11 - Work It Out And Get Along 2008
Phil. 4:1-3 “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
Steps to Getting Along:
“Now I appeal to Euodia (yoo-OH-dih-uh) and Syntyche (SIN-tih-kee). Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
We don’t know of all the circumstances, but trouble was afoot among some there in Philippi.
Two women were in conflict. They had worked side-by-side in the church, but something happened. They fell into a trap—a disagreement arose between them.
Perhaps it began as a small argument, but it mushroomed into a rift that not only affected them but began to hurt the entire congregation.
Paul doesn't provide much detail, but we get the picture if we read carefully.
"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other" (Philippians 4:2).
Here in the midst of his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul exhorts these two women to end their disagreement.
This short exhortation packs a powerful lesson for us today—a lesson about addressing division and producing unity in the church.
The contention between these two women had concerned Paul enough to address it in this public letter.
Every pastor knows why Paul’s concern was deep.
He knew that contention between members spreads. If unchecked, it leads to a lack of unity in the congregation.
He wrote the book of Philippians, in part, to address the subject of church unity.
Let’s look at these two women’s resume.
Paul describes Euodia and Syntyche as "women who contended at my side in the cause of the gospel" (4:3). From this we infer that they were leading members, perhaps deaconesses, making the contention between them all the more harmful.
Notice also that Paul addresses both women. This shows that both needed to change, as is the case in most disagreements. Paul tells them that the solution to the problem is to "agree with each other," but not just any kind of agreement, rather "in the Lord" (4:2).
They are to solve their disagreement, not their own way, but in and through Christ. Paul not only urges the women to seek reconciliation between themselves,
he also enlists the help of others: "I ask you, loyal partner, help these women" (4:3).
We don't know who the "loyal partner" was—it may have been Luke, or perhaps Epaphroditus.
In any case, Paul calls on others to reach out to Euodia and Syntyche and help them reconcile.
Now, if you had the opportunity to help two believers settle a dispute, how would you go about it? Paul gives us some valuable advice:
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Philippians 2:1-2).
In this passage, Paul shows the way to build unity in the body of Christ. He begins with a statement that is really a question:
"If you have any encouragement..." to which he answers that encouragement toward unity is available in four ways—four tools for building unity.
1. The encouragement of Jesus’ example.
Paul begins by pointing to the "encouragement in Christ". He is focusing on the example of Christ himself. Jesus models for us what produces reconciliation.
He taught us to practice industrial strength forgiveness—490 times in a day. He forgave His betrayer, Judas, on the spot. He prayed for those who crucified Him—from the cross.
2. The incentive of God's love.
Paul describes the second tool as "any comfort from his love."
"Comfort" can be translated "incentive" with the added element of tenderness. God tenderly gives us the incentive to display the love he showers on us. As believers love each other with the love of God, divisions begin to cease and unity unfolds.
Paul echoes the same thought in Colossians 3:14, "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony". Love is the glue that binds us together.
We clothe ourselves with love the same way we clothe ourselves each morning—it is a choice. You can put on a negative, harsh attitude and wear it all day, or you can “put on” love as the garment Christ gives His children.
3. The unifying indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Next Paul mentions "fellowship with the Spirit." This refers to the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in us. God dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit enables us to live in unity with each other. Paul exhorted the Ephesians "to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
God's people are a diverse group. We come from varied backgrounds, races and economic and educational levels. We have different tastes, preferences and needs.
I read recently that David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church in New York City enjoys a membership of over 100 nationalities of nearly every race, culture, age group,
and socioeconomic background gathering to worship every week.
Visitors are often led to exclaim, “This is what heaven will be like!” when they see this great multitude of people worshiping together under one roof.
How can such a diverse group have unity? By God's Spirit that binds us together.
We may have diametrically opposed backgrounds, skin colors, educations, likes and dislikes, but we have ONE GREAT THING IN COMMON—
OUR LOVE FOR JESUS AND OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH THE SAME INDWELLING SPIRIT.
And the fourth tool for building unity is:
4. The unifying qualities of tenderness and compassion.
"If you have any…tenderness and compassion…”
Tenderness and compassion involve the way we treat one another.
We have received tenderness and compassion from God—and that should inspire us to treat others the same way.
Tenderness and compassion are the opposite of harshness and hard-heartedness.
They are fruits of the Spirit. They are reflections of the Christ we worship.
When brethren are tenderhearted with each other, progress can often be made toward unity.
Paul says earlier in Philippians: "Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:2-4).
Paul advised the church to get rid of the rivalries and the selfishness that separate us and destroy our unity.
Satan’s MO is conquer and divide. A church divided has become paralyzed.
Rather than looking outward to the harvest, a church divided becomes obsessed with inward conflicts.
Chuck Swindoll in speaking of division and its cause, commented on Philippians 2:3-4. Let’s read it again out of the Message Bible:
"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Chuck says: “Selfishness and conceit and pride are the things that break down our fellowship and erode our unity. Everything you need to know about getting along well in a family, to say nothing of getting along well in a church, is right here in these verses.
If you're in a church as a member or a leader and you're wondering what's going wrong, what's missing, what's happened to the unity you once had, I'll guarantee somebody isn't abiding by these verses."
The Bible gives each Christian the command to:
“…pour yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Eph. 4:3
In summary: Unity is obtained by:
Following Jesus’ example
The incentive of God’s love
The unifying indwelling of God’s Spirit
The unifying qualities of tenderness and compassion.
Next Time: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”