Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 12 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

Mark Goode. My wife and I had just moved into out first house and were sitting on the front steps when a couple walked by. We felt an immediate and natural affinity in the Spirit with them, and soon learned they were Christians. They were Mark and Gayle Goode and we became very good friends. But Mark was a political person who debated with little regard for consistency from one statement to the next. He sought and often achieved the upper hand in any conversation. It drove me crazy. One thing led to the next until we had a falling out after years of being friends. The last and most unkind words between us came from me. 

Some 15 years later, it finally occurred to me (doh) that putting up with Mark's foibles would have been better than the collapse of a good relationship. Why had I come to take it so personally? Certainly nothing good came from the bad attitude that I developed. Geography and time have separated us, but one of my projects is to track him down and make unilateral amends.

Over the past days, I have looked at the high bar of discipleship that Paul raises in his Philippian letter. With seemingly no time for breath, Paul suddenly takes up a falling out that has occurred between two women in the Philippian fellowship.

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:1-3)

Paul appeals to the two women and asks a "true companion" to arbitrate. I would hope that they fared better than Mark and I. They are to live in harmony in the Lord. The Lord Jesus loves and cherishes both of them and they each need to see the other through His eyes. They should dwell on actions that drive Him crazy and what He was willing to do to maintain relationship. The "true companion" needs to help them resolve their differences.

You can get a feel for the sensitivity of the situation by Paul's meticulously writing "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche..." It would seem that he dare not write "I urge Euodia and Syntyche," but rather he carefully balances and directs his comments to both. 

Who is this "true companion?" Paul has addressed this letter to all the saints at Philippi including the elders and deacons. This sudden reference to a single true companion is a bit mysterious. There are two possibilities. The first, if most translations are to be followed, is that this is a term of affection between Paul and someone in Philippi. Everyone would know who this person was, but it is lost to us. The second, which is usually found in marginal notes is that what is translated as "true companion" is actually a proper name, Syzygus. To me the proper name makes more sense, but most translations disagree. To be sure, Syzygus is a strange name, but Euodia and Syntyche are not?

Is there a Christian brother or sister that drives you crazy not with a sin issue, but more of a personality that rubs you sore? For the sake of unity is it possible to be more accommodating of the person? There is much in Philippians 2 and 3 to direct heart along those paths.

  • Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 
  • do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 
  • Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:3-5)
  • Do all things without grumbling or disputing; (Philippians 2:14)

Indeed, it may be that much of what Paul has been writing was setting the stage to call Euodia and Syntyche, and us to a greater commitment to unity and peace.

Thursday: The Foundation of Joy

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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