I woke today feeling the weight of the socially and politically charged environment in which we live.
Men with guns fire into random crowds. Tweeters rant on social media, shooting back and forth like a Wimbledon match. “Breaking News” explodes on every network, like popcorn kernels bursting in the kettle. Loved ones embrace more tightly, looking into others’ eyes with depth and pain.
A key question troubles me: what kind of leadership is required for situations like these?
In fact, some scholars suggest that leadership is a phenomenon that primarily arises in/around crisis and conflict. Maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul urges Christ-followers to be “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5).
John de Gruchy, in his book Reconciliation: Restoring Justice (2002) says reconciliation is a “process in which there is a mutual attempt to heal and overcome enmities, build trust and relationships, and develop a shared commitment to the common good.”
In my study of leadership and reconciliation in another politically charged environment (Kenya), I found that leadership is crucial for reconciliation.
Among the numerous ways leaders promoted reconciliation, interviewees said three especially shined. Perhaps they’ll shed light on our potential response to the crises around us. “Ministers of reconciliation” were especially committed to the following:
- Prayer – leaders prayed before conflict, during conflict, and after conflict. Prayer was both a proactive and reactive practice to promote unity.
- Preaching Peace – leaders clung to a moral compass, a biblical ethic that drove their speech and action. They called others to join forces around a greater good, rather than divisive agendas.
- Inclusive Language – leaders intentionally flavored their speech with language that fostered inclusion, rather than contention. Instead of reactive rants, they used great care to speak in ways that would amalgamate disparate factions.
In light of events around us this week, I encourage us first to pray. God hears us, and prayer changes our heart’s posture. I implore us to speak words of life and truth. Lastly, I invite us to think carefully about our language. Do the words we speak unify others, or promote division?
How can I lead today as a minister of reconciliation?
Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.