Philippians 4: 1 – 5 (NLT)
“ Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
2 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.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon”.
When you read the title of today’s devotions and then read the verses from Philippians 4, did anyone in your own world come to mind? Conflict between people is a given, but how, as Christians, are we supposed to deal with it? In these verses, Paul pleads with two women to settle their differences, and if necessary, accept help from others in the church.
Paul was no stranger to conflict. Paul went on his first missionary journey with Barnabas and a young man, John Mark. Not too long into the journey, John Mark decided to leave and head home; we don’t know the reason for his departure. When it came time for the second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along again – give him another chance. Paul disagreed, and as a result, Paul and Barnabas separated and Barnabas went on a journey with John Mark and Paul headed out with Silas. That must have been some disagreement since Paul and Barnabas had become close friends shortly after Paul’s conversion. After Paul became a Christian, he went to Jerusalem, but the Christians there were frightened of him and didn’t trust him. It was Barnabas who stood up for him and convinced the church to accept Paul. So, for them to argue and separate over whether John Mark could be trusted enough to be given a second chance, must have been an interesting discussion, to say the least. Did they ever get back together again? Yes, they did. And in some of Paul’s epistles, Paul recommends John Mark to the believers. Many scholars think that it was John Mark who would later write the Gospel of Mark. So, this conflict was resolved well.
The Bible tells us to love one another, and that our love for each other as Christians is a sign to the secular world that our faith is the “real deal”. John 13: 34 – 35 says, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” That’s about as clear as one can get, but how do I put it into practice? Can I have disagreements with other Christians? If so, how do I handle that? What if another Christian really “bugs me”? What am I supposed to do about that? Can I cut someone out of my life if we can’t get along? At what point do I put my own sanity and peace first?
Paul gives us some suggestions about resolving conflict in these verses. First of all, the two people that Paul is addressing are not fringe members of the church, people who don’t really make that much difference in the church. Paul mentions that they have both worked hard with him in “telling others the Good News”; they “worked along with Clement and the rest of my co- workers”. So, the fact that they are not getting along has an impact on the church; otherwise, I doubt Paul would have named them.
He starts with “because you belong to the Lord”. That is an overriding principle in the Christian life. Our commitment to God is the top priority in how we deal with everything. What would God want us to do? What has He said in the Bible? What example did Jesus give us to follow? Here are some really blunt statements about getting along with each other.
“If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.11 But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” (1 John 2: 9, 10 NLT)
“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. … 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4: 26, 27, 32 NLT)
God is telling us that we need to be kind to each other. Remember chapter 2 of Philippians, especially the day I asked you to list the characteristics of Christ followers that Paul outlined in the whole chapter? Paul emphasizes in that chapter that we are to be loving to each other, and to understand that others can be better than ourselves. We are not to be taken with impressing others and building up our own reputation. We are to respect each other. If we take this Scripture seriously, when we are in conflict with someone, especially someone in the church, we are to admit that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and do our best to resolve the issue.
Paul also asks “his true partner” to help in resolving the issue. We don’t know who that partner was – perhaps it was Timothy. But, here is another suggestion about settling differences. We need to be willing to let another mature Christian help us to figure out a solution. It means we need to be willing to listen to that third party, to let someone else help us, to admit we are not always right.
Finally, Paul brings us back to the focus of our lives. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon”. (verses 4,5) God has brought so much joy to our lives as His children. We need to remember that when we get caught up in our own opinions. Jesus is coming soon. If Jesus came back today, would that issue you’re so upset about matter?
Today’s verses are a real challenge to me and to all of us. What kind of example of God’s love am I setting to those around me?