Much of Phillipians calls people to unity, forgiveness, grace-filled living within a Christian community. Suddenly in Paul’s final chapter of the book he names names. Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord. This is a pretty cleaned up way of saying, “Will you two cut it out already before you split the church?” Something has been going on here and it’s causing problems. I have heard it speculated that they had picked one of those famous Jewish “my ancestors can beat up your ancestors” battles where two Jews contended as to whose genealogies were better. It’s certainly possible, but we don’t really know. What we do know is that something has gone wrong and it’s causing problems. Paul is worried about what will happen if they can’t get past whatever they are hung up on.
So Paul gives them (and vicariously us) the Anybody’s Guide to Surviving a Church Fight.
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, REJOICE! If you started singing when you read this line, you missed the emphasis Paul places on this instruction by blatantly repeating himself. Rejoicing in God is essential to overcoming petty stuff.
- Be gentle. Now I want to expound on this point a little bit. Don’t be mean. Don’t send emails saying things you would never say to a person’s face. Don’t get loud. Don’t start saying things about people to other people. Be gentle. If you ever find yourself in a fight, just imagine that there is a sleeping baby in the corner of the room you don’t want to wake up. This should keep things civil.
- God’s peace will enter your heart. Now let’s sing “I’ve got the wonderful peace of my blessed redeemer way down in the depths of my heart…where? Down in the depths of my heart.” Presumably, if God’s peace is in your heart, you will have peace in your life and in your relationships. If you don’t, you might need to ask “Where?”
- Finally, think happy thoughts. When we get hurt or get into disagreements, we go into a downward spiral of nasty thoughts and increasingly angry responses. But if we instead dwell on things that are noble, pure, right, true, admirable, etc., then it will break the cycle of negativity. We can gain some perspective and take the first steps towards peace and reconciliation.
- Put these things, and the lessons learned from spiritual mentors into practice.
There you go. Now you can pull through and live lives worthy of the God of peace. Now go forth and prosper. Next week…Colossians.