By Brooke Holt
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:1-3
As a mother, I always found it difficult when my children quarreled amongst themselves. Whether we were driving to the grocery store, school, or on a road trip, car rides seemed to invite disputes. Because I had limited eye contact and could not fully observe what was happening in the back seat and could not become fully involved, the car made it the most difficult place to deal with these disputes. As the driver, my priority was keeping everyone safe - us and all sharing the roads with us.
Paul wrote to the Philippian church while imprisoned for sharing the Gospel. He wrote with the purpose of encouraging the church members to cling to the Gospel truths he had taught them and to continually allow their faith in Jesus Christ to transform their lives. Paul longed for these Christians to shine Christ’s love and glory throughout Philippi, a region controlled by pagan religions. How radical it would be for that pagan world to see something awesome and unique amongst these Christian people – their church and their community.
Sadly, Paul learned about issues coming against this young church. They faced opposition from outside the church, but the issues within the church concerned him more. He does not call out the exact issue, but he does call out two women – Euodia and Syntyche. Though members of the same church and devout followers of Jesus Christ, these women had fallen into some kind of conflict. Sadly, the conflict between these women did not just impact them but the entire church.
From prison, Paul learned of this conflict and decided to deal with it at the end of his letter. Throughout the letter, Paul has written about all Jesus has done for his people, the joy found in following him, the humility Jesus modeled, and the unity his people manifest as they faithfully follow the teachings of Jesus and Paul.
These women were not standing in unity, and the split compromised their Christian witness. Paul admonishes these women to stand firm in their faith. He told them to remember how great the salvation Jesus provided for them, his forgiveness of their sins, and his willingness to embrace them as his beloved daughters. As the beloved daughters of God and the beloved friends of Paul, Paul called them to lay aside their conflict of interests and to embrace the unity found in Jesus Christ. What united them - Jesus Christ - far surpassed anything that would divide them.
Instead of quarreling, Paul reminded these women (and all his readers) of the importance of laboring side by side for the Gospel. The Holy Spirit indwelling them made this unity possible. The Spirit will lead the way to understanding, confession, forgiveness, and the faithful way forward together.
What would Paul say about our churches today? It seems what separates us is much larger than what unites us? How might the Lord be calling you to forgive and be reconciled so that you can work side by side with your Christian brothers and sisters? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. Locals do not understand the fuss. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
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