Sunday, 18 March 2012











6)     Bibliography

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5.9). Peacemakers enter into conflict with a commitment to bring God's goodness out of that situation, however terrible it might be. Today the phrase “conflict transformation” has been used to describe the various processes whereby people and nations seek to establish constructive and positive dynamics and institutions in their communities in place of the destruction and sorrow of war and civil strife. Conflict transformation includes the work of confronting evil nonviolently, establishing justice, negotiating agreements, peace-building and forging reconciliation. As Christians we believe Jesus charged his followers to be engaged in positively transforming conflicts, for such people show themselves to be God's children demonstrating the same care and compassion for people suffering in conflict as God has demonstrated through Christ. This has been prepared to enable and strengthen the peace-building work of Christians, whether individually or together as congregations. The Bible is our primary resource, our guide for shaping our thinking and our action. This will help pastors and teachers to lead their fellow believers in learning from the Bible “the things that make for peace” (see Luke 19.42).The does not just provide various texts of Scripture to be studied, emphasizing the points to be made to the learners.  Peace and war are major topics in the Bible. Rather these Bibles are presented specifically to equip and enable Christians and churches to engage more effectively in the conflicts around them in ways that bring healing, hope and reconciliation.[1]
CONFLICT AS HOLY GROUND (Exodus 2.23-4.17)
The descendants of Jacob had settled in Egypt to avoid a famine in Canaan at a time when Jacob’s son Joseph was the Pharaoh’s most powerful administrator. Over the decades and centuries the memory of Joseph’s leadership in Egypt faded. A new dynasty was established in Egypt with no connection to Joseph or his legacy. Eventually the Pharaohs of the new Egyptian dynasty enslaved all the Hebrews. Fears about the increasing Hebrew population prompted the Egyptian Pharaoh to introduce increasingly harsh measures against them. After a failed attempt to get the Hebrew mid-wives to kill Hebrew boy babies at birth the Pharaoh ordered the massacre of the young Hebrew boys. The mother of Moses hid him in a basket along the riverside. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the child and raised him in the royal household. As a man, Moses became concerned about the burdens of his own people. He witnessed an Egyptian slave-driver beating a Hebrew slave. Moses killed the Egyptian and hid his body. Shortly afterward Moses intervened in a fight between two Hebrews, and it came out that they were aware that Moses had killed the Egyptian. Pharaoh heard about the killing and tried to seize Moses. Moses fled to Midian, properly Arabia, but probably broadened to include the Sinai region.
Resolution taking place on Holy Ground. As we see in this passage, in the middle of a severe conflict situation, Moses learned about God, about himself and about others. In our conflicts we can experience revelations or new insights about ourselves, about others and about God. Those new insights, which may have been possible only through the difficulties and challenges of a conflict, can help us grow as people and as communities[2]. About how conflict makes us uncomfortable, referring back to the list generated at the start of the session. Yet conflict can be a “holy ground” in which we can learn many things about ourselves, we tend not to learn much when we are in our Comfort Zone because everything is easy and safe. We also tend not to learn much when we are in the Alarm Zone. In the Alarm Zone we feel overwhelmed, in danger, and terrified. We tend to shut down and protect ourselves rather than open ourselves to new information. The Discomfort Zone is the place of greatest learning, for we are challenged, alert, and perhaps frightened just enough to give us energy.
CONFLICT ESCALATION (Genesis 3.8-13; 4.1-16; 4.19-24; 10.8-12)
The first chapters of Genesis give a picture of the primal human condition. The Creation story is quickly followed up by the story of the fall (humanity’s “fall” from intimate relationship with God into disobedience, sin and death). Conflict erupts immediately between the man and the woman. In each story that follows there seems to be an increase in the intensity and levels of conflict, including eruptions of violence. In Genesis 10 Nimrod is called a “mighty man,” a phrase that indicates a ruler or tyrant. Nimrod’s name is associated both with the Babylonian war-god and with the first Assyrian king to rule over all of ancient Babylonia.
What is the conflict in the passage and who are the parties? What brought about the conflict? How was it handled? How did the conflict expand what were the results?
The Nimrod in Genesis 10 will have to think more carefully about what is going on and the implications regarding conflict. As soon as the groups break up, should go to the Genesis 10 what new development in humanity took place related to conflict with the rise of Nimrod as the first ruler of a kingdom or empire? How would his empire have been established?  Genesis 6.11-13. The story of Noah takes place between the stories of Lamech and Nimrod. What does this say about Lamech’s method of dealing with conflict, both in relation to other people and in relation to God? How do these passages about ancient stories reflect the nature of conflict in own life and in the drama of international affairs?  7 steps of the Social Transformation of Conflict: 1. Problem-solving, where the parties disagree but share a problem. 2. Shift from disagreement to personal antagonism; the person is seen as the problem. 3. Issue proliferation–moving from the specific to the general, from one issue to many. 4. Triangulation–talking to other people about the person in conflict not directly to that person. (“Triangulation” means making a triangle, in this case with two people who bring in a third person to the conflict, not as a mediator to assist in resolving the conflict, but in an effort to get the third person on one side or the other.) 5. Reaction and escalation–an eye for an eye. 6. Antagonism increasing to hostility. 7. Polarization–a change in the social organization (breaking of friendship, divorce, church split, civil war, etc.[3])The further along the conflict goes through these steps there is more violence, less trust, less accurate communication and less direct contact. In the Genesis stories we see Adam and Eve at step 2 where Adam is blaming both Eve and God for the problem. Cain is also at step 2 seeing Abel as the problem, but he jumps quickly to step 7 in committing murder. Lamech is settled in steps 5, 6 and 7 avenging him many times over.
Conflict that is not handled constructively tends to get much worse.
            In Nimrod we see the birth of domination in a political system of kingship or empire. Domination is where one person or group gains power that is used in a threatening or abusive way over others. Throughout the Bible violent political domination is a problem, whether looking at the oppressions of Pharaoh in Egypt or Samuel’s concerns about establishing a king in Israel (see 1 Samuel 8). The climax of this violent domination is seen in Revelation 13 where the Roman Empire that persecuted the Christians is described as a demonic beast. In contrast to the demonic view of worldly government in Revelation, Paul in Romans 13.1-7 presents a view of government that is divinely established to protect society from wrong-doers. Every human government has a mixture of both the divinely-established and the demonic. Some governments may exhibit more of the demonic nature in their destructive behavior, while other governments may be more supportive of the well-being of all the people under their authority. Violent or dominating ways of dealing with conflict can be institutionalized, challenging Christians to understand structural dynamics of power if they are to constructively transform organizational, social or political conflicts

