Summary: Euodia and Syntche will forever be remembered for not getting along in the church at Philippi. What did Paul have to say about Church members in conflict?
“WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?”
To many of us the L. A. riots of several years ago were just a news story. A score of people were killed and several thousand were injured in the ensuing fights that erupted over a racially charged situation. The African-American community in L.A. correctly believed that police had unfairly beaten a Black man named Rodney King in a routine check stop. It was when the four arresting officers were acquitted of all charges that the riots erupted.
In the midst of the riots, King went on the news to appeal to both sides and is now famous for saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
Douglas Noll, a lawyer and conflict mediator, took off on that statement and explained that recent scientific research shows that the reason we can’t get along is in our brains. In the last couple of centuries we have gotten used to the idea that we are rational beings. Noll says it isn’t so. We are emotional beings. In fact, we are 98 % emotional and 2 % rational beings. He concluded that peacemaking needs revision based on this finding and that reconciliation doesn’t happen with simply logical conclusions; it must largely involve our emotions.
Why can’t we get along? Imagine if we were all rational beings. If we were completely logical we would all act like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. In reality we are more likely to resemble Captain Kirk, his emotional counterpart. Frankly, it is much more exciting that we are all emotionally driven people, but it is also the reason we have conflict with one another. A problem occurs between us, anxiety rises, insecurity and a fear of losing control of the situation grows, and we react, often badly. There you go: interpersonal crisis.
As Christians what is our response? What is our motivation for getting along? We can learn from Paul’s dealings with Euodia, Syntyche and the Philippian church why we need to try, and the Bible tells us how to do it.
1. Motivations for “Getting Along”
a) Unity “in the Lord” – It will be forever known that Eudodia and Syntyche didn’t get along. How’s that for a legacy? We don’t even know if they worked out their problem. We don’t know what the problem was to begin with. However, it was a visible disagreement that seemed to shake the church and threaten its unity. Perhaps sides were taken and parties were forming.
Paul’s response is very interesting. He doesn’t take sides and affirm the correctness of one over the other. Paul simply says that they should agree with each other. No, that’s not quite correct. He said, “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord” (1-2).
Disunity in the church is disastrous and contrary to God’s plan for us as his people. It is a flaw in the church’s armor against the world. That is why Paul carries the teaching of the past chapter forward with a call to stand firm in the Lord. There are enemies of the cross within and without the church, those who would like to destroy the church. So stand firm in the Lord.
But that’s not all. Paul urged the ladies in question to put aside their disagreement and find agreement in the Lord. What this means is whatever we find we think different about, we ought to agree on Jesus, on the gospel, on His grace. Put aside the temporary things and remember that Jesus is Lord of this church, he says.
The word “agree” has to do with harmony. It is as if two pianists were playing at the same time but pounding out different songs. It’s just noise. Paul wants these ladies to play the same song, and that song is Jesus, the beautiful melody.
b) It’s everyone’s business – Often times when we witness the fallout of a fight like this, we become frozen bystanders. I remember back in high school when a fight between a Portuguese fellow and a Filipino guy developed into a violent and bloody altercation. There was quite a crowd that formed, but no one stepped in to stop the fight. We were probably afraid we would be next.
A church fight scares us too. The problem is, we may stand around, but we are involved. An argument between two of our people, whatever it may be about, is everyone’s business. Paul told his friend in Philippi to “…help these women who have contended by my side in the cause of the gospel…” (v. 3). Help these women; get involved in making peace. It is our business because the church is not an institution, or a club, or a loose gathering of interested people, it is the body of Christ. We are family; we have the same Father in heaven. And are we not working towards the same goal? Are we not trying to build the kingdom of God here? A fight between our brothers or sisters is our business.