I wonder how much, as Paul was writing this letter, he was thinking about Euodia and Syntyche. These were two women who he had worked with closely in ministry, and cared about deeply. And yet there was a divide between them. What it was that caused that divide we don’t know. Paul certainly doesn’t take sides. Instead, he simply says,
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. (2)
Throughout this letter, he had been saying things like he wanted to see the Philippians standing firm in one spirit, fighting side by side for the gospel. (1:27)
That they should be, “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose,” and following the example of Christ in His spirit of humility. (2:2)
More, he encouraged them to stop complaining and arguing with each other that they might be bright lights to those around them. (2:14-15)
He then reminds them to put aside their personal pride on who they are and what they’ve accomplished and to focus their eyes on Christ. To make knowing him their chief goal. To remember that they are all citizens of heaven now and that they should live that way. (Chapter 3)
And now, having said all this, he pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to put aside their personal pride. To put aside their personal differences, whatever they may be. And to accept one another. To start working with one another once again.
If Paul were alive today, I wonder how often he would repeat those words if he saw the people in the church today. People who love the Lord and are trying to serve him, and yet because of their pride are at odds with others in the church.
I look at these words, and I feel the pain Paul is feeling. Because too many times, I see this kind of division within the church.
But even as people seeing this happen in the church, we cannot just stand still and let the problem fester. Paul said,
Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (3)
Who this “yokefellow” was, we don’t know. But Paul said, “Please help these women reconcile. Step in and do what you can to bring peace between them.”
Too often, instead of bringing peace, we take sides. Or we start to spread gossip. But if we are to have unity in the church, neither is acceptable. As Paul told the Ephesians,
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)
Are you doing that?
Or are you letting your pride get in the way of making peace with those who have hurt you or those you yourself have hurt?
When you see your brother or sister fighting with another in the church, are you letting your personal loyalty to them get in the way of trying to bring peace between them and the other party?
Too often, people don’t settle their differences. Instead, they let things simmer until things eventually blow up or one of them leaves the church. But does that bring glory to Christ?
The church is to supposed to glorify Christ and show the world who he is. But we can’t do that when there are fissures within the church. Are you one of those fissures? Or are you one that brings healing to those fissures?
Which one are you?