Paul loved unity so much that he confronted disunity when he saw it. Euodia and Syntyche were two strong women who had worked with Paul. He had learned to walk toward tension, not away from it, which people typically do. He confronted it rather than avoiding it.
We don’t know if the sisters were reconciled, but if they were not, don’t blame Paul. He gave it his best shot, exposing the problem for the whole church to know–as well as the church down through the centuries. Paul’s two-verse admonition (Philippians 4:2,3) says much about restoring damaged relationships and making unity a standard:
- Confront conflict. Don’t let it grow by choosing not to address it.
- Treat broken relationships as serious. If unity convinces the world of the message of the gospel, disunity shows them we can’t get along. The world scoffs because the church is in constant skirmishes with itself. If we say, “Not that big a deal” and let disunity simmer below the surface, the dis-ease of disunity grows. Others will take their cue from a silent leadership and not take it seriously. Pardon me, but you’re singing off key!
- Treat the group as more important than the individual, a highly important and oft- neglected truth. If someone on a music team can’t sing but has been on the team for five years and parents are generous supporters, you may think to ignore the issue. Wrong! The well-being of the group overrides the feelings of an individual. Confronting the issue helps honest people work toward harmony. This is needed in the family–and in the church family! Everyone has a part to play. Leaders help people find it.
Wow! How embarrassing! Didn’t Paul care at all for the feelings of Euodia and Syntyche? Looks like he shamed them by going public. These two gals didn’t know their feud would be famous–for two millennia! Had they known, they might have taken their disagreement more seriously. Was Paul right in doing what he did?
Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother…” (Matthew 5:23,24). Right relationships lay a proper foundation for right worship and for strategic evangelism. Disunity taints corporate life. If you want to improve the quality of your worship, strengthen the quality of your relationships (Thank you, Graham Cooke).
Paul was right. The division was serious. These were not new Christians, and they had locked horns. Others were needed to bring them into agreement: “Yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel.” This was not a personal passing issue to overlook. They needed encouragement from the outside to see the seriousness of division and the high priority of unity. The church desperately needs what Paul saw. Make unity a higher priority than personal feelings–and you’ll enjoy the harmony that is created. Guaranteed.