The Gospel for People in Stress
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true, yokefellow, help these women, for they 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.Phil. 4:2-3
Notice the wise mix of pastoral insights in these few lines from Paul—helpful for those of us who face similar conflict situations. Notice what Paul says and what he does not say. He does not take sides. He does not rework the causes of the crisis. He does not detail church disciplinary actions. He neither blames nor scolds either the persons involved or the church. But neither does he gloss over the problem.
What does Paul say? He forthrightly names the persons in the dispute. He admits to a crisis of disagreement. He calls on everyone involved to agree in the Lord. Acknowledging their different points of view, or convictions, or behavior patterns, he encourages them to meet where they stand together—in the lordship of Christ. In Jesus Christ, Christians are not left to resolve interpersonal conflicts with only imperfect human beings to rely on.
Paul has impressive confidence that amateurs can offer real help. We, the church members who are to help one another in times of stress, are amateurs. Yet when our motives are clearly set to encourage and bring wholeness, the results can encourage and unite. From personal experience, I know it works. In this age of experts, we must all remember and be reminded that people are helped by people. Paul the expert does not prescribe a panacea for the Philippi argument; he turns over the problem to the family at Philippi. The message is crystal clear: They must do the helping, and they must find what help best fits that situation.
Finally, the Apostle reminds the Philippian helpers not to forget that Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement worked alongside Paul in the service of the gospel. Disagreement or no, they are Paul’s colleagues; the church must remember that and respect them even as they offer help. This is better than credit and resolves blame. Their names are in the Book of Life. Sheer grace makes the difference.