FAMILY FEUD: (Genesis 25.19-34; 26.34-28.9)
Isaac and Rebecca were nomadic people who lived in Canaan. Isaac’s father Abraham ad traveled from the Fertile Crescent, from the cities of Ur and Haran, down into Canaan. They were herders of sheep and goats. Jacob and Esau is a long story in Scripture, so it might be helpful to assign his scriptures reading. This study breaks the story into two parts: “The Journey into Conflict” and “The Journey toward Reconciliation.”[4]
Conflicts always have at least two levels. One level has to do with the content or issue. In this story, the content of the conflict between Jacob and Esau can be identified as the birthright and the blessing. The other level has to do with the relationships. Jacob and Esau were in a destructive competitive relationship. Their parents were also divided, each one siding with and favoring one of the sons. Many times the focus is on the particular issue that is the content of the particular conflict, but the conflicted relationships keep generating more conflict over different issues. Both content and relationship need to be recognized in understanding what is going on in a conflict, and both must be addressed in a constructive manner if the conflict as a whole is to be positively transformed. Lesson insight: Tend to both the relational and the content issues in trying to constructively transform a conflict.
At many points in conflict there are “choice points” where a person can make the conflict worse or move it toward transformation. Each character made repeated decisions that made the conflict deeper and more difficult. There is not an inevitable nature to our conflicts, in which the situation is destined to get worse. Rather all those involved in a conflict make choices. Those choices can move the conflict in a positive or negative direction. Choices can create more problems and increase hostility, or choices can be made which open communication and create new options for solving the problems. Many choices are made to create the steps that escalate a conflict. So, too, it takes a series of positive choices to de-escalate the conflict step by-step. We need to take responsibility for our choices in our conflict situations. Lesson insight: Watch out for the choices before us in conflicts, and take responsibility for your choices.
Jacob’s journey toward reconciliation was a spiritual journey with God, both in the vision of the angels on the ladder to heaven and wrestling through the night. A large part of any journey toward reconciliation is inner transformations in which we recognize who we are then receive the grace and make the commitment to act God’s way. The result of the inner transformation of Jacob was also a commitment to take personal responsibility for his actions, including being accountable for restoring the relationship damaged by his wrong-doing. Lesson insight: Reconciliation is as much of an inward journey with one’s own self as an outward journey with the other person.[5]
During the conquest of Canaan by the people of Israel, all 12 of the tribes participated. But the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had decided to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan in the regions of Jazer and Gilead. Numbers 32 relates the story about how the tribes agreed under Moses for Reuben, Gad and Manasseh to participate in the conquest before settling in the eastern territories. In Joshua 22.1-9 Joshua proclaims that the work of the conquest is over and releases the 2 ! Tribes to go to the eastern side of the Jordan to establish their homes. Two earlier experiences of Israel are mentioned in this passage. Understanding those earlier events is important for understanding the concerns of the tribes from the western side of the Jordan. V.17 refers to the “sin of Peor.” This is a reference to a story recorded in Numbers 25.1-9 in which the Israelites engaged in idolatrous practices related to the worship of Baal. 24,000 people died in the plague associated with God’s judgment for this idolatry.
V. 20 refer to “Achan the son of Zerah.” Achan’s story is told in Joshua 7. Achan stole some of the spoils from the destruction of Jericho, keeping for himself what should have been offered to God. As a result Israel suffered a military defeat in their next encounter at Ai. God revealed that the entire community was being judged for failure to faithfully offer up all the spoils of Jericho to God. Achan was exposed as the guilty one, and the treasure found buried in his tent. He was killed to cleanse the community from his wrong doing. In many conflicts opposing party’s think that one side must win and the other lose. This is called a “win/lose” approach to conflict. Through the process of communication of the interests and needs of each side and finding common ground, a “win/win” solution can often be found. Both groups can have the experience of “winning,” but not at the price of the other side losing. In this story the eastern tribes were able to have a physical memorial to indicate their common bond with the Hebrew people on the western side of the Jordan. The western tribes were reassured as to the religious faithfulness of the entire community including those who settled on the eastern side of the Jordan.
A DARING MEDIATOR (1 Samuel 25.1-35)
David was living the life of a fugitive in the wilderness, for King Saul was trying to kill him. David gathered a band of warriors and social outlaws together. They survived by what they could forage, beg or plunder. a number of areas or relationships where conflicts often arise, such as: between husband and wife, relatives, students, children playing in the neighborhood, workers on the job, employees and boss, merchant and buyer, government in official and citizen. In each of these areas, who might be looked to for mediation help in a formal way? Are there people who might be able to be informal mediators? What type of qualifications would such a mediator need?
The young servant in v.14-17 played a small but very important role in resolving this conflict. He was personally not in a position to affect either of the major parties to the conflict, Nabal or David. But he knew Abigail as a person of wisdom and that she would have access to the people involved. Though he could do very little, he did what he was Able to do. Do whatever you can that might move a conflict in a positive direction. Abigail wisely put herself within David’s’ perspective and interests to show him his own need for a peaceful solution to the conflict (see v. 30, 31). She showed him that he would be better off in the future as king if he had no massacre as part of his political history. To come to a resolution it can be helpful to get into the perspective, needs and values of the other side in order to frame a solution that would work within the framework and interests of the other side[6].
The first Christians were all Jews or Gentile converts to Judaism who then became followers of Jesus. As the gospel spread, more and more Gentiles became followers of Christ, especially once the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas was launched out of the multi-cultural congregation at Antioch. The question then arose: Does a Gentile have to become a religious Jew in order to become a Christian? Is Christianity a branch of Judaism or a new faith that transcends the division between Jews and Gentiles? What are the religious and ethical standards that define the new faith? Circumcision of males was the covenant ritual that marked entry into the religious community of Judaism, so the focal point of the discussion was whether to require this of new male Gentile converts or not. These were the questions that the early church leaders were pondering as they gathered for the council meeting recorded in Acts 15. Pharisees are mentioned in v.5, but they are specifically identified as “believers.” These were followers of the legal traditions of the Pharisees who had become followers of Jesus Nicodemus in John 3 as an example. They had a very high view of the Law of Moses and voiced the opinion that circumcision was necessary for all male converts. In v. 7-11 Peter tells a story that is told more fully in Acts 10.1-11.18 in which the Gentile Cornelius and his household became Christians. They immediately received the Holy Spirit just as the apostles and other disciples had at Pentecost. Cornelius’ story was a foundational event for the early church and is retold many times within the book of Acts.[7]
The turning point in the debate was Peter telling the story of Cornelius and then Paul and Barnabas telling the stories of their missionary journey. Prior to that there had been “much debate” (see v.7). In conflicts over values or theology it is very difficult for either side to convince the other by their own force of argument or Scripture passages quoted. Rather the arguments go on and on, sometimes becoming very divisive. Personal storise can change the entire atmosphere of the discussion. Stories move the discussion out of the theoretical realm into the complex realities of our lives. There is a different way that truth is seen and heard in stories, something that is easier to appreciate and respect even if the story comes from a very different place in life than where the hearer is. Stories create a common ground in our humanness, and in this case finding God acting in ways into expected in some of the theological frameworks people were holding. Use people’s stories to help people in a conflict to understand each other, to grow in respect for each other even if they have deep differences, and to open up new way of thinking that can embrace the truth revealed in the stories.
After the agreement was reached, the council formalized their agreement in a letter that went with two delegates to the Gentile churches (v.22-31). When a resolution to a conflict is achieved it is important to find a way to formalize the agreement. A written agreement can be helpful so that everyone knows what was agreed to. Formalize agreements.
Though circumcision was no longer required of Gentile male converts, the council did require converts to maintain standards of sexual morality, abstaining “from blood” (Dose this refer to not committing murder or to not eating improperly killed meat? Most scholars believe this phrase refers to maintaining some of the kosher food laws), and into participating in idolatry by eating meat offered in sacrifice to idols. If these are the key ethical standards set by the early church for showing the faith, even in the New Testament we find a discussion beginning about what those standards mean. In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 the issue is explored by the Apostle Paul in a way that shows some of the complexities of living out theological beliefs in a particular culture. In cultures where there are no physical religious idols, such a key issue has no relevance at all. Faithfulness to Christ would be seen in other ethical matters. The point to note here
