This is post #20 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: My dear, dear friends! I love you so much. I do want the very best for you. You make me feel such joy, fill me with such pride. Don’t waver. Stay on track, steady in God. I urge Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up. God doesn’t want His children holding grudges. And, oh, yes, Syzygus, since you’re right there to help them work things out, do your best with them. These women worked for the Message hand in hand with Clement and me, and with the other veterans—worked as hard as any of us. Remember, their names are also in the Book of Life. Philippians 4: 1-3 (MsgB)
Try as we might to avoid conflict in the Body of Christ, differences will, undoubtedly, happen.
Sometimes these differences will be small, with fellow believers disagreeing over seemingly insignificant matters. Yet, at other times, things can explode into major arguments, causing church splits, bitter feelings, broken relationships, and offenses that wound us to the core.
Biblical scholars don’t know what caused the rhubarb in Philippi between Euodia and Syntyche, but it must have been a fairly well-publicized disagreement if Paul, Timothy, and the ministry team in Rome got wind of it.
Keep in mind, that Paul (despite what you might have heard from present-day church leaders) had no problems, whatsoever, working alongside women in leadership. Here in today’s Lectio Divina, Paul includes both Euodia and Syntyche as part of the ministry team that worked alongside Clement, Timothy, Lydia, and others as the church of Philippi came together.
If you recall, Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, was the first person to respond to the Good News message of Jesus, on that fateful day when Timothy and Paul struck up a conversation with a group of women gathered at a nearby river (see Acts 16: 13-15 for the full story). Could it be that Euodia, Syntyche, and their good companion, Syzygus, mentioned here in Paul’s letter, were all key women leaders, working alongside Lydia for the greater glory of Christ in Philippi?
Well, we’ll never know all the details, but suffice to say that these two women church leaders had obviously fallen into a place of disagreement, and from Paul’s perspective, the resulting tension surrounding their argument was hurting more than just these two.
That’s the problem with disagreements in life. Our tendency, when we find ourselves in an argument or bruhaha with another person, is to bring others on board with us, believing if we can only build a majority around us than we certainly must seeing things from the “right” perspective. Sadly, this “my way or the highway” approach to disagreements rarely resolves anything, but only serves to divide good friends from one another, which from what we read here in Paul’s letter, sounds exactly what was happening in Philippi.
Did you know the English word we so often use for Satan; devil, means, at its core, diabolical, accusing, or slandering. You see, it’s not sinful or wrong, when you or I, as Christ-followers, find ourselves in a disagreement with another believer. In truth, that’s not an if issue, but simply a when.
But here’s where the whole matter becomes sinful.
When you or I take that disagreement, dig in our heels, allowing the issue at hand to become divisive, that’s when we’re dangerously close to stepping into a place of agreement with our adversary, Satan. You see, if I refuse to find a place of reconciliation with the other person, pulling others into the fray, asking them to take sides, I’ve now linked arms with our enemy, the Devil, who loves nothing better than to tempt Christians to become accusatory, pointing fingers, and even slandering others, all in the name of “being right.”
It’s at this point, someone needs to stand up here, act like the adult in the room, and in all sincerity and humility, ask this pointed question…
Friends, which is more important to you? To be right…or to be reconciled?
As I see it, this is what Paul is suggesting here in his letter to his friends in Philippi. He’s even asking their common friend, Syzygus, to step in here and help get the reconciliation process started.
It’s interesting to note that Bible translators, over the centuries, are uncertain if Paul used the word Syzygus to describe the need for a “good companion” (which is what the word means in Greek) or, more likely, was naming the good companion, Syzygus, to step in to help out.
Either way, the point is well taken.
In this case, as it is with so many disagreements in church life, we need the help of a “good companion,” one who cares equally for both parties. One who can step in and help negotiate a peace treaty, for the greater glory of God.
Today’s Prayer: Lord Jesus, sadly, I’ve been involved, over the years, in way too many disagreements in the body of Christ. I’ve seen the harm it does to everyone involved, and I’ve seen how the Devil uses it to further divide one believer from another. In our own woundedness, it’s easier to keep furthering the divide instead of stepping up in humility to find a place of reconciliation. Holy Spirit, come, heal and bring Your reconciliation amongst us all. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: Jesus proclaimed it very clearly, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5: 9 NIV). Where, in my circle today, are disagreements doing damage to the body of Christ? Am I participating with those disagreements, taking sides, making matters worse? Or am I asking Jesus to empower me as a peacemaker, helping others to see that “being right” becomes secondary to “being reconciled”?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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