A New Way of Thinking

As Paul begins to conclude his letter to the Philippian believers, he turns his attention to a conflict that had arisen in the church at Philippi.

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored 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” (Philippians 4:2-3).

What is perhaps most interesting about this text is the lack of detail that Paul provides about the actual conflict or how it should be resolved. Aside from identifying the two women as believers who had been his co-laborers in the work of the Gospel at Philippi and exhorting them to agree in the Lord, Paul provides no other details. 

It seems likely that Paul would have addressed the situation earlier in this letter and been more direct as to the details and the resolution, if this conflict had arisen over a doctrinal issue or an issue that had eternal, kingdom significance. It seems quite possible that this conflict had arisen over some disputable matter (Romans 14) -- a matter on which there is room for disagreement amongst believers. While it is okay to disagree about some things, it is not okay to allow those differences to rise to a level where they damage our witness and distract from the work of the Gospel. 

Paul’s plea with these women to agree in the Lord is a plea to think differently. In Philippians 2, Paul speaks of having what has been called the Mind of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

In these days of Covid-19, quarantine, social distancing, and face masks, Paul’s exhortation to agree in the Lord is such a timely reminder for us. It is so easy to get caught up in the debates about the government’s response, face masks, when things will return to normal, what “normal” will look like in the days ahead, etc. The fact is believers will disagree on some of these things, and that’s okay. Our calling is not to determine who is right or wrong on these non-essential issues; it is to prevent the conflict of the world from entering the church and distracting us from the mission.

The challenge for us is not to simply respond based on what is best or most comfortable for us, nor to respond solely based on our opinions or viewpoints; but above all, to ask this question:  How should I respond as a follower of Jesus?

By Jesse Smith

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