I urge Euodia and I urge Synchte to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:2-7).
It is the vogue in management circles these days to analyze leaders and employers according to personality traits. These traits are elicited by various tests prepared by organizational psychologists based on many years of data collection and analysis. The idea is to build work teams of employees of complementary strengths.
Non-profit organizations and large churches have been utilizing such tests for some time in an effort to build effective teams for service and ministry.
Regardless of sophisticated tests and carefully selected teams, people working together on difficult tasks will experience frictions. That is true even when those tasks are for the kingdom of God. The disciples argued amongst themselves over rank. Paul and Barnabas famously had their differences. Paul and Peter exchanged words at times.
In our text today, Paul implies that Euodia and Synchte were at odds with each other. Such a conflict within the little band of believers struggling to build the church in Philippi would distract and cripple from that effort.
How many churches, congregations, workplaces, relationships, even marriages have split-up when someone has insisted on being right at the expense of relationship? We are always supposed to do the right thing as we know it, but to love is first and foremost the right thing to do. (John 15:12). “Love,” Paul says, “does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor 13:5).
Paul’s instructions about Euodia and Synchte are most often read as a commentary about finding peace from worry through grateful prayer. That reading is a beautiful comfort. In reality, however, Paul was delivering a Holy Spirit-inspired lesson on dispute resolution.
Paul shows his mature leadership by reminding the Philippians of when they were all working together for the cause of the gospel. He called for help for the two women to regain their focus and work it out, rather than taking sides on who was right and who was wrong.
I have watched the energy and spirit of men and women ‘bleed out’ in conflicts because no one would step up and gently lead them back to what was really important. Restoring such combatants to peaceful, loving fellowship within the body of Christ may be hard work, but it is the work Christ himself gave us to do (Matt 18).
Several years ago, I came to the aid of a colleague in a meeting one day, when someone was dismissive of her concerns. I knew she had valid questions and had suffered much from such treatment in the past. I spoke up and sharply rebuked the person who had been dismissive of her. He defended his position and I escalated my remarks to match his defense.
Two days later, a friend told me, “I was very uncomfortable when Josh (not his real name) was talking, but I was cringing by the time you were through with him”
“Why?” I asked her.
“I agreed with your point, but you seized Josh by the neck with your words picked him up and shoved him against the wall, and you didn’t put him back down.”
There are two worthy points about my friend’s comments. She pointed out the potential collateral damage that one can do in pursuit of making a point, and she demonstrated what it means to help someone in conflict come back into focus and relationship. Her words, spoken in love, inspired me to reach out to Josh for reconciliation and the greater good in which we were both engaged.
But Paul goes further. A reset of the mind and heart is necessary to lift one out of the quagmire of conflict. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
Rejoice means “to feel or show great joy or delight”(Oxford English Dictionary). Paul is literally saying “delight yourself in the Lord, rather than finding satisfaction in scoring points against someone else.” Rejoicing like that when someone is attacking you and trying to steal your joy is the best act of defiance.
Paul says, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” Our soft touch in resolving people problems needs to be our calling card.
Paul says, “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” In other words, “Relax. The Lord is right here. You don’t have to fight for what you need or want and don’t have. Prayer is all you really need. Be thankful you have a kind and generous God and ask leave your wants and needs with him.”
Paul concludes, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is always tempting to fight when we feel like we are misunderstood, and many times we react before we understand. We tend to seek peace through winning points in conflict before someone can win points against us. Such peace is both forced and impermanent. It lasts only until someone else stronger and more determined comes along.
God’s peace doesn’t depend on what we understand or can make someone else understand. It will surround and fill us and guard our hearts against the kind of envy and threats that lead us into defensive or retaliatory conflict regardless of our understanding. (See, James 4:1-3).
Receiving God’s peace requires surrender on our part of our points, our weapon-words, our defenses, what we think we understand and what we want to understand. Holding back on what we surrender to God is asking for trouble. It means we still prefer our own vigilante justice to his peace and we cannot expect such thinking will end well. Either we trust him with everything, or we really trust him with nothing.
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.