I’d love to have spent more time in the book of Philippians, but—as in the rest of life—time is short.
As we’ve discussed before and as you’ve undoubtedly noticed if you’ve read the entire book, Philippians is a more positive letter than others he wrote or other books of the Bible. The church in Philippi had some possible threats from Judaizers who were trying to infiltrate them (see chapter 3), but it doesn’t seem that these made as much headway as they had with the Galatian believers (the entire book of Galatians focuses on it, and the alarmed tone there is absent here). Other than that, there don’t seem to be any major problems with the Philippian church which he felt the need to address. When you compare this to 1 Corinthians, it’s like night and day. In chapter one he praises their love and dedication, but expresses a desire to see this “more and more.” In other words, this wasn’t a dysfunctional church that needed to be salvaged: It was a good church with great qualities; he just wanted them to keep what they were doing and “step it up a notch.”
However, there’s one minor issue which he had to bring up. It was a minor problem, but it could easily turn into a major one if not decisively dealt with. That’s the subject of today’s passage.
In two verses he mentions two women, Euodia and Syntyche. From these short mentions we can deduce two things: 1) They were undoubtedly prominent people in the church, and 2) For some reason, they couldn’t get along. It was most likely a personality conflict, not a struggle over doctrine or a moral issue. What’s the evidence for this? He doesn’t even bother to give any details over their point of contention. He doesn’t take sides at all. He just earnestly pleads with them to put aside their differences and not just get along with each other but “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”
They needed to work together. Earlier in this letter he told the entire church he expected all of them to “strive together as one for the faith of the gospel.” You can’t do this if you’re bickering over minor issues, not getting along with each other, and fighting over your “turf.”
This was a lot more serious than a petty squabble. Jesus specifically told us that the world would know we’re his followers by our love for one another, and he also prayed that we'd be “brought to complete unity” so that the world would know that the Father sent him. I don’t believe that there’s anything in the world which would attract the lost quicker than by looking at us and saying “Oh yeah, Christians, those are the people who love each other and take care of each other.” And when we don’t get along. . . well, the converse is true too.
There are two particularly sad ironies here. First, there are their names. “Euodia” means “sweet fragrance,” but her part in this conflict wasn’t making the church smell any sweeter. And “Syntyche” means “good fortune,” but her part in the conflict certainly wasn’t a blessing to the church either.
The second thing is something I think I need to credit Chuck Swindoll for bringing to my attention. The only things we know about these two ladies is what we see here. God’s word is eternal, and this letter is part of it, right? So for all eternity, the only thing their names have been attached to is not any work they’ve done for the cause of Christ. The only things we know about them, and the only thing that’s recorded about them in God’s eternal word is that they had to be called out by name by the apostle for their petty bickering. I don’t know about you, but if my name happened to be recorded in eternal Scripture, I’d want it associated with something positive (maybe like the people listed in Romans 16), not like this.
Now, I can point my fingers at them, but as the cliché goes, I have three pointed back at me. One of my great laments is that if you ask non-Christians to describe Evangelical Christians with two or three words, they’d probably answer “Against abortion,” or “Against gay marriage,” or “Against sex outside marriage,” or “Probably Republican.” Now, I’m certainly against abortion and in favor of God’s standards. I certainly have my political beliefs which I try to align with my understanding of Scripture, and I don’t believe that any political party has any exclusive claim on Jesus. But in my ideal world, if you asked non-Christians this question, their most common answer would be “Those are the people who love each other and take care of each other.” To any degree that you and I have not contributed to that ideal, we need to—to the best of our ability--correct that impression. As much as depends on us, the world’s impression of us needs to be in accordance with the Lord Jesus’ expressed desires and prayers. Will you join me in this?
Father God, please help me choose very carefully the hills to die on. My ego, my personal desires, my “rights” mean nothing in comparison to your Kingdom and the business of introducing the lost to my Savior. My Lord means everything, I mean nothing. Please help me to know and to show that.
Post a Comment