Resolving Our Differences

Resolving Our Differences

Gary Pollard

In Philippians 4, right before he confronts Euodia and Syntyche, Paul says, “My dear brothers and sisters, I love you and want to see you. You bring me joy and make me proud of you. Continue following the Lord as I have told you.” 

Then verse two, “I strongly urge Euodia and I strongly urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the lord.” The word translated “urge” here is something called a petition verb. These were usually used for strong emphasis. There are two in the same sentence in 4.2, suggesting that Paul had been leading up to this the whole time. His examples of selflessness, humility, concern about others, willingness to sacrifice for the good of others, and his examples of other Christians who did what they were supposed to do, all led up to this straightforward conclusion. These two Christian women were evidently in an argument so severe that their salvation was in serious danger (2.12). 

But he doesn’t just admonish these women and leave them in awkward silence. He asks a friend to help these women work out their issues because (4.3), “They worked hard with me in telling people the good news, together with Clement and others who worked with me. Their names are written in the book of life.” He wasn’t bullying these two women because of their issues — even as he corrected them, he made it clear that this was done out of genuine love and concern for their spiritual well-being. Because of their evangelistic mindset and excellent work ethic, their names were in God’s book of life. 

Paul repeats 3.1 in 4.4 — “rejoice in the Lord always. I’ll say it again — rejoice.” These are also imperatives. How do we fix problems in our congregations? We focus on what we have in common. We serve God and we’re waiting impatiently for Jesus to come back. It’s a lot easier to resolve our differences when we’re united in our goals. We all want the same thing. We’re all equal in God’s eyes. 

Philippians 4 has several more imperatives (5-9) — Make sure everyone sees that we’re gentle and kind. Don’t worry about anything. Ask God for everything you need and be content with what you have. Think about what is good and wholesome. Follow God’s teaching. 

At the end of Philippians 4 is another familiar verse — “I can do anything with God’s help”. This verse is on a poster at our gym near the weight lifting area (as “Phillippians” ha), and many have this verse on a shirt or tattooed. While it’s certainly innocent and kinda funny, that’s not what Paul’s saying here. To avoid ending the letter on an unpleasant note, he spends time thanking Philippi for all of the ways they’ve helped him. He slipped in that he can be content with or without money, and he can be content with or without enough food. How? Because when it comes to working for God, he’ll make sure we have the strength we need to keep going. 

Philippians 4.7 says, “Because you belong to Jesus, God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds. His peace is more profound than we’re capable of understanding.” No matter what happens to us, if we’re working for God we’ll be ok! 

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