For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 58
“Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.” Philippians 4:2-3
In every church, in every age, in every culture, there will be conflict, even amongst Christian believers. In this instance, the disagreement is between two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche. We know nothing about the nature of the disagreement, but we do know that these women were…
- Fellow Christian Believers- Both women belonged to the Lord and Paul was confident that their names were both written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
- Both committed to the Great Commission- Euodia and Syntyche had both demonstrated a deep passion and zeal for sharing the Gospel with others.
- Key members of the church leadership team- These women worked alongside of Clement, other co-workers for the Gospel, and one another in building the church in Philippi.
Even the most dedicated and mature Christian believers can have disagreements and conflicts, often over how to best carry out the mission of Christ. In the book of Acts, we see conflict arise between Paul and Barnabas, Paul and John Mark, Paul and Peter and Paul and James (see Acts 15, Galatians 2:11-14, Acts 21 & James 2:14-26). Paul was no stranger to conflict with his Christian brothers, so he understood how hurtful those conflicts could be and how important it was for fellow believers to reconcile with one another.
As the 80’s rock song reminds us, “The more things change, The more they stay the same, Everyone’s your brother till you turn the other way, The more things change, The more they stay the same, All we need’s a miracle to take us all away from the pain.” (The More Things Change by Cinderella). There will always be conflict and division between people in the church as long as there are people in the church. Conflict is inevitable, but just like Euodia and Syntyche, we are called to work it out with one another. Examining this brief passage a little more closely, we can identify 3 principles for resolving conflict between believers in the church.
1. Cover it with Love: Paul’s words preceding this specific address are saturated in love- “my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.” When we find ourselves embroiled in a church conflict, we should take a moment to re-affirm our unconditional love for one another. Try to express the deep feelings of love you have for those you are in conflict with, without including the word “but” at the end of the sentence. Paul’s friend and occasional sparring partner, Peter was right when he said, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. Simply remembering how the love of Jesus covered the countless multitude of your own sins on the cross should be enough to untangle even the most wound-up wrangling.
2. Remember you are on the same team: Euodia and Syntyche had labored shoulder to shoulder for years in building the church of Philippi. They were both passionate and committed to the mission of Christ. Sometimes our holy zeal can unknowingly become self-righteous pride when someone challenges our approach or philosophy of ministry. Like unwelcome parenting advice from a judgmental mother-in-law, we can easily become very defensive or possessive in our area of ministry within the church. When that happens, we short-circuit the very things which God has promised to bless- Humility, Grace and Love. Remind yourself and one another that you are on the same team, and even if your approach or philosophy differs, there is still plenty of room at the table for divergent ideas.
3. Ask for and receive gladly help from the Church: Sometimes a relationship is so broken or battered that those actively engaged in the conflict are unable to put things back together on their own. In such circumstances, like the one Paul is addressing here, it is right and helpful to ask the church leadership to help you resolve the issue and restore the relationship. Jesus laid out a clear process for confronting sin and restoring relationships in Matthew 18. It may be necessary for the Pastor or Elders to step in to help resolve the conflict, or, to even bring in a professional counselor or conciliator. If this becomes necessary, it should be welcomed, not avoided. Asking for help in reconciling with another person is not an admission of weakness or failure, but a demonstration of strength and courage.
Don’t be surprised when you get caught us in a conflict at Church. While it may be tempting to look for an easy out, quitting your ministry or even going to another church, you will grow most like Christ when you walk through these moments with poise and grace. We will be together in heaven, so we should learn to be together on earth too.