is that in many conflicts an agreement may work for a while, but further experiences and thinking might require a reworking of the understanding behind the agreement or even the agreement itself. A change in the cultural context or various historical developments might make old issues of no concern but raise important new issues to become topics of further discussion and debate. Solutions to many conflicts are steps along the way and may need to be reworked later in light of new developments.[8]
FINDING A WIN SOLUTION (Numbers 32.1-33)
The people of Israel had finished their 40 years of travel in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. They were approaching Canaan from the east, coming up to the Jordan River. In Numbers 21 the story is told about the defeat of the Amorite kings Sihon and Og who ruled east of the Jordan. That region was under Israelite control as they stood ready to launch their invasion of Canaan. Many conflicts become competitive: For one side to win the other side must lose. Initially, the positions of the Reubenites and Gadites on the one hand and Moses on the other were opposed. By looking at the needs and interests of both groups the Reubenites and Gadites to have good grazing land for their cattle and the rest of the tribes to have full military support for the invasion a solution was found in which both sides achieved what they wanted. This is called a “win-win solution.” The solution was not present in either of the positions stated at the beginning, but it emerges once the needs and interests were. Clearly identified.  Look for the win-win solution that meets the needs and interests of all parties to the conflict. Moses stated a very harsh opinion about the Reubenites and Gadites in the beginning. The Reubenites and Gadites responded with a specific proposal that took into account the concerns Moses raised. Acknowledging and affirming the valid interests of the other side can help in crafting an acceptable solution.[9]
Paul, earlier known as Saul, and Barnabas had been together in ministry in Antioch (Acts 11.25-26). From Antioch they were sent out together on a missionary journey (Acts 13.1-3). A young man named John Mark accompanied them (Acts 13.5), but he left them and returned home early in the journey (Acts 13.13). The reason for John Marks’ departure is not given. Paul and Barnabas are coming from the Jerusalem Council in which their ministry to the Gentiles was affirmed by the larger church. The solution in Acts 15.39 for Paul to take Silas and go one way and Barnabas to take John Mark and go another may have been an agreement worked out to maximize the mission work and develop workable mission teams. But there is no indication in Scripture one way or the other about whether or not they parted in a reconciled manner. The only statement is that the conflict was a “sharp” one.  A respectful separation may be the best workable solution to some conflicts, though such a separation may also be an indication of a failed reconciliation.
We don’t know what happened between Barnabas and John Mark after this story. Evidently the young man changed from being the undependable youth that Paul had been so critical of, probably due to the encouragement and mentoring by Barnabas. John Mark later wrote the Gospel of Mark. Furthermore, Paul as an older man asks Timothy to bring Mark with him “for he is very useful in serving me” (2 Timothy 4.11). Something significant happened to change Paul’s opinion of Mark! We may see or experience a conflict at one particular discouraging point, but that may not be the end of the story! Further events may take place which can move the situation from a negative to a positive experience for those involved.
The early chapters in Acts describe the life of the young church after Jesus had ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on Pentecost, as described in Acts 2. The followers of Jesus experienced a sudden growth in numbers. The core group was made up of Jewish people who spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew. They were sometimes referred to as “Hebrews.” The newcomers to the community included many travelers from distant regions who had come to Jerusalem for religious pilgrimage or business. They heard the gospel at Pentecost or shortly thereafter and became followers of Jesus. These people were also Jews, but they were part of the Jewish Diaspora, those who had been scattered over the centuries following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Diaspora refers to the scattering of the Jewish people—or any people—far from their homeland. They had settled in many cities throughout northern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and western Asia. They spoke Greek as their common language, the cosmopolitan language of the day. So in Jerusalem, these Diaspora Jews who became followers of Jesus were called “Hellenists,” because they spoke Greek.
Following Pentecost the new community began sharing their belongings and taking care of any in need (Acts 2.44-45 and 4.32-37). Many people sold their lands and other possessions. The money was given to the apostles who then saw that it was distributed to anyone who had need.[10]
 Perhaps the best way to understand the dynamics of the conflict in this story is in terms of “mainstream” and “margins” or center and edges. The mainstream is the part of the group that sets the values, rules, traditions and customs that predominate in the larger group. The mainstream may be the majority group, but not necessarily. The mainstream could be a numerical minority that still has the power to set the way things go in the group. The interests of the mainstream are what the group recognizes as the valid priority interests for the whole group. The mainstream may be a ruling or culturally dominant ethnic group, the parents in a family, the governing body of a church, the administration of an academic institution. The margins are the individuals or groups, who have values, customs, and ways of being that are alternatives to the mainstream. Every group has a mainstream and a margin, from the smallest group in a school or church to groups of nations. People may be in the mainstream in one setting, and in the margin in another. Furthermore, one person may be mainstream in one way in a particular group, and margin in another way in that very same group for example, a college-educated woman in a church group may be mainstream because of her education and margin because of her Gender. Every one of us has the experience of being main stream in some setting and margin in some other setting.  We can learn from our experience at the margins how to listen better and act more justly when we are in the main stream.
The mainstream is unconscious of its privileges and rank within the group. The mainstream is also unaware of the experience of the margins. The margin, however, is distinctly aware of both their own and the mainstream’s values and beliefs because they have to consciously function in relationship to the mainstream since the mainstream sets the ways for the group to operate. The Hebrew Christians, including the apostles, has no awareness of the suffering of the Hellenistic widows. We don’t know how the matter of the neglect of the Hellenist widows actually got to the attention of the apostles. Perhaps they complained directly. Perhaps a Hellenist community leader brought the complaint. Perhaps there was a sensitive Hebrew who picked up the concern and brought it to the apostles. However it happened, the apostles did not get defensive or criticize the one bringing the complaint. Instead they listened and then acted appropriately to address the concern. Listening is the best first step in countering the unconsciousness and unawareness of the mainstream. The first and best constructive step the mainstream group can do in a conflict is to listen!
When a conflict involves structural injustice such as in this case, some sort of structural change must be included in the solution. In the Acts 6 story the Hellenist widows were being neglected in the distribution of food, so the structural change involved both the establishment of a new position in the church to handle assistance to the needy and also gave power to the neglected community in the new structure. All those chose to administer the new program came from the Hellenists who had been neglected. Lesson involving the margins in formulating a just solution is required as part of resolving conflicts rooted in injustice.
After the conflict is resolved verse 7 tells about the dramatic expansion of evangelism. A conflict takes a lot of a community’s energy, focusing the energy inward on the conflict. When the conflict is resolved the energy can then be turned outward in creative endeavors. Lesson insight: Evangelistic effectiveness is supported by good conflict resolution processes in the church.[11]
FINDING ONE’S VOICE (Esther 4.1-17)
The Jewish people had been scattered following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. A large group of Jews had been carried off into exile in Babylon. Then the Persians conquered Babylon, establishing a kingdom that was supportive of many different religious groups. The Persian king Cyrus allowed Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. Many Jews chose to stay in Persia. The book of Esther tells a story out of the Jewish community in Persia. Esther was the queen of King Ahasuerus. Her uncle Mordecai had exposed a plot to assassinate the king. Mordecai refused to bow before Haman, an ambitious and vain official close to the king. In a rage at Mordecai Haman devised a plot to manipulate the king on the basis of false information to order the slaughter of the Jews.
Esther courageously risked her life to speak before the king. She planned carefully about how to approach the king so that her request would get a fair hearing. Mordecai took public action in mourning the impending slaughter. Though he personally had no access to the decision-makers, he prepared himself through planning, gathering Information (such as a copy of the king’s decree), and placing himself in a position where his action would be noticed Good planning and the courage to take risks are often critical ingredients to conflict transformation.
One of the most difficult things for those in the margin to do is to find their voice and speak out, especially when they feel threatened. Those in power, the mainstream or the center, are often unaware of the problems their actions are causing as was the case with King Ahasuerus. Others may be outright hostile as was Haman. Esther needed both to gain knowledge about what was about to happen to her people and to be personally challenged to take a risk because only she was in a position to reach the decision-makers. Finding a way for marginalized people to effectively speak the truth of what is happening is critical for conflict transformation.

