TeeKay from A Thimbleful of Wisdom, Juliana from simplyjuliana, and I are teaming up to do a series on Philippians every Wednesday in September. Look for us next Wednesday when we write about Phil. 4:4-7, Be Anxious for Nothing!
Apparently, there was trouble, not in River City, but in Philippi. Two women well known for their work on behalf of the Lord had fallen into a serious disagreement, one so serious that news of it had reached Paul in his (traditionally believed to be) Roman prison, over 600 miles away! Here’s what Paul says to the people of the Philippian church, and particularly to a loyal “ yoke-fellow” about the troublesome dispute (“Syzygus” could be a proper name, or a generic one.):
(The Message) I urge Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up. God doesn’t want his children holding grudges. (3) And, oh, yes, Syzygus, since you’re right there to help them work things out, do your best with them. These women worked for the Message hand in hand with Clement and me, and with the other veterans- worked as hard as any of us. Remember, their names are also in the Book of Life.
The Holman Christian Standard translates it like this: … to agree in the Lord.
The Good News Translation says … I beg you, try to agree as sisters in the Lord.
The King James Version says … be of the same mind in the Lord.
And the Amplified words it this way: … I entreat and advise [the women] to agree and to work in harmony in the Lord.
In a world that seems to be more and more polarized over every possible disagreement, from opinions on gay marriage to who should be the next American Idol, Christians simply cannot afford to let disagreements separate them. Jesus said the rock of declaring him the Christ, the Son of the living God would be the foundation of His church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. The thief on the cross asked Jesus to save him, and the Lord told him that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day. Nowhere did Christ address types of music, what to eat or drink, or how often to take the Lord’s supper.
Different denominations sprang up because of different interpretations of the Bible, and I believe, different ways people like to worship. Guess what? Jesus is there, whether you sing “high church” hymns with a pipe organ and a choir in robes; praise choruses with electric instruments, lights, and video screens; Southern gospel acappella; or anything else.
I personally believe that the Bible is God’s word and inerrant. Christ’s Virgin birth, His death on a Roman cross and Resurrection are plain, obvious, and unarguable. But I also believe that Jesus spoke figuratively sometimes, like when He said He was the Vine (John 15:5) and the door (John 10:9). Likewise, I believe that some of Scripture addresses PRINCIPLES of living (like women dressing modestly) through instructions specific to the culture in which it was written. However, I would never argue that my understanding of or personal conviction about these type passages are the ONLY way to interpret them.
We don’t know what kind of disagreement the two ladies were having. It could have been the 1st Century equivalent of who played the piano or the color of the carpet. It could have been that one was getting more recognition and the other’s feelings were hurt. Perhaps they disagreed over how to handle an issue in their church, or how to spend their mission money. But it doesn’t matter. Our enemy loves it when we get our eyes off God and His purposes. (And look how many eyes were on these two.) Satan will use anything he can to get our focus off where it needs to be. And you know that unbelievers know exactly how we are supposed to act, and can spot our failings a mile away. It just gives them another excuse why they don’t want any part of our Christianity.
I believe the secret to keeping harmony among Christians lies in the KJV verse 3—Be of the same mind in Christ. I Corintians 2:16 says “… we have the mind of Christ.” What does that look like?
Love (Ephesians 5:2 … as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…”) Jesus showed love to everyone, from the most socially acceptable to the lowliest leper and Samaritan woman.
Humility (Philippians 2:8 “… He humbled Himself… unto death…”) Christ, Who had every reason to be raised above all things, became servant to humanity, even to His betrayer Judas; foreshadowing His ultimate humility demonstrated by His sacrificial death on our behalf.
Compassion –He wept.
He brought dead children back to life.
Prayer– Even though He WAS God, Jesus spoke to God, both privately and publicly.
Good works ( Acts 10:38) He went about doing good. If the qualities of love, humility, and compassion had stopped in His mind, they wouldn’t have done any good. He kept Himself in tune with God through prayer, and then was a conduit for God’s grace and love to others through His good works.
So, my Christian brothers and sisters, I urge you to focus on the big things: the Good News of Christ, and sharing His love with our world. Don’t let our details separate us. Let’s show the world that we have something wonderful, better than all the squabbling and fighting that they see every day on highways and on TV. Let’s show them Christ.