From their earliest days, the city-states that eventually became Greece were constantly ravaged by war. Their myth, legend, religion, education, philosophy, and science created and perpetuated the idea that conflict was essential for existence. This idea passed to Rome as well so that by the first century, the Greco-Roman world consistently viewed peace as brief periods of tranquility in an existence where war and conflict were the norm.
Paul, however, insists that peace must be the norm within the churches. Peace originates in God and is graciously given to those who are justified and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. God removes the enmity caused by sin and provides the indwelling Spirit to empower believers to think and behave in ways that promote and maintain peace.
Three social dynamics (shame-honor, patron-client, and friendship-enmity) are at work in Paul’s approach to conflict resolution and peacemaking within the churches. Rather than giving specific procedures for resolving conflict, Paul reinforces the believers’ new identity in Christ and the implications of God’s grace, love, and peace for their thoughts, words, and behavior toward one another. Paul uses these three social dynamics to encourage believers in the right direction, but their ultimate motivation and empowerment must arise from their common relationship with God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 proto-Gnostics, enthusiastic Hellenists, or even Epicureans), but also discern- ing their influence. He must then consider whether the actual dispute breaks out along party lines or represents a class conflict between rich and poor. Fi- nally, he must integrate these factors into the historical setting in order to determine the proper hermeneutical context for 1 Corinthians 8–10. In both of these situations, as in the majority of the conflicts involving Paul, his opponents are groups rather than individuals and their disputes arise from disagreements over systemic changes to their religious practices and beliefs, changes that are required by Paul’s gospel for all believers regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds. In response to these disputes, Paul proclaims and teaches with a view to transforming the minds of his oppo- nents. Paul seeks to persuade his opponents to accept his (that is, the authori- tative, or better, God’s) perspective and to conform their behavior to his example, to the example of others, and ultimately to the example of Christ. In using this approach, which emphasizes his personal authority, Paul is highly directive and does not negotiate or accommodate in order to arrive at some middle ground with his opponents. The four examples of conflict used in this study (Paul/Peter, Phile- mon/Onesimus, Euodia/Syntyche, and the civil litigation among believers) reveal a different approach by Paul. Except in his confrontation with Peter, Paul himself is not one of the disputants, but rather assumes the role of a fa- cilitator assisting the...
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