During the Israelite conquest of Canaan the Gibeonites secured a peace agreement with the Israelites by deceitful means. That story is recorded in Joshua 9.3-27. Joshua made a covenant with the Gibeonites to let them live, an agreement viewed as holy and not to be violated. Evidently there was a massacre of the Gibeonites under the reign of King Saul. Saul and three of his sons, including David’s friend Jonathan, were later killed in battle by the Philistines. David became king and the protector of Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth. Saul’s surviving concubine Rizpah had earlier been used as a possession symbolizing growing political power in a struggle between Saul’s son Ishbosheth and his general Abner 2 Samuel 3.6-11). By the time of the story in 2 Samuel 21, David is well in control of his kingdom, having survived various wars of consolidation and a number of revolts.
David sacrificed the lives of Saul’s descendents while operating within the framework of mainstream political power. He was completely focused on solving the political problem of the Gibeonites, as well as perhaps protecting his own throne from possible threats from descendents of his predecessor, Saul. David evidently gave no thought to the impact of this massacre on the mothers of the dead or on the innocence of those being sacrificed for political expediency. Injustice is often a result of the blindness of the mainstream to the values, needs and concerns of the margins. Merab took no action to mounted the injustice, so she remained part of the invisible, silent margins. Rizpah exposed the injustice for what it was, refusing to let the mainstream represented by David go on with business as usual. She made the injustice experienced by the margins visible and poignantly plain. The mainstream will often persecute the margins, so the margins must stand up for themselves to challenge the unjust situation, structure or actions.
Mothers have sometimes organized in the face of violence to speak against violations of human rights that have claimed or threaten to claim the lives of their children. Three examples stand out: The Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo in Argentina organized in the 1970s during that country’s “dirty war.”Tens of thousands of young people “disappeared,” seized by members of the military. They were never seen again. People were killed and buried without record or dropped from helicopters into the ocean. When the mothers received no explanations for the disappearance of their children they began to organize. They held silent vigils every week in the capital city, carrying photos of their missing children. In the face of severe repression they continued their actions, becoming a moral voice for the nation that eventually brought an end to the military’s reign of terror.
The Mothers of the Disappeared in El Salvador organized to pressure the government for information about their missing relatives. They became one of the strong voices for human rights and an end to the war in that country.
The Naga Mothers Association began as a women’s social group in Nagaland in Northeast India. They began going to Indian army bases and police stations to gather bodies of Nags slain in the war that has gone on since 1955. Nobody else would openly claim the bodies for fear of being harassed by the soldiers. The women came to bury the bodies properly according to their culture, wrapping each person in a newly woven shawl. As the number of Naga dead increased, the mothers then began raising their voices and engaging in political actions for an end to the violence. The Naga Mothers Association has become a consistent voice for human rights and peace.
The energy of a mother’s love can become a powerful force for justice and peace when faced with actual or threatened violence against her children. Rizpah’s action was a long-term public action. She kept her vigil from the barley. Harvest till the rains came from roughly October to May. She kept the deaths of her sons before the people of Israel. When David came to Rizpah and buried her sons, David’s action was public. He was publicly changing his policy, doing an action of Repentance in response to Rizpah’s witness. Public nonviolent actions can sometimes sway the hearts or at least the policies of the powerful.[12]
The political deal made by David and the Gibeonites was cloaked in religious language. The 7 young men were slaughtered “before the Lord” Though in the story God raised the original problem of the unresolved massacre of Gibeonites by Saul as the cause of the famine, God does not respond to the slaughter of Saul’s descendants by lifting the famine. Evidently David’s action was not what God wanted. However, when David repented publicly in coming to Rizpah to bury her sons with honor after she had vigiled for months to expose the ugliness of the political violence, only then did God bless the land. God’s blessing is brought not by more violence but by ending the cycle of violence.



