I Entreat

June 25, 2017
Philippians 4:1-3
Abraham Hong

 

I cannot help but wonder exactly who Euodia and Syntyche were and what they looked like back then. Perhaps the two women had completely different or clashing personalities. Perhaps they were the same. Maybe one was from the city while the other was from the country. Maybe both of them were rival members in church. It could be that there was jealousy involved. It could be that they were once best friends but then things just happened. I cannot help but wonder about Euodia and Syntyche.

Unfortunately, we don’t know who they were or what happened between them. But what we do know is how Paul approaches the whole matter in this letter. And his way of doing conflict resolution is a bit unusual and thought-provoking.

Paul begins by entreating Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. He asks them to have the same mindset in Christ. This doesn’t mean that the two women have to be clones of each other. Agreeing in the Lord does not meant that you ought to like the same foods or share the same jokes or dream the same dreams.

Paul asks Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. The key there is “in the Lord.” He reminds them of their union with Christ. He invites them to acknowledge that they share the same fundamental identity in Jesus. He brings them back to the fact that they belong to the same building with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. In other words, Paul is saying, “Euodia, you are in the Lord. Syntyche, you are in Lord. May you therefore both agree… in the Lord.”

Brothers and sisters, this is a wonderful biblical starting point for any kind of conflict resolution among believers. We are all loved by the same person. How then can we fight? There is a great sadness in hearing that something was going on between Euodia and Syntyche. The sadness is this: Jesus hugs them both. Jesus suffered and died for them both. Brothers and sisters, if you have an issue with another believer in Christ, then I entreat you to think last about your defense or you being right or you knowing what the other person is thinking or you playing the blame game. I entreat you to think first about our Lord Jesus Christ and how you and the other are in him.

Now, there is a second part to this unusual and thought-provoking way of doing conflict resolution. Paul brings up the book of life. He says that Euodia and Syntyche, along with Clement and the rest of his fellow workers, are people who have their names written in the book of life. The book of life is a vivid symbol of the chosen people of God, sinners who are saved by God’s mercy and grace.

What Paul is actually doing here is worth nothing and worth duplicating in our lives. He unveils to Euodia and Syntyche and to everyone in the Philippian church the big picture. He lifts up their eyes to see that their citizenship is in heaven. He encourages them with eschatology - that is, with the final destiny of God’s people in mind. In other words, Paul is saying, “Euodia, Syntyche’s name is in the book of life. Syntyche, Euodia’s name is in the book of life. You are both going to be there with the Lord at the end. May you therefore be together.”

Brothers and sisters, this is another wonderful biblical starting point for any kind of conflict resolution among believers. We are all shown the same grace and we are all going to the same place. How then can we fight? There is a great sadness in hearing that something was going on between Euodia and Syntyche. The sadness is this: Jesus prepares a place for them both. Jesus has both of their names written in the book of life and both of their spots reserved at his banqueting table. Brothers and sisters, if you have an issue with another believer in Christ, then I entreat you to think last about what he or she did to you in the past or what he or she is doing to you in the present. I entreat you to think first about what he or she will be like in the future and where he or she is gauranteed in the grace and love of Christ to end up.

Finally, there is a third part to this unusual and thought-provoking way of doing conflict resolution. Paul brings up good memories. He says that Euodia and Syntyche were women who labored side by side with him in the gospel together. They worked together. They stood firm and fought the good fight together. They suffered in Christ for the sake of his gospel together. In other words, Paul is saying, “Euodia, Syntyche, do you remember all the things that we did together for Jesus and his gospel? Those were good times, were they not? You can go back to that. Let’s bring that back.”

Brothers and sisters, this is another wonderful biblical starting point for any kind of conflict resolution among believers. We labored side by side in the gospel of Christ together. How then can we fight? There is a great sadness in hearing that something was going on between Euodia and Syntyche. The sadness is this: they both loved the same Lord. Brothers and sisters, if you have an issue with another believer in Christ, then I entreat you to remember the past that was good. And I entreat you to start over.

When Jesus comes back, we will meet Euodia and Syntyche face to face. Do they have completely different personalities? Is one a city girl and the other a country girl? Are they best friends? I don’t know the answer to the first two questions. But I definitely know the answer to the third. And I bet if you ask them what the issue was between them, they will probably look at each other and just smile.

End