Chapter 4:2-3

"Maintaining Unity is the Responsibility of the whole body"

J. Deering,


Chapter 4:2-3
Maintaining Unity is the Responsibility of the Whole Body
Sub Title: The Disharmony of 'fellowship and harmony' threatens the testimony of the Church.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

As Paul approaches the end of his formal letter to the Philippians he begins the process of centering in on personal problems that will, in fact, affect the whole body.

This verse repeats the verb "urge" as a way to place blame equally on each of the two women involved.

Ten years earlier Paul had wanted to take his travels north-east into Asia (Turkey) but the Holy Spirit prevented him and sent him north-west instead to Macedonia and Greece. While traveling through Macedonia he stopped at a river in the area of Philippi and found a group of women gathered in a place along the river that looked like a good place to pray. It was there that he and Silas spoke to the women and some came to know the lord. Out of these women came the church at Philippi (Acts Chapter 16:9-15). The church there began in the midst of the strong persecution toward Paul and Silas (because of the gospel of Jesus Christ) by the Greeks and the Jews.

Now ten years later we find the church there still under persecution - but now the church is mature and problems have come from the inside. First the "enemies," Judaizers, teaching the law to the church, and now trouble amongst themselves.

All of us have experienced church relationships that, because of some known or unknown reason, fall apart. Sometime, as is the case here, our disagreements become public knowledge and cause a disturbance within the body. Euodia (E-U-O-dia) and Syntyche (Sin-tih-key) were two women who were out of fellowship and fell into the human trap of being disharmonious. Their problem apparently spread to the congregation and caused difficulties among those who "worked" for the cause of the gospel in Philippi.

The problem, which they probably thought was a small one - that no one else noticed - was in fact large enough of a problem that it came to the attention of Paul - all the way over to Rome and into his prison cell.

Their personal problems were damaging the testimony of the local church at Philippi and the larger Church of Jesus Christ as well.

The division being made by the two women was notably outside the sphere of their being "in the Lord." They faced healing a two sided problem. First they needed to solve the problem of the lack of harmony and fellowship with each other. Second they needed to get their lives back into the sphere of being "in the Lord." Their negligence toward the Lord and their relationship with Him caused them to be callous toward each other. Both problems needed to be healed.

Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul is probably addressing his dear friend and messenger Epaphroditus, and by extension the whole body at Philippi. (It's also possible the word for companion here is instead a proper name - Suzurg - but unlikely). The message to him is that he should help these women to return to harmony. No word of reprimand, no word of forceful action requiring discipline, just the gentle hand of a pastor, "Epaphroditus, help them!"

The problem in this case comes not between two immature, recently saved, individuals. Paul refers to them as those who have "shared in my struggle." These women have played some part in the presentation of the gospel, perhaps even being imprisoned for it at some time. Paul mentions their struggle in the gospel to remind, or even shock, them into remembering who they are "in the Lord." They had placed themselves as the authority of their lives. They need to settle their differences and get back into fellowship placing Christ as "head" or authority over all things in their lives.

Paul is saying to us that those of us that are privy to the troubles and disagreements between the brothers and sisters of the faith are to reach out to them and "help" them, encourage them, and bless them in such a way that harmony between the estranged family members is the result.

Next, Paul seeks the help of "Clement," and his name is not mentioned anywhere else, and "the rest of my fellow workers." The point should be well taken that success in this adventure to bring these two feuding members of the body can only be had when the whole body understands its responsibilities to each other. Each member of the body is to work at having the proper relationships with everyone else. No man, or woman, is an island in the body of Christ. We all are to go and "help" those who are experiencing difficulties within the body - especially when those difficulties affect the whole body. Get involved - repair the Body of Christ. - It is worthy to note that Paul makes this request to a leader, and other mature "fellow workers," members of the body (believers making up the body - not card carrying voted members) for corrective action. No novices here.

Paul appeals to the authority of Christ and the book of life. Your names are written there - act like it! (cp., Philippians 2:2-4, Like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, being of one mind, nothing of strife or vanity, esteeming the other as better than yourself.)

Years ago I ran into a series of articles by John Sherwood and John Glidewell, dealing with the issues of relationship. A model for relationship that they developed has stayed with me ever since then.

(Sherwood, John J., and Glidewell, John C., “Planned Re-negotiation: A Communications Model for Organizations and People Relationships)

In this model, dealing with husbands and wives - but applicable to all relationships, they taught that if the husband and wife agreed to recognize when their individual expectations of each other were not being met, that they could negotiate with each other early enough that they would not have to endure the pain and suffering of the "disruption of shared expectations," such as uncertainty in the relationship, anxiety in the relationship, possible continuing of polarization, or even the termination of a once good relationship.

Husbands and wives were to make a pact with each other that they would look for, talk about, negotiate, and fix problems before they festered.

So it should be in the body of Christ. We should always be on the lookout for disruption in both our and another's expectations of what the body experience should be, and then have the openness to talk about those expectations and renegotiate with those who are in that relationship.

This psychological model says that we should:
1. Discuss Agree with one another concerning our expectations
2. Agree with one another that we should be on the lookout for times when our expectations are not met
3. Agree with one another that it is expected and good for us to talk and negotiate with each other so that we don't continue with unmet expectations but, instead, negotiate an agreement whereby our expectations can be met.

By negotiating and being willing to catch things early we then can spend our time concentrating on what we should be doing and not on what keeps us from doing it.

Negotiation and renegotiation require that we work with each other in such a way, as Paul said earlier, that we hold each other as more important than ourselves. There is a great personal risk that one of the parties will hold themselves more important than the other and take advantage. While that may be true, Jesus Christ surrendered all, suffered and died, in order to hold to the principle that He considered our salvation more important than His personal needs.


New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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