Matthew 5-7 is a collection of the ethical teachings of Jesus which we call "The Sermon on the Mount." Jesus is teaching the way of life in the Kingdom of God, or under the Reign of God. This is a picture of how Jesus’ followers should be living. Many of the passages are very familiar, including Matthew 5.44 in which Jesus commands us to love
Our enemies. However, with that familiarity comes many interpretations that do not come so much out of the original cultural context as the contemporary context of the reader.
            Jesus gave these teachings in a situation of severe violence in which various Jewish people took very different options in response to the violence. The Roman Empire had conquered the region, imposing the “Peace of Rome” (pax romana) by the force of the Roman military legions. Threats to that peace were dealt with severely, including by crucifixion. During Jesus’ adolescent years there had been a major revolt among Galileans. The Romans responded by crucifying thousands of rebels along the Galilean roadsides. Jesus probably saw these dying rebels, which made his command to “take up your cross” a dramatic exhortation even before Jesus’ own crucifixion. The violence of the oppressive conquering power was the dominant context in which Jesus gave these ethical teachings.
            Jesus’ contemporaries provided a wide range of responses to the violence of Rome. King Herod (either Herod the Great at Jesus’ birth or Herod Antipas at Jesus’ death), the Sadducees who controlled the Temple hierarchy, and the tax-collectors were all accommodating to the Roman system. They did Rome’s work and benefited from being part of the dominating system. On the other hand, the Zealots engaged in counter violence, attacking Roman interests in the region. Eventually their efforts led to a major revolt in 66 A.D. which was crushed by Rome in 70 A.D. Some people withdrew from the conflicts in society, including the Essences who established the Qumran community in the Judean desert and produced the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Many of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day engaged in a religious version of withdrawal. They had a high level of religious piety, but their piety did not connect to the sufferings around them example of Jesus’ clashes with them in Luke 6.6-11 and 13.10-17 What Jesus says about “loving one’s enemies” is not intended for some elusive ideal realm but for a very harsh and violent world. The shape love of enemies takes is sketched in some of the specific examples Jesus gives.
Bible scholars who translate the New Testament from the original Greek have three possible translation choices regarding the word "evil" or ponero in Matthew 5.39. The Greek grammar can be taken any of the three ways, so the decision needs to be made by looking at the context and meaning of what was said.

