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.
Part III Paul’s Approach to Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution 125
PART III PAUL’S APPROACH TO PEACEMAKING AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION From Paul’s perspective God is the ultimate peacemaker. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided the way for a hostile, alien- ated humanity under the power and influence of sin to be reconciled to the gracious, righteous, and holy God. This is peace in the vertical dimension, peace with God. As a result of this peace, which is given to all those who believe and are reconciled to God, the people of God—all their diversity not- withstanding—are to live peacefully with one another. This is peace in the horizontal dimension, peace with others. For Paul, the two dimensions of peace are inseparable. Paul gives prior- ity to peace with God, but neither is complete without the other. Although peace with God may be effected and experienced at an individual level, it must always be worked out and expressed within diverse social, economic, and political realities in one’s culture. Thus Paul’s paranesis on peace leads to practical, realistic, and effective expression of his moral values within the social framework and dynamics of the Roman Empire of the first century. The first chapter of Part III describes three social dynamics and four sub- sequent chapters explore how Paul interacts with those dynamics in resolving conflict among believers. Four instances of conflict will be examined: the church leader Philemon and his runaway slave Onesimus, two church leaders in Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche, the exploitive court cases between believ- ers...
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