“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. 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.” (Phil 4:1-3)
Paul is bringing his thoughts to a conclusion at last as we near the end of his letter — “that is how you should stand firm in the Lord…dear friends” (v. 1). His words are saturated with emotion and heartfelt good will — “you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown.” We’re reminded again that this is a personal letter of pastoral nature and real, actual human lives are the focus. How often do we read the Bible as stale depositories of truth and Christian principles? I love the raw humanity that ooze through Paul’s writings.
Paul takes an opportunity to make it very personal as he mentions two individuals who are not seeing eye to eye. As one commentary says,
“In a media-saturated culture like ours, where naming the guilty or the grand is a way of life, it is hard for us to sense how extraordinary this moment is. Apart from greetings and the occasional mention of his coworkers or envoys, Paul rarely ever mentions anyone by name. But here he does, and not because Euodia and Syntyche are the “bad ones” who need to be singled out–precisely the opposite. That he names them at all is evidence of friendship, since one of the marks of enmity in polemical letters is that enemies are left unnamed, thus denigrated by anonymity. These longtime friends and coworkers, who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, are no longer seeing eye to eye with each other” (IVP New Testament Commentaries).
This is the grace-filled Body of Christ doing what it’s called to do: help broken, sinful human beings work through relational differences by the aid of the Spirit in ways that restore unity and bring reconciliation. But such restoration and reconciliation demand the first bold step of confrontation. Paul does not shy away from this difficult first step but breaks the silence and names the elephant in the room: “I plead with [them]…and I ask you…Help these two women” (v. 2).
How often do division and personal quarrels invade our churches? How often do well-meaning but cowardly Christians avoid naming and facing the conflict head-on with grace and truth? How often do pastors fall short of imitating Paul’s boldness in addressing individuals who are stirring up dissension within the church?
May we all recommit ourselves to following Paul’s example in letting the reconciling power of Christ have its way in our own fractured, divided churches. Reconciliation is not just something we do in the church; it is at the core of who we are as Christians — the fellowship of reconciled ones:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).
Read other posts from Jeremy’s verse-by-verse study of Philippians here.