Saturday, June 13

When Christians disagree

Scripture: 1 Kings 15 2 Chronicles 13-14, Philippians 4

Philippians 4:2–3 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Observation

I would love to know the backstory for these verses!  Who were these two women and what were their roles in the Philippian church?  Most of all, what was their disagreement, and how did it affect them and the church?  Was Paul’s “true partner” (perhaps his name was Syzygus which is the Greek word here) able to help them work out their differences?  We don’t know the answers to any of those questions.

What we do know is that these two ladies worked hard alongside Paul is “telling others the Good News”, and now they were not “of the same mind” about something.  And the conflict was obviously open, public knowledge and was affecting others.  So Paul appealed to each of them individually: literally, “I appeal to Euodia and I appeal to Syntyche.”  Paul clearly wanted this disagreement resolved for the sake of both ladies, the church and the work of the gospel.

Application

Two ideas.

First, we can and should appeal to Christians in conflict to resolve their differences.  Paul made this appeal, and we can too.  We tend to ignore conflict and hope it will go away.  Better to tackle it head on.  Make the appeal.  Offer to help. 

Second, there are three possible outcomes when we attempt to help people resolve their differences.

  • They resolve their differences, come to an agreement (literally, “have the same mind”) and move forward.  This is ideal—especially for followers of Jesus—and what Paul was aiming for.
  • They try but are unable to resolve the differences and agree to disagree, and love each other in spite of the difference.  This is less than what Paul asked, but it is also far better than the third alternative, and is often the only way forward. 
  • They are unable to resolve their differences and the relationship sours or ends (which seems to be what had happened with these two women).  This was the situation that Paul was trying to change, and we should as well.

These verses are a reminder that Christians—even devoted believers who are actively working in the mission of Jesus—can disagree and get sideways with each other.  We are called to help them reconcile and not ignore the conflict and hope it goes away.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be peacemakers, reconcilers, relationship-healers, those who bring others together.