This week I was talking to my daughter and she came across a short poem that she remembered hearing as a little girl:
To live above,
with saints we love,
O’ won’t that be glory.
But to live below,
with saints we know . . .
now, that’s another story!
It came to mind again as I was reading in Philippians 4 this morning.
What had come between the two ladies isn’t known. Obviously the Spirit didn’t consider it pertinent. But what was considered important, and was God-breathed for our instruction, is that whatever it was that caused disagreement between these two servants of Christ, it needed to be dealt with. And so Paul exhorts his most faithful co-worker to “help these women.”
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3 ESV)’
You sense these ladies were pillars within the fellowship. They had worked closely together with Paul “in the gospel.” These women, whose names were in the book of life, were active in the things of the kingdom. I gather they were women of reputation . . . women of influence. And yet, for some reason, they were women at odds with one another.
Seems like, whether 1st century or 21st century, people are still people. And even “fellow workers in the gospel” can rub one another the wrong way, or have a different view on some matter. Who hasn’t encountered in their own church fellowship a Euodia/Syntche dynamic? And I’m not just talking about a tension between two ladies. In fact, my experience, more often than not, has been that of the egos of two men coming into sharp conflict . . . often over legitimate areas of disagreement, yet creating a tension which is palpable within the fellowship. And of such Paul would say, Help these men.
So this morning I’m thinking less about the exhortation to the two ladies to “agree in the Lord” and more about the need for godly brothers and sisters to care enough, and with courage enough, to draw alongside of family combatants and “help these women.”
Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. So writes Paul to the Ephesians (4:3). Exert one’s self for harmony’s sake. Pursue unity with urgency and priority. But how often do we see the “relational difficulties” between two people in our fellowship and just do nothing. Knowing there’s tension, we will let it fester. And fester it does. I’m thinking that, save for arrogance within a fellowship, there is no leaven that spreads quicker than division and disunity. Factions are a church-killer . . . or at least a church-maimer as, eventually, body parts and whole body sections are cut off or just walk out the door.
What ever was going on with Euodia and Syntyche, was considered a big deal by Paul. And I’m guessing it was less about the issue, and even not so much about their relationship, but a concern for the health of the fellowship as a whole and the impact it would have on their witness for the gospel.
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ Jesus (John 13:35 ESV)
Church unity. Kind of a big deal, I’m thinking. Was to Paul. Is to our Savior, the Head of the church. Should be to us, as well.
That by God’s grace we would live in harmony with our brothers and sisters. And that, when harmony is disrupted, by that same grace we would have the courage and the compassion to help these women . . . and to help these men.
Because of grace . . . and for His glory.