Trouble with fellow Christians … seek unity! - 2 November 2020
By Ewald Schmidt
- Philippians 4:2-3
2Euodia and Syntyche, please, I beg you, try to agree as sisters in the Lord. 3And you too, my faithful partner, I want you to help these women; for they have worked hard with me to spread the gospel, together with Clement and all my other fellow-workers, whose names are in God's book of the living.
I love it when Paul calls ordinary believers by their names in his letters. They were not superstars, just people like you and me, who loved Jesus and tried to make a difference in their church and community in their time.
As a pastor, I smile when I read the names of these two women from the first century. Ecclesiastes notes that there is nothing new under the sun. From the very beginning of the Christian church, it was a network of people who sometimes had trouble getting along. We read of Euodia and Syntyche in Philippi – two women who loved our Lord Jesus very much. They also loved Paul as a leader and were working with him to help to build the church. Their names are written in the book of life, together with those of Clement and all other believers who had followed Christ through the ages. But there was a problem that needed to be addressed in Philippi. These two ladies could not get along with each other. Maybe their personalities were regularly clashing. We do not know what their issues could have been, but their animosity towards one another became a threat to the unity of the church.
Paul calls them out by name. They are called to leave their differences behind, to become one – of the same mind. They needed to be reminded of the bigger issue – the health of the kingdom of God. Unity in the church was so important, Jesus prayed for it in John 17:21. By our love for one another, the world will know that he is Lord. We are bound together as one body by the bonds of love. We are all unique individuals made by God with differences to complement one another. The “we” in the body of Christ is always more important than the “me”. But in every church, there will be Christians having a hard time getting along. This is why these two verses were also included in the Bible. We need to be reminded that it is important to maintain unity in the Church. Is there someone in your church grinding on your nerves? Start praying for that person. Pray that you may have a better understanding of that person’s background and try to understand why they think differently to you. It is much harder to quarrel with someone you are praying for. When we overcome our issues with one another, our witness as church becomes so much stronger. We are a people who love one another as Christ has loved us. It is challenging but possible by his grace.
Prayer: Lord, thank you that every believer is a unique person. You have created us that way. Teach me, then, to respect the work of your hands. Teach me to not just accept people being different to me, but to celebrate the mosaic of grace. Help me to act in such a way that I am not a stumbling block to others. Amen