It’s hard to tell, sometimes, the flow of what Paul is saying. Did he mean to divide his thoughts between verses 3-4. Or did he mean to to keep verses 3-5 as a set? Or perhaps the whole line of thought flows together all the way through verse 9?
I’m not sure, but as I was reading this passage, it struck me that Paul had Euodia and Syntyche in mind even as he was writing verses 4-5.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (4-5)
In other words, “Put your focus on God. You all have put your focus on yourselves, and that’s why you can’t get past your own personal pride and settle this dispute. So refocus your life on God. Remember what he has done for you. Rejoice in the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross on you. And let it affect your attitude toward each other. Let your gentleness (ESV — “reasonableness”) be evident to all in the church as you deal with each other.”
Then he says, “The Lord is near.”
And that’s something to remember when we are in disharmony with a brother or sister in the church: the Lord is near.
For one thing, he is there present within the church. He sees your dispute with your brother or sister, and he is heartbroken by it. How then can we continue to fight in his presence, knowing how much he has sacrificed, not only to bring us peace with God, but with each other?
For another thing, he is coming soon. He will return to this earth physically and take us to be where he is. But if he were to come back today, and you were to stand before his throne for judgment, what would he say to you? Would he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
Or would he say to you, “Why did you waste so much time fighting with your brother? Why did you waste so much time bickering with your sister? There was so much to do, and instead of working together to touch this world for me, you let anger and bitterness stand between you.”
What will happen to all our arguments, to all our pride when we stand before Jesus on that day? How much shame will we feel?
The Lord is near. So let us be at peace with one another and fight for unity within the church.