in a very peaceful manner.

After a few years of this "peaceful" style of bargaining we were able to achieve a solution in one meeting over lunch rather than days and nights of haranguing and challenging each other. The union wanted more buying power for its members. I wanted more productive value per dollar of labor. We found ways to achieve both. Had we not had the prior six Beatitudes working we would never have been able to create peace.

Conflict can be resolved quickly if peacemaking is valued, if there's an open sustained desire by all to present conflict early on and to seek resolution. If everyone involved has the six Beatitudes working, then the process is simple and easy. However, if some folk do not follow the Beatitudes, then conflict resolution breaks down; the leadership, family-leaders, or both people in a relationship need to work on the earlier Beatitudes and leave the conflict resolution to less desirable outcomes until the people involved mature into more beatific people.

What are the benefits of peacemaking?

The obvious answer is peace. But, let's look beyond this a bit more. As in prior Beatitudes there's an increase in effectiveness and efficiency for the organization, family, or relationship in that less effort is spent trying to maintain conflict or avoid confronting the conflict and more time is spent doing what you should do. There are fewer legal issues in organizations and employees feel safer in the workplace. People develop a healthy respect for problems/conflict and recognize that through positive conflict there can be growth and development. In his book The New Economics, W. E. Deming said that people wanted "joy" in their work and I'm convinced that joy can only happen when conflict is resolved quickly and positively.

The Beatitude itself shows a significant benefit — to become a child of God. The Greek huios that we translate "children/sons" refers more to "kin" in a broader sense than the literal child and means that the person (huios) is entitled to the inheritance of God. Note the progression of the benefits of the non-reciprocal Beatitudes: (a) the kingdom of heaven, (b) inherit the earth, (c) to see God, and (d) to be God's inheritors. Each benefit raising the stakes and the value in a progression.

Are you a peacemaker?

How are you doing? Do you seek to resolve conflict quickly? Do you intercede in the conflict of employees, family members, and/or friends and work to resolve the conflict to the betterment of all? Do people bring you problems to help resolve? Do you enjoy peace or do you enjoy stirring things up just to stir things up? By this I don't mean planned conflict to get positive change — Jesus used this method to get people to think differently. What I mean here is enjoying stirring people up just be antagonistic.

Are you ready to start being a peacemaker?

The first step is to be attuned to conflict and to peace and to know the difference. You have to "sense" peace in order to make it happen. The next step is to learn how to apply the first six Beatitudes so that conflict resolves quickly. This may require teaching those around about the Beatitudes.

By the way, putting these things to practice is Jesus' admonition to us at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27; those who hear and act on the words are like the house built upon the rocks. You might as well start putting these Beatitudes into practice by teaching others about the principles.

Closing the Beatitudes

As a means of closing the series of articles on the Beatitudes consider the warning that Jesus gives after the seventh Beatitude. He warns that those who follow these principles will be persecuted.

This is an example of how this happens: One of our applied doctoral students heard my presentation on the Beatitudes and decided to try leading according to them in the company where he was employed. The company was a hard-driven financially-focused company and the student thought that if the Beatitudes worked in his company they would work anywhere.

After three months of practicing the Beatitudes he noticed improvement in performance, morale and general employee well-being in his department. After a year his department led the company in all performance metrics.

He soon found himself under attack by his peers. His peers complained that it wasn't fair that our student got all the "good" people. The student told me that no personnel changes occurred during the year. In fact, turnover went down. He said that in his opinion it was the Beatitudes that allowed the "good" to show in people. His peers brought allegations of cheating and violating company policies in multiple efforts to get him fired or to prevent him from doing what he was doing.

I've heard similar stories from other people as well. People are threatened when someone does well, and will seek to bring the high-performing person down so that the rest look better in comparison. As you practice the Beatitudes you may find that you spend some of your time protecting your department, family, or relationship from those above and around you so that the good results of the Beatitudes are not damaged. But, such is leadership — we are called to protect the good and hold out the bad.

Are you ready to be a leader that leads by the Beatitudes? Start today. Don't expect sudden improvement, but give the change in your life time to become a change in the lives of those around you. The long-term results will be worth the effort.

Copyright 2008 Bruce E. Winston, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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