WISDOM IN THE LETTER OF JAMES AND ITS IMPLICATION FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE CHURCH

ABSTRACT

The Church can only prosper in the realm of peace. Unfortunately churches are torn apart by conflict. It is observed that underlying factors responsible for this is selfish ambition which manifests itself in bitter jealousy, covetousness, prejudice, unfaithfulness, impatience, pride and arrogance, hatred, exploitation and oppression of the poor, and many other wicked and unrighteous deeds. Conflict as observed in the church today can be resolved with Divine wisdom which has a lot of implication for conflict resolution. Using a historical critical method which is descriptive, exegetical and redactional in approach to explore the Letter of James, it was discovered that heavenly wisdom implies faith and hope in God, lowliness, self-denial, servanthood, steadfastness, joy in trial or suffering, submission to the will of God, self-control, obedience to the word of God, love for God and his righteousness, showing of mercy; consideration and generousity to the poor and less privileged, impartiality and or justice, self-conviction and not self-glorification, an understanding that wealth and riches are temporal, patience, longsuffering, or forbearance, leaving vengeance for God, truthfulness or sincerity, love for one another and forgiveness to one another, and seeking the straying believers. It has been shown that these virtues translate to wisdom because divine or heavenly wisdom is a reverential application of the knowledge of God and the understanding of His principles for human life and the course of life to ones life, to judgments and in taking actions even as it involves interpersonal relationships. So, when all these moral virtues are utilized in the Church by everyone conflict will be effectively resolved and a peaceful assembly is maintained.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study: 
The word, ‘Church’ is the English translation of the Greek word, εkkλhsιa (ekklēsia) which takes its root from two Greek words, εξ and κaλεω which are respectively a preposition and a verb. Εξ denotes out while κaλεω denotes call. Thus, as a

compound word, εkkλhsιa connotes, “the called out”. Therefore, one can see εkkλhsιa as an assembly, a congregation, meeting or gathering of a chosen people. It was on this note that Wayne Grudem defines the Church as a “community of all true believers for all time.”1 That is, the totality of all people in all ages who believe in Christ and are redeemed by Christ Who died on the cross for the salvation of man. The people include those from different biological families, Genders, cultures, levels of education and exposure, age groups, and so on. As they gather, there is no gainsaying that conflict is inevitable. Hence, Jesus Christ in His first advent could not leave without offering a prayer for unity in His Church. He prayed saying;

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:20-21 RSV).

Obviously, the prayer was granted. In acts 2:43-47, it is said that the disciples were always together and had all things in common. Their oneness became so glaring that many more people believed in Christ and were saved. Besides, the oneness invoked the abiding active divine presence which caused many signs and wonders to be performed through them.

However, as they multiplied, conflict emanated from them (Acts 6:1) because of man’s sinful nature. This is confirmed by Iheanyi Hycenth Iruoma in his statement, “In the ecclesiastical arena, sometimes conflicts spring up because it is constituted by human beings with human nature.”2 The peace they enjoyed as a result of the divine unity granted to them was shaken due to injustice. It, therefore, means that for divine unity and peace to thrive in the Church, there is a duty for the Church to carry out. This duty includes resistance to injustice which is cross-cultural. Hence, E. Ilogu, an African scholar, was right to posit that “Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder and actualized by men as they thirst after ever-greater justice.”3 Indeed, justice as one of the content of wisdom sustains peace and unity and forestalls conflict. There were other indications of conflict in the early Church. They include; the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3); Paul and Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:36-40); Paul and the Galatians over Paul’s authority (Galatians 1); Paul and Peter over Jewish ceremonial laws (Galatians 2:11-12); and so on.

Moreover, the distance between the apostles in Jerusalem and the Churches in diaspora exacerbated the conflict situation of the Churches. The apostles were not close by to harmonize issues. Persecution, hardship, envy, selfishness, coldness of love, discrimination, pride, arrogance, profession without practice, bitterness, and many other ungodly attitudes including quest for positions of authority in the Church wanted to tear the Church apart. And so, when the reports reached the apostles, it was not incongruous for James being the presiding apostle then, to write in order to address those conflict escalating issues.

Worthy of note is the fact that James is concerned with the practical aspect of faith as rightly highlighted in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary thus;
The one common trait, which gives the letter its distinctive quality, is a concern that the faith of the recipients be not merely theoretical or abstract, but implemented in action, in every aspect of their lives.4


This faith cannot be actualized without God-given wisdom. In other words, this faith pursues wisdom from God which helps to calm harsh situations. The lack of this divine wisdom was the problem with those who claimed to be wise and understanding. There was no reflection of their knowledge to their daily lives. They were causing confusion with their unparalleled lifestyle alongside with their disciples.

Indeed, it is worthy to observe here that conflict is one of the inevitable age-long societal menace. Ezeibe Christian Chukwuebuka refers to it as an inimical and antisocial growth. To this end, he defines conflict as “a condition of uneasiness, turmoil and or riot which disrupts social calmness and peace.”5 This implies that social harmony and progress are frustrated in a conflict situation. Unfortunately, this era is an era of increasing conflict. Malachy Ikechukwu Okwueze who agrees with H. Kraemer states that this age is “an age of perpetual conflict and turmoil.”6 The Church is not without her own share in this issue. Many Church denominations, especially the classically established ones, are seriously involved in conflict. All the issues addressed by James in the early Church are present in the contemporary Church, especially the issue of selfish ambition which manifest when postings and transfers, discipline, truth, promotion, personal rights and privileges, and so on, are being handled.


Consequent upon that, many Church denominations are torn apart. There is an increased level of enmity and unhealthy proliferation of Churches and inefficiency in administration. Some people have backslided while some have apostatized because of Church conflict. It also contributes to the heightened level of indiscipline in the Church even to the extent that some Christians are being lured into sorcery and the employment of magical means into the scene. And so, the name of Christ is reproached among unbelievers leading to the loss of Christians’ testimony, honour and real progress; spiritually and physically. Besides, conflict dwindles ones.....

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Item Type: Postgraduate Material  |  Attribute: 108 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: N3,000  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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