The first option would be to translate ponero as "evil" or "evil one," so the verse would read "do not resist evil" or "do not resist the evil one." Many translations take this choice, seeing ponero as in the Greek grammatical dative case. However, James 4.7 says, "resist the devil," and since James has many echoes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount this option does not seem consistent with what James says. Furthermore, 1 John 3.8 says, "The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." Not resisting evil is far more passive than the explicit command of James to Christians or the very purpose of Christ’s coming as portrayed by John.

The second option would be to translate the Greek word ponero as "in the area of evil" or "in the realm of evil," following the meaning as from the grammatical locative case. The translation would read, "do not resist in the area of evil." This translation is very cumbersome, and thus unlikely. It also has the same problems as the first option.

The third option is the Greek grammatical "instrumental" case which has to do with the means by which activity takes place. The translation of ponero would be "by evil means," making the passage read: "Do not resist by evil means." This has a quickly understandable meaning that is also consistent with the meaning of the surrounding verses. This translation option is also consistent with Paul’s understanding in Romans 12.21 when he writes: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Evil is to be resisted and even overcome, but the means used cannot be evil means, only good.
Jesus is addressing the people who are perceived and who perceive themselves as powerless. His listeners are the people being slapped because they are of inferior status, the people sued for their coats because they are very poor, and the people being pressed into carrying baggage for the occupying army. Jesus tells them that they have choices they can make. They have the power to take action. All of us have power to act creatively even in situations of severe oppression.[13]
 Glen Stassen uses the phrase "transforming initiatives" to describe the option toward violence that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus challenges his listeners to take the initiative, even in situations where they seem to be powerless. The followers of Jesus should act in new ways that do not follow the expectations of dominating powers Walter Wink speaks of this as “Jesus’ Third Way” in contrast to “fight” or “flight. Their initiatives should also be transforming. Instead of continuing the cycles of, violence, these creative actions should affirm the humanity of both the one suffering and the persecutor. Evil is exposed and resisted, but in a way that opens the door to repentance, reconciliation and justice. Relationships are transformed because love is at the core of the transforming initiatives, and all the actions Jesus taught give creative and surprising expression to those loveOur actions in repressive situations can bring positive change to relationships, even those that may seem the most hopeless.

1) “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

Cultural background: By specifying the blow coming upon the right cheek, Jesus is referring to a backhanded slap, as that is the only way one can hit a right cheek with one’s right hand. Hitting a person with a backhand slap was something done by a social superior to a social inferior. In Jesus’ day, that would have been a Roman slapping a Jew, a master slapping a servant, or a man slapping a woman. In contemporary Jewish legal writings there was a minor fine for hitting an equal with a blow from the fist. There was no fine for slapping a social inferior—that was one’s right as a superior. However, if someone gave a backhanded slap to a social equal, the offended person could sue for severe damages because of the insult to their status.

2) “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.”

Cultural background: Exodus 22.25-27 and Deuteronomy 24.10-13. The rural economy of Jesus’ day was built upon large land-owners who had many poor tenant farmers working the land for them. The tenant farmers lived in near slave conditions. Many of the parables of Jesus reflect this economic system. For a person to take out a loan (for seed to plant the next crop, for example), a outer garment would be give as collateral to make sure the loan would be repaid as the poor person had very little other than the clothes on the back. This debt system was so severe that when the Zealots revolted in 66 A.D. their first action after capturing Jerusalem was to burn the debt records stored in the Temple. Debts had been carefully recorded in a legal setting as part of maintaining strict control.

3) “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

Cultural background: The Roman occupying forces could compel civilians to carry their packs or baggage, but only for one Roman million (a distance of approximately 1,000 paces, hence the English word “mile”). This action enforced the dominance of Roman military power, but the limitation of the action also emphasized the importance of Roman law. The particular law that limited forced portage by civilians was intended to keep hostility among the occupied population to a minimum, but the Jews viewed this as just another of the detested forms of Roman oppression.

