2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion,[b] help these women, who have laboured 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.
Men argue, and so do women. Both genders can hold grudges. Both genders can feel wronged. Both genders can fight for justice. In the case of the Philippian church, two women, Euodia and Syntyche were in conflict. They had such a high position in the church that many have ignored the fact that they have women’s names and are referred to using female pronouns in the Greek. Some argue that women could not have ministered with Paul at such a prominent level. He says he has laboured side-by-side with them, which causes some to think of them as elders or deacons. However, although they have an important position we can not say what that position was. Attempts to make Euodia into Euodias (a man) are rooted in chauvinism. Two important women are at odds in Philippi and it is tearing the church apart.
The issue is so important that the whole letter is probably formed around this issue. In chapter 2:2 the Philippians were asked to agree with each other and now the same language is used here. This was not a private letter, but would have been read to the whole congregation. People like us in the 21st century west would possibly think of this as a violation of personal privacy. However, when an issue divides a large body, the whole body needs to be addressed.
To resolve this difficult rift Paul appeals to a mystery recipient. Although the letter is for the whole church, it would seem that one person in particular would have received the letter on behalf of the rest. This person was a mediator and could sit Euodia and Syntyche down so they had to talk with each other.
Today we are cowards in the church when we know there is conflict and it is not addressed. We need people to sit down those who are in disagreement and help them work through their difficulties. I do not agree with top-heavy leadership that insists upon its own way by way of agreement and then throws out any detractors. I have met too many wounded recipients of church discipline. However, those who hide in a hole without sitting gossips and slanderers down, should not be surprised if their church is factious and unhealthy.
Do you have a disagreement with someone? Have you forgiven them? What is the motivation for continuing the conflict? Is it right ‘in the Lord’? These are questions each of us must answer. Secondly, do you see disagreement that is tearing apart a home or a family? Is it right for you to stand by and do nothing? How can you have believers agree in the Lord?
Search my heart, God and let me know if there is some conflict that needs to be resolved … Hmmm. That was quick. I’d better write an e-mail.
- What does Paul think must happen at Philippi?
- How does he think it should come about?
- What do you think happened as a result of this letter?
- Is there a way this admonition could be addressed to you?
- Who might you help resolve a conflict?