“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9
The world is in need of peacemakers today. In our churches and courtrooms, in our neighborhoods and our social media feeds, divisiveness seems to rule the day. It is undeniable that there is much at stake, and that passion should drive us towards convictions we feel God has called us to. But when Jesus uttered these words, he made it very clear HOW we should conduct our lives, even in the midst of turmoil and contentiousness.
For years I’ve worked around the world to offer ideas for community development. And when I begin explaining some of the fundamental concepts I’ve found are instrumental for the thriving of any community, it ALWAYS includes an emphasis on being peacemakers. Not just because Jesus told us that’s the right track, (although his endorsement should be more than enough for us to be convinced!) but because it’s vital for success! Peace must be a priority in order for a community to experience a brighter future. And Peacemakers are the foot-soldiers to ensure peace maintains.
But how do you raise a community of peacemakers? Here are the four steps I’ve found are important for Peacemakers as they seek to shepherd transformation within their communities:
1) Build Relationships of Love and Trust are the Foundation
Easier said than done, right? But as cliche as it sounds, healthy relationships are the cornerstone of any community development process. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul asked the church to “widen your hearts” and in so doing, fostering a welcoming and peace-filled atmosphere for people to engage. Building relationships of trust, love, and respect is the starting point for developing a community of peacemakers. Widening our hearts to those who are different than us. Earnestly listening to those around you. Having conversations that dignify others. These are the characteristics of those who seek to foster peace.
2) A Vision for the Whole
Peacemakers are disciplined in thinking beyond themselves. While it is in our nature to look out for ourselves and our families above all else, peacemakers are mindful of and prioritize the benefit of the whole over the benefit of the few. They are also keen to understand the repercussions of each decision. They ask the question, “do we understand the problems our solutions may create?” This signifies a dedication to the comprehensive benefit of the community, and a focus on long-term, sustainable solutions. Peacemakers are adept seeing the full picture.
3) Plans to Act Together
Creating buy-in from around the community is strategic. But it’s also respectful. Peacemakers seek to be inclusive of all stakeholders and community members. In part, this means asking each person to participate in their own way to the agreed upon plans for prosperity. This way, both the responsibility and the rewards are shared. As the African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” Peacemakers understand that including everyone is an important step towards sustaining peace and progress.
4) Execute the Plan
This is where the rubber meets the road! After people have committed to a set of decisions, peacefully brought together through mutual respect and a vision for the whole, it’s time to get to work! Peacemakers turn into cheerleaders and project managers. They encourage each person to fulfill their obligations and adhere to the new decisions, while also mitigating problems that inevitably arise. A plan, however, good and thought out, is only as good as its execution. And peacemakers know that the true impact of their efforts will only take root if they are able to shepherd the process of transformation.
Peacemaking is hard work. But the greatest progress in human history occurs when peacemakers succeed. I’ve seen how communities can thrive when their people devote themselves to these steps towards peace-filled community development. At Food for the Hungry, this is part of what we call having a “biblical worldview.” And when it comes to lifting vulnerable communities out of extreme poverty, we need all the peacemakers we can find!