Friday, June 14, 2013
What Happens When Good People Disagree?
Phil. 4:2 ¶ I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
Phil. 4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
These two little verses shed a little light on the church situation in Philippi, which was located in Macedonia. The church in Philippi may have been a bit unique in regard to the strong female influence. The laws of Macedonia vs. the laws of Greece were quite different in regard to women. Women were allowed to have positions of leadership in Macedonia, whereas they weren't in Greece. The first person to become a believer in Philippi was Lydia and she hosted the church in her home. There are many differing theories on who Euodia and Syntyche were but most agree that they were both women and more than likely leaders within the church in Philippi. It is even suggested that one may have been the leader a Jewish-Christian congregation and the other of a Gentile-Christian congregation. For whatever reason, the two of them, leaders in the church were having a disagreement and it must have been quite significant for this news had reached Paul.
Paul then urges his "loyal companion," also referred to has his "yoke-fellow," or some have even suggested his "wife" to be the one to intercede and work with these two women, helping to bring them to a point of reconciliation. What we do know is that Paul believes there is a need for someone to intercede to help bring about reconciliation in the relationship of these two women. We are led to believe that they are good women who have worked hard with Paul and who are followers of Jesus Christ, their names being written "in the book of life."
There are times in life when good people will have disagreements and sometimes they will move in different directions. We learn from this situation in Philippi that these were all good people who were still doing work and ministry for the Lord. Unfortunately the rift in their relationship was well known and this was disruptive to the entire Christian community.
Paul urges the two women to be of the same mind -- leading us to believe that they were NOT of the same mind. In light of everything that Paul has already talked about in this epistle, that same mind would be the mind of Christ. When we discover that we are at odds with another believer, maybe we ought to check ourselves and see if we are truly leaning into the mind of Christ. As we grow in the Lord our focus ought to be on becoming like Christ. This means that we are to become more and more like him in all things -- which would mean that we would want to think and react like him. This only happens when we are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit and are so connected with Christ that we are in him -- and have the mind of Christ. These two women were not of the same mind in the Lord! And this means that while they were good women, and serving God, they were not focusing on the most important thing, which was to be united with Christ. Therefore Paul was urging them to examine what it was that was important to them.
When we have disagreements with others we must begin with self examination. Do we have our eyes on Christ? Are we desiring to be transformed into his image? If our goal is to be like him, then we will stop the petty arguments and will focus on becoming more like him. If Euodia and Syntche had been focusing together on being more like Christ, they would have been united in him, instead of being divided in their own separate ministries. Division usually begins in our own hearts.
Realizing that it might be difficult for these two women to work out their differences on their own, Paul asks a dear friend to intervene. Jesus had said that the world would know Christians by their love for one another! This is a relationship that the enemy wants to destroy. He does not want Christians to be united and he does not want them to love one another. Instead he wants them to be biting and chewing each other up so that the world looks at us and thinks we're all crazy. Someone in Philippi was concerned enough about the appearance of this division that they made sure that Paul heard about it. I'm guessing that the non-believers in Philippi knew about it too because these types of issues do not stay hidden. If the women couldn't work it out themselves, Paul was going to have to ask someone to try and bring about reconciliation.
As believers we must be about the business of reconciliation. Sometimes we are the one who is to go to the two individuals who are struggling with one another and be the bridge that can bring them back together. This is not an easy task and sometimes we get shot down in the process, but if God can use us to bring about healing in a relationship, then we must go with obedience. The "loyal companion" probably had nothing to do with the disagreement and yet worked to bring them back together for the sake of the Church.
Unfortunately we find this story repeated over and over again in the Christian world. The world is looking on Christianity and seeing her divisions and not the unity. May God help us to focus on Christ; on having the mind of Christ; and on being instruments of God's healing and reconciliation within the Church, because sometimes good people DO have a hard time getting along with one another.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(Prayer of St. Francis)