Dealing with Disunity (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 1-3)

We learn at last the key players in the conflict at Philippi.  Two women (remember, women played key roles in the church at Philippi from the very beginning, Acts 16), two fellow warriors at Paul’s side, are not of the same mind.  We will see more clearly what they are fighting about at the end of the letter.  But for now, Paul appeals to other leaders in the church to help bring unity after begging the two women to pursue the same.

Paul has just finished teasing out the implications of the true gospel and it is this gospel that each player in the conflict agrees about.  This is what they can stand firm over in the Lord together.  This is what has brought them the certainty of reward in the kingdom.  To what greater issue could they give their attention?  And yet they were divided over such a lesser concern.

How were Paul’s true companion and Clement and the rest supposed to help these sisters come to unity?  Paul doesn’t spell it out.  But he is quite familiar with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18 (see 1 Corinthians 5) and no doubt mentions the overseers and deacons at the opening greeting to his letter to highlight their authority and responsibility for bringing church order.  Perhaps the next step was to challenge these women with the authority they possessed from God when they agreed together in prayer about the solution to this problem.

What are you out of sorts about with someone at your church?  Were you wronged and needing to confront them in love just between the two of you to find a solution?  Are you the wronger?  Have you enlisted the help of wise witnesses you both trust to help you resolve this, if indeed you cannot find a solution on your own?  Have you taken it to the authorities of the church to prevent this leading to further disunity?  Nothing is more important than the unity of the church behind the true gospel.


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