Philippians 4 – what we can learn from Euodia and Syntyche

  • This is based on a Sunday talk given at Glenwood Church in Cardiff in June 2015. (Listen to it here.)

    Chapter 4 of the Letter to the Philippians opens with the Apostle Paul addressing a situation in the church in Philippi.

     “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

    I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

    Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned once in the New Testament. This is it.

    Now it’s something to be mentioned at all in the New Testament. There are loads of people who are only mentioned once. But imagine if your mention in the Bible was something like this. The only reason we know that Euodia and Syntyche existed is because the Apostle Paul told them off for arguing.

    That’s a bit embarrassing.

    Let’s look at the context. Paul is on death row in Rome. He is writing to one of the churches that has supported him through thick and thin and he is telling them the important things – the things that really matter in the faith, the reasons he is on death row and why he is glad to be there because he knows he is doing the work of Christ.

    And then he breaks off to tell off two of the leaders in the church for not getting along. He rebukes them and pleads with them to stop fighting and to start working together.

    We don’t know what the disagreement was about. It’s probably irrelevant that we know. There are lots of reasons Christians disagree, ranging from the trivial through to the quite important. But whatever the reason, Paul tells Euodia and Syntyche that it’s not so important that they forsake unity and carry on arguing.

    This has got me thinking. What will our legacy be? What will people remember us for?

    Every church is a transient community. People move in and later they move on. We are together for a time, for here and now, but this is not our permanent residence. God either calls us on or calls us home.

    So what will people say when you go? Whether you leave to go to another earthly church, or leave for the Heavenly assembly