FEEDING THE ENEMY (2 Kings 6.8-23)

The people of Israel were divided following David and Solomon’s reigns into two kingdoms: Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Elisha was the major prophet in Israel during the period of this story. Syria was to the north of Israel and was one of the regional powers that were often in conflict with both Israel and Judah.[14]
The bloodless victory against the Syrian army was accomplished both by a divine miracle and by the action of Elisha to feed the enemy. God acts and people act. History can contain surprises that no one can predict, but also human choices are made that determine whether outcomes of conflicts will be positive or negative. Compare this story to Proverbs 25.21-22 and Romans 12.19-21 Acts of mercy and compassion can disarm the heart of the enemy.
 “The Syrians came no more on raids into the land of Israel.” Then verse 24 goes into the next story about another war between Syria and Israel. Because these two stories are placed next to each other it is easy to miss the full impact of the generous and merciful action of Elisha. His action brought a halt to the series of raids that had been going on. Peace was achieved for a significant period of time. The period of peace is not recorded other than in these brief words. Periods of peace can be relatively boring to some writers of history, but those peaceful years are very significant and appreciated by the people who live through them. Don’t hurry too quickly to the next story, but appreciate the time of peace that was achieved.

HOLY DISOBEDIENCE (Exodus 1.15-22)
The descendants of Jacob had settled in Egypt to avoid a famine in Canaan at a time when Jacob’s son Joseph was the Pharaoh’s most powerful administrator. Over the decades and centuries the memory of Joseph’s leadership in Egypt faded. A new dynasty was established in Egypt with no connection to Joseph or his legacy. Eventually the Pharaohs of the new Egyptian dynasty enslaved all the Hebrews. Fears about the increasing Hebrew population prompted the Egyptian Pharaoh to introduce increasingly harsh measures against them.
Shiphrah and Puah were put into a personally and morally dangerous situation. They would either become killers of the babies of their own people or they would disobey the explicit commands of the mightiest ruler known at that time. In what seemed to be an impossible dilemma they found a creative way to avoid participating in murder or incurring the wrath of Pharaoh. They saved the lives of many Hebrew children. When there seem to be no options, think again, and look for the creative solution beyond the assumptions of the dilemma.
Was lying to Pharaoh ethically wrong? On the one hand that may be a judgment that could be made on the midwives. On the other, telling the truth would have likely resulted in their deaths and perhaps their replacement as midwives by women willing to kill the boy babies. The Bible clearly says that through their actions the midwives “feared God,” and they were blessed with families themselves, a sign of divine favor. So what are the values affirmed in this passage doing what is right in the middle of oppressive situations may be more complex and less pure than a moralist at ease might think.

DRAMATIZED SYMBOLIC ACTIONS (Luke 19.28-44; Isaiah 20.1-6; Jeremiah 32.1-15)

            Prophets were best known for speaking God’s word to their contemporary settings. Sometimes prophets used symbolic actions or public dramas to convey their messages. Their actions would speak to the particular circumstances, bringing a message of judgment or hope or calling people to alternative ways of living. Sometimes their actions spoke about what people should do, and at other times their actions spoke about God’s action toward the nation.
Isaiah prophesied during a time when Judah was threatened by the superpower Assyria to the north. Judah was tempted to seek a protective alliance with the other superpower, Egypt to the south. Isaiah and other prophets often discussed the issue of whether Judah or Israel should look to the Lord or to the military umbrella of a great power for their protection.
Jeremiah was facing impending national disaster. The Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem, and the city was about to fall. The situation looked completely hopeless. Babylonians would usually carry off into exile most of the captured population, as the Assyrians had before them. Because of these common practices the people under siege expected either death or to be carried off to a distant land to live. Jesus lived during a time when the Jews were under Roman rule and military occupation. There had been a number of armed revolts against Rome, all of them brutally crushed. Social ferment against Roman authority was strong, fueled by expectations that a Messiah would come to fulfill the prophecies that one of David’s descendants would again sit on the throne and bring in an age of peace, freedom, security and justice. Zechariah had prophesied about a king coming in peace to Jerusalem, humbly riding on a young donkey (see Zechariah 9.9-10). Opposition to Jesus had been growing, and Jesus had predicted his own death to take place in Jerusalem.
Sometimes a symbolic action can be spontaneous as a person responds creatively to a situation. However, in these three stories planning and on-going activity was required. Jesus had set up the arrangement to get the donkey before he enter Jerusalem, even to the point of establishing a code phrase so the owner of the donkey would know the disciples taking the donkey were coming from Jesus. Jeremiah had to arrange the details for the purchase of the land, including the legal documentation. Isaiah kept up his action of public nudity for three years. Planning and perseverance can give symbolic actions powerful focus and heightened attention.
Each of these actions, though involving other people, were initiated and carried out by one person one person can make a difference! Each prophet including thinking of Jesus in his prophetic role spoke verbally or wrote as part of delivering the message. These were actions with multiple forms of communication. However, the action itself was the dramatic message that people most clearly remembered. Actions speak louder than words, so find ways to act that will speak your message with clarity and force. However, accompanying words, whether written or spoken, can help interpret the meaning of the action for those who witness it.


Paul’s letter to the Romans is the apostle’s greatest theological statement. Chapters 12 and 13 are the centerpiece of his understanding of Christian ethics. The teachings about law, Christ, grace, justification, salvation and new life have implications for how we live. So chapter 12 begins with “I appeal to you, therefore….” Because of what God has done for us in Christ, the way we live needs to reflect Christ. Chapters 12 and 13 show us how to live consistent with what God has done in Christ. Verses 9-21 are a quick list of commands or exhortations. They cover a wide range of topics in just a few words. The underlying theme is living the transformed life set forth in verses 1 and 2. These verses also echo with the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which should not surprise us since Matthew 5-7 are the most concentrated ethical teachings of Jesus in the gospels.
Verse 20 is a quote from Proverbs 25.21-22. Doing well to one’s enemies is not just a New Testament teaching, but a teaching with roots in the Old Testament. “Heaping burning coals” on a person’s head is a phrase with its roots in the ancient Near Eastern custom of carrying a pan of hot coals on one’s head as a sign of shame, contrition or sorrow. Wearing “sackcloth and ashes” is a similar image. The actions of feeding the hungry enemy and providing drink to the thirsty enemy bring shame upon the enemy, resulting in a change of heart. That is how evil is overcome by good. One way evil is overcome is by bringing about an inner change within the enemy though actions of love.This is the last session in this study. It is important that participants apply the lessons they have learned about conflict transformation to the conflicts in their own lives. The time taken to think about how to apply the lessons from the course is very important. It may also be a difficult time for some participants as the conflicts they are thinking about may be very personal and very painful. Respect the desire of anyone not to share, but encourage everyone to work hard at thinking about their own conflicts and applying to those conflicts what was learned in the class What the Bible says about conflict can be applied to the everyday conflicts we experience, no matter how severe they might be.
It the most important part of the course is coming up: What participants do with the knowledge they have gained in the context of their own conflicts.  To close their eyes and call to mind and think of an important conflict they are currently facing. Ask them  the people or groups involved in the conflict, ,the issues in the conflict , the concerns of the other side in the conflict,  people acting toward each other, How  people communicating with each other,  stake in the conflict, Then review the list of lessons learned in the course. Ask participants to open their eyes, and reflect in silence for at least 5 minutes on at least three specific actions they could take in that conflict that would move the conflict in a positive direction. Urge the participants to be as specific and detailed as possible so they will be clear on exactly what I Can do.

Buttry, Daniel L., Christian Peacemaking: From Heritage to Hope (Judson Press, 1994).

Cupit, Tony, And Peace I Leave With You: Bible Studies for Churches on the subject of
Peace (Baptist World Alliance, 2001)

Munayer, Salim J., editor, Seeking and Pursuing Peace: The Process, the Pain and the
Product (Musalaha, 1998)

Stassen, Glen, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace
(Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992)

Wink, Walter, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament
(Fortress Press, 1984)

Wink, Walter, Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces that Determine Human
Existence (Fortress Press, 1986)

Wink, Walter, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of
Domination (Fortress Press, 1992)

Wink, Walter, Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa: Jesus’ Third Way (New
Society Publishers, 1987)

Baum, Gregory and Wells, Harold, editors, The Reconciliation of Peoples: Challenge to
The Churches (Orbis Books, 1997)

European Center for Conflict Prevention, editors, People Building Peace: 35 Inspiring
Stories from around the World (European Center for Conflict Prevention, 1999)

Garcia, Ed, editor, Pilgrim Voices: Citizens as Peacemakers (Manila University Press,

Herr, Robert and Herr, Judy Zimmerman, editors, Transforming Violence: Linking Local
and Global Peacemaking (Herald Press, 1998)

McManus, Philip and Schlabach, Gerald, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in
Latin America (New Society Publishers, 1991)

Schrock-Shenk, Carolyn and Ressler, Lawrence, editors, Making Peace with Conflict:
Practical Skills for Conflict Transformation (Herald Press, 1999)

[1] Buttry, Daniel L., Christian Peacemaking: From Heritage to Hope (Judson Press, 1994).p 102
[2] Cupit, Tony, Peace I Leave With You: Bible Studies for Churches on the subject of
Peace (Baptist World Alliance, 2001) p 154
[3] Munayer, Salim J., editor, Seeking and Pursuing Peace: The Process, the Pain and the Product (Musalaha, 1998) p 106-116
[4] Stassen, Glen, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace
(Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992) p 82-84
[5] Wink, Walter, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament
(Fortress Press, 1984) p 96
[6] Wink, Walter, Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces that Determine Human
Existence (Fortress Press, 1986) p 78
[7] Wink, Walter, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of
Domination (Fortress Press, 1992) p 86
[8] Wink, Walter, Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa: Jesus’ Third Way (New
Society Publishers, 1987) p 164
[9] Baum, Gregory and Wells, Harold, editors, The Reconciliation of Peoples: Challenge to
the Churches (Orbis Books, 1997) p 212
[10] European Center for Conflict Prevention, editors, People Building Peace: 35 Inspiring
Stories from around the World (European Center for Conflict Prevention, 1999)
[11] Gracia, Ed, editor, Pilgrim Voices: Citizens as Peacemakers (Manila University Press,
1994) p 156
[12] Herr, Robert and Herr, Judy Zimmerman, editors, Transforming Violence: Linking Local and Global Peacemaking (Herald Press, 1998) p 154
[13] McManus, Philip and Schlabach, Gerald, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in
Latin America (New Society Publishers, 1991) p.154
[14] Schrock-Shenk, Carolyn and Ressler, Lawrence, editors, Making Peace with Conflict:
Practical Skills for Conflict Transformation (Herald Press, 1999) p. 68


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