“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 4:3-4)
These verses are a reminder that churches of the New Testament were not problem-free paradises. Our church squabbles are not unique or unexpected. We don’t know what Euodia and Syntyche’s beef was, but Paul’s entreaty to both of them is instructive for all subsequent church squabbles.
First, Paul calls both women to account by name. Paul had already addressed their problem generally in the letter: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (2:2). But when that teaching is left in the realm of theory without specific application, often those who most need to apply the message can successfully slough it off. We can imagine both women hearing ch 2 read aloud, nodding in agreement, and thinking, “I sure hope she’s listening to this.” But Paul calls both of their names and stresses that they both have work to do.
Next, Paul reminds these ladies that since the squabble involved both of them, they both have a role in sorting it out. There is a back-story to this squabble that we don’t know. But whatever their disagreement was, we can be certain that someone started it, both had their list of grievances, and someone probably carried more blame. Yet Paul does not weigh each side’s baggage and declare a winner. He entreats both of them “to agree in the Lord,” no matter who started it or what the scorecard reads.
Finally, Paul tells them to remember the big picture. He calls on an unknown third party to serve as a mediator and remind both ladies that they have worked side by side for a common cause and both have their names are in the book of life. Instead of stomping their feet at all the wrongs done by the other, listing all the grievances, and childishly obsessing over “who started it,” they must see a cause that is bigger than them and a Lord who loves both of them.
Think of the absurdity of two people who both follow Christ, are both trying to walk the narrow way to life, and both with their names in the book of life, yet they fight like cats and dogs every step. Is something wrong with this picture? Paul thought so. We have a very real enemy, and it’s not that brother or sister that grates on your nerves.
From Expository Files 23.2; February 2016