Summary: Learn the principles for dealing successfully with the inevitable conflicts that arise in church
Last week, we looked at how integrating God’s influence results in healthy relationships. The four steps contained in Philippians 3:15-4:1 were "ask God for clear thinking, live what we know from God, pattern after godly people and make room for a biblical future." If we could do this perfectly in every situation of every relationship, the Apostle Paul would not have to write what we will be studying this morning.
Obviously, we are still people filled with selfish ambition, prejudices, cultural influence, worldly attitudes and pride. This morning, we will look at what happens when conflict arises in Christian community, because conflicts will arise, even in Christian community.
Before we look at this morning’s passage and discuss the three truths in the midst of Christian conflict, I want to point out that not all disagreement is bad, only disagreement that leads to discord or mutiny on a team or within the church. Disagreement is necessary for us who seek to do things right and to do the right things. Since no one of us is always right, not even your pastor, we need to be open to ideas different from our own.
This week, Connie and I discussed a major aspect of the church, and we disagreed. We both wanted to hear why the other thought a certain way and what the Bible had to say about the issue. We wanted God’s way, not our own. And Connie reminded me to live what I know, and that is pray for clear thinking. So, we prayed.
Later on in the week, I met with Jonah and Mel to discuss some administrative matters of the church. They were very gracious to let me share my ideas, being my administrative plans sometimes look like Jericho after the trumpets have blown. At the end of my presentation, I told them, "Look, guys, we all have the same purpose and desired outcome. If you know of a better way to carry this out, don’t hesitate to share that." I wasn’t looking for my way; I was looking for the best way.
In both cases, I prepared myself for disagreement by mentally welcoming disagreement, and I braced myself for what could come. I was uncomfortable, and almost pleading in my mind that they would like my idea and not hurt my ego by coming up with a better idea. It takes discipline and a willingness to sacrifice one’s ego for God’s best. Disagreement can be the channel from which God’s gift comes, if we are willing to sacrifice our pride.
By the way, in my messages and conversations, I never share other’s faults and failures and name their names unless I have first gotten permission, but I do name names without permission when you model for us what is helpful and healthy interaction. Now, let’s move into the text for this morning. I will read Philippians 4:2-3 for us.
If you’ll notice, Paul did not specify what the disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche was, but he did specify that agreement was possible when the business of the Lord was involved. We don’t know if their conflict was due to style. Maybe Euodia was more analytical while Syntyche was more intuitive. When you differ in the level of planning but serve in the same team, misunderstanding can occur.
Another possibility is that they differ in value. Maybe Euodia spends more time with her family, believing that God calls her to minister to her family and mentor young mothers, while Syntyche spends more time at church, believing that God calls her to lead worship and Bible studies. When you differ in priority but serve in the same team, misunderstanding can occur.
There can be many reasons and causes for disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche. They could have disagreed because of differing prejudices, because of damaged self-esteem, because of words spoken without much consideration, or because of anything else. But Paul didn’t call their attention to the reason or the content of their disagreement. Paul called them and the Philippi Community Church to remember three truths when conflicts arise in Christian community.
Paul FIRST calls them to remember the truth that a big vision makes for little argument. We read this in verses 2 and 3. Paul is calling Euodia and Syntyche to focus on what is important. In verse 3 Paul uses the word, "contended," which is a military term, to give us a mental picture of their important joint service to God.
Christians are described as soldiers for Christ and the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, with these words, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer." Our Commanding Officer is Jesus Christ. When we agree with Jesus Christ, we agree with those who agree with Jesus Christ. All else is insignificant.