Summary: Peace is something that we long for but seems so elusive. How can we find lasting peace in the midst of a world full of conflict.
I read an article the other day that suggested that 95% of recorded history includes stories of war and/or national violence. That statistic is staggering isn’t it? A quick glance at national and international news would indicate this truth. The world seems to be in constant conflict! Finding peace in this world is difficult.
One poor soul said it this way. “If we could just get everyone to close their eyes and visualize world peace for an hour, imagine how serene and quiet the world would be … at least until the looting starts.” The world is a rough place.
And it seems that we are as Christians are not immune to conflict either. Have you ever had conflict in your life? If you are like me, you have had conflict spring up in your life. Perhaps you see constant conflict in your marriage; maybe you see it in your family with your children, your siblings, or your parents. Maybe the conflict is with a neighbor or friend. You might have experienced conflict with coworkers or customers. And if you are like me, the longer the conflict goes on the more you long to find peace.
Is it possible? Can we find peace in a world where conflict is the norm?
Key Question: How do we find peace in the midst of a world full of conflict?
We learned last week that Paul is writing to a church he loves. And in verse 1 he has given them pet names (His joy and his crown). Paul knows that external conflict is coming to the church. Paul himself has been imprisoned for preaching the gospel and the persecution is starting the affect the Christians in Philippi.
And Paul addresses the question of peace. He starts specifically by writing to a couple of women who have broken the peace in the church.
Philippians 4:2 (NIV)
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
Paul mentions two ladies in the church in Philippi and they are in the midst of a standing spat. This struggle of opinions between these two women must have gone on for a while because it has had time to become public and Paul has received news of it while under house arrest in Rome. What the fight is about we do not know but it does not seem to be foundational because Paul does not take sides. I get the feeling that these two women might be fighting over the color of the carpet or where to put the communion table. But in the process their feud is wrecking the fellowship of the church!
So he writes to them specifically in this letter and he calls them out by NAME. To understand the strength of what Paul is doing, we should realize that this letter would have probably been read out loud before the entire congregation. These women would have been held accountable in front of the entire church. What do you suppose would happen if we did that in this day and culture? Especially in America were “privacy” is considered so important?
But Paul places the importance of protecting the fellowship of the church over protecting the privacy of these two ladies.
Principle: Long standing conflict between Christians that destroys the fellowship within the church is NOT a private matter.
The world is watching. And it is not looking for another war or another dysfunctional family. They see enough of that as it is. So Paul points them to the single purpose.
“Agree with one another in the Lord.”
He wants the to see they have something in common vs. seeing their difference(s). And he wants them to cherish their common view over “continuing to see their difference(s).”
I recently read a parenting article that described a method for dealing with the conflict of sibling rivalry. It suggested making kids who are constantly fighting work together on a project. This would be a project that would have to be completed together or not at all.
I like the idea (at least as a parent). Do you have any idea how difficult it is to stay angry with someone and to fight when you have to focus on the same task? I think that is Paul’s goal when he tells them to agree with one another in the Lord. He wants them to refocus on what is important. If I could summarize, I think Paul might be saying, “Jesus is far too important for this conflict in the church to continue!”
I. Find that common ground you have in Jesus.
What would happen if we did that? What would happen if we evaluated every disagreement we had through the importance of Jesus? It’s not the life is too short to quarrel, it’s that Jesus is too important to continue to break the peace.