My recent posts on brinkmanship indirectly introduced the discourse of Jesus on themes of peace and conflict resolution. In subsequent weeks, I will explore various gospel stories to show how Christ engaged in key concepts in conflict, namely, conflict prevention, resolution, management, transformation, and peacebuilding. Today’s post is a general introduction.
One of the most sought things in life is peace, and it seems peace continues to be difficult to achieve. Or perhaps we may say that total peace is difficult to achieve because peace can be positive and negative. Negative peace refers to a situation wherein war and violence are absent. In contrast, positive peace entails the absence of war and violence and the presence of positive components such as sustainable investments in economic development and institutions and societal attitudes that lead to peaceful growth and change.
One fact of life is that our concerns and goals are not always simultaneously the same. Hence, conflict entails a situation where two contrasting views clash. Conflict can be intrapersonal, where an individual faces an ethical dilemma of doing something or not doing it. In religious terms, one considers this the battle of the conscience between the voice of the devil and the voice of God.
However, the term ‘conflict’ is often associated with the interpersonal dimension. Here, K. Nwogu and D. Eruwayo define conflict as “a situation in which two or more human beings desire goals which they perceive as being obtainable by one or the other but not both.” C. Ugwuanyi considers it “a state of tension which exists when one party perceives that its goals, needs, desires or expectations are being blocked by another party.”
As such, where there are two persons, conflict exists there. However, this tension could be brief or long-lasting, and the scale of tensions could be small or large. At the same time, it could be recognisable or concealed.
Against this backdrop, I began considering if Jesus engaged in themes of conflict. I discovered that Jesus recognised that conflicts exist and, in his interpersonal relationships, he attempted to manage or prevent them from escalating until the appointed time. The fundamental approach Jesus adopted was conflict prevention while communicating and through his actions. Jesus spoke to the people in parables but interpreted it for his disciples. When the disciples asked him why he spoke to the people in parables, Jesus replied, “The reason I speak to them in parables is that seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13).
There are many interpretations of why Jesus taught in parables. However, one possible reason for Jesus’ strategy was to prevent misinterpretation from the people, a reality that can lead to mob action. Commenting on Mattew 13:13, Albert Barnes affirms: “He had truths to state which he wished his disciples particularly to understand. They were of great importance to their ministry. Had he clearly and fully stated them to the Jews, they would have taken his life long before they did. He therefore chose to state the doctrines so that if their hearts had been right, and if they had not been malignant and blind, they might have understood them.” (Albert Barnes Commentary on Matthew 13:13).
Two instances confirm this. The first happened when Jesus went to his hometown and preached. When the people juxtaposed his teachings and identity, Jesus replied that a prophet is not recognised in his hometown. He also referred to the story of Elijah and the woman of Zarephat, and of Elisha and Naaman. The people got angry and took him to the brow of the hill to throw him down (Luke 4:14-30).
The second story was in John 8, and it happened in Jerusalem, where Jesus taught in the temple. The chapter began with the story of the woman caught in adultery, whom Christ pardoned. After that, Jesus continued his discourse with the people and told them that if they were Abraham’s children, they should be doing what Abraham did. This displeased the people, but they continued the discussion with Christ. As the discourse continued, Jesus made a comment about Abraham that incited the crowds to violence. The gospel reads: “Then the Jews said to him. ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:57-59).
The posts on brinksmanship also show us that Jesus was careful of his words and actions to prevent his arrest when he was not yet done with his teachings. Jesus is God and creator of all things. Yet, Jesus allowed certain things to be without fighting back, even though he could. Hence,
My posts on conflict will be descriptive of the words and actions of Jesus, showing his brilliance in dealing with conflict-related issues. The posts will be didactic but not comparative, as I do not seek to analyse national and international conflicts.
May God continue to help us🙏🏾
 Nwogu Kelechi & Eruwayo Doreen. (2007). Peace Building and Humanitarianism. Lagos: National Open University of Nigeria, 2
 Ugwuanyi, C. (2014). Environmental Security & Conflict Resolution. Lagos: National Open University of Nigeria, 200.
I am a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria, and an advocate of the indispensable role of religion in contemporary society. My academic background includes degrees in philosophy, theology, education, peace and conflict resolution, religion, and canon law. These studies give me a broad perspective that helps in an existential analysis of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.