“I urge Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up. God doesn’t want his children holding grudges. 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.” Philippians 4:2-3 (MSG)
Growing up I had some rebellious moments. My parents were very strict. External things mattered in my home. As a child, I only wore dresses. I had long hair. I didn’t wear jewelry or make-up. That is until I became a teenager. I got my hair cut off, started wearing jewelry and LOTS of makeup. I can remember coming home with a hairdo that almost ended my mom’s life. She took one look at me, gasped and said, “This not how a Christian is supposed to look.” The argument ensued. We went back and forth finally agreeing to disagree about how a Christian was “supposed” to look. Actually, we continued to disagree, we just never talked about it and life continued.
Paul is trying to referee 2 important women in this church who were bent out of shape with each other.
The details of the “differences” aren’t explained, so we don’t know exactly what they were at odds about. By reading between the lines in Philippians 4:2-9 you can figure out some things.
First, this was a public disagreement. That is why Paul didn’t need to bring up the details. Everyone at this church knew Euodia and Syntyche and knew the details of the disagreement. Apparently, this hot feud had been going on long enough for a grudge to develop between the two.
Secondly, Euodia and Syntyche were not new believers. Paul considered them “veterans” that worked with him and others. These 2 women were Christians; their names are in the Book of Life. As far as Paul was concerned, these 2 should know better.
Thirdly, although we don’t know exactly what the tiff was about, it’s safe to say it was not about doctrine. Paul never shied away from rebuking false doctrine. You can check out; 1 Timothy 1, Romans 1 or my personal favorite, Galatians 3:1 (MSG):
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
When it came to false doctrine, Paul was not above name-calling. No, Paul was pleading with these women to come to terms with something non-essential. Maybe it was make-up, dress, where they sat in church, the music, what one brought for the potluck, it doesn’t really matter. If you’ve spent enough time in church, I’m sad to say, you know a modern day Euodia and Syntyche.
Lastly, Paul wanted them to knock it off since they were setting a bad example. Those who claim to follow Christ must live up to a higher standard. We are Christ’s ambassadors. Snarky feuds over matters of taste and opinion don’t draw anyone to the cross, believer or non-believer.
Paul doesn’t tell them simply to stop the feud. Look where Paul leads these women and this church. He reminds them to rejoice and celebrate God, to graciously point others to the Master, to pray about everything and not worry but be thankful. Finally, he gives them the list of things to fill their minds with; things that are true, noble, reputable, worthy of praise, beautiful and respectable. He reminds them of the things he taught them when he was there in person. All of that leads to a promise of God’s presence and peace.
Fight for sound doctrine with the last gasp of air in your lungs.
On every other topic, if you can’t agree with another believer, don’t pick a fight, hold a grudge or force others to take a side. Let your focus be rejoicing in God’s grace, thankfulness for everything, and good things worthy of honor, glory and praise and those non-essential things will take care of themselves.
Father, help me keep my focus on You when I’m tempted to be upset with another believer’s freedom. Help me to show the grace to others that You’ve shown to me. Help me recognize the truth. Help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ.