“Anyone You Know?”
Mrs. Louise B. Wyly of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has spent 30 years teaching children, teens, and ladies’ Bible studies. Over the past two years she has been busy writing children’s books, articles, and curriculum. We both welcome and sincerely appreciate her first article to appear in “Food for the Flock” and look forward to future articles from her pen.
Can you imagine going to church on Sunday morning and seeing everyone there dressed alike? Then imagine finding out that everyone there thought alike? Even more shocking, imagine finding out that everyone agreed perfectly with everyone about everything?
You’d probably wonder if you’d died and gone to heaven! But unity within the church will never eliminate diversity. If we were to remove diversity from our lives, the result would be uniformity.
At first mention, this may sound refreshing, but after a while, it would become very boring and uncreative. It would also quench the use of various gifts God has given to His people.
St. Augustine explained it thus: “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
In his letter to Philippi, Paul exhorts Christians to unity, but not to uniformity. In Philippians 4:2, he names two women in the assembly at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche, who were having a problem agreeing with each other.
Paul doesn’t tell us what caused their disagreement, but he lets us know that such problems must be dealt with and solved, in order to maintain unity within the body of Christ. Paul knew the truth that when one member suffers, the whole body suffers.
Many preachers have renamed these two women “Odious” and “Soon Touchy.” This is a catchy way to help us understand their problem. Perhaps Odious had a hateful, offensive personality that caused others to abhor her presence.
On the other hand, Soon Touchy became easily offended and this caused her to become irritable and annoyed with Odious. The result caused friction between these two sisters in the church at Philippi.
Does this sound like anyone you know in your assembly? It could easily happen anywhere. That may be why Paul doesn’t tell us the specific problem — that way, his advice can relate to any problem within our local churches.
Yet Paul beseeches these women to be of the same mind IN THE LORD. Here we see that the power and possibility of unity can only be resolved IN THE LORD.
According to human reasoning, having two women become of the same mind would be like trying to mix oil and water. But IN THE LORD, it is a different matter. Paul exhorts them to rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their strength. He pleads with Euodia and Syntyche that they agree IN THE LORD, in order to maintain unity within the body of Christ.
Looking back to Philippians chapter three, we see Paul learned to trust Christ for all things. In verse ten, Paul tells us: “That I may know HIM, and the power of HIS resurrection, and the fellowship of HIS sufferings, being made conformable unto HIS death.”
Earlier in chapter 2:5-8, Paul exhorted the Philippians to let this mind be in them which was also in Christ. What mind was that? That of a lowly servant, subject to His master. Christ gives us this example — He made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself, being obedient to His Father in death on the cross. Now Paul gives us three admonitions:
1. Stand fast IN THE LORD (4:1)
2. Be of the same mind IN THE LORD (4:2)
3. Rejoice IN THE LORD (4:4)
Paul exhorts his fellow-workers to help these women solve this division. Paul doesn’t lash out at them. Rather, he encourages them to help one another in love.
Previously, he had written to the Ephesian assembly to make every effort to keep unity in the body (Ephesians 4:3).
He also wrote to the Colossian assembly to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12) .
Christ has forgiven us, and we ought also to forgive one another and thus settle any grievances among us.
The following are some suggestions for settling such disagreements, whether or not you are the guilty party.
1. Pray — ask God to help you and make you gentle as you deal with the other person (see 2 Timothy 2:15) .
2. Go to the other party in love. Discuss your differences (see 2 Timothy 2:15).
3. Confess your part in the disagreement to the other person. Ask if you can pray together for healing (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 6:14).
4. Confess it together to the Lord in prayer (see 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 and Colossians 3:13).
5. If the other person agrees, the result will be healing. If not, then bring a third person as a mediator.
6. Take the problem before the elders for help.
7. If the other party still disagrees, then you humbly remove the disagreement and pray that both of you will be healed, to the glory of the Lord.