Summary: Unity is crucial to Christian witness. Nothing is more essential and nothing brings God glory like the love and unity of the body of Christ in a fallen world. Yet this struggle is pervasive. How does God want us to deal with it?
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When Christians Disagree
Philippians 4:2-3 is an unusual text that we need to slow down and look into.
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Euodia and Syntyche... These women had a problem, didn't they?
Paul has just written about how the church there needed to join together and imitate his life. Then he presents a problem. Here's a couple of women in the church who need to join together and work out some differences. They have a relationship problem that has reached the ears and heart of Paul so that he names them publicly in the letter to this church. (By the way, this letter would be publicly read to this church in the hearing of all). He pleads with them to get it together and agree with each other in the Lord. Not only does Paul plead with them, he solicits help from a "loyal yokefellow" to get involved and bring these two Christian sisters into the harmony of Christ. The word "help" in verse 3 is from a Greek verb "sulambano" which means to take hold of together. It can even mean seize them. The word Paul uses for the man he asks to help them is loyal or true yokefellow. This very name "yokefellow" or the Greek "Sudzugei" is a term of companionship, a coming together into partnership.
Euodia and Syntyche... Guess what? Their names mean to "do well" and to "come together." It appears that contrary to their names, they are not doing well and coming together. But this whole section is loaded with joining together language. Let me list it in order as you look at these two verses with me:
1. The names Euodia and Syntyche - do well and come together
2. The plea of Paul - agree with each other in the Lord
3. The nickname of the person Paul asks to help - yokefellow (someone sharing a yoke together).
4. The word help - "sulambano" - means take hold of together.
5. The history of these women - They have contended together with me for the cause of the gospel.
6. Clement and the rest of my fellow workers - others who are still joined together as workers.
7. Names in the book of life - sharing together a common salvation hope in Christ.
It is interesting to me to note how so much of the very language Paul uses here has the thought of joining together couched within it. This theme of joining together God's way in the Old Testament and in Christ in the New Testament is of major importance throughout the scripture.
From the beginning of creation God designed us for community and togetherness, first with Him and also with one another. God Himself is revealed to us as a unity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God communicates with Himself as He designs humanity in His own image and likeness. Genesis 1: 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
We were designed for communication, community and communion. This is God's nature and He has given it to us. As we share this divine nature and join together according to God's word and will we demonstrate God's image and shine with God's light in the world.
Jesus prayed in John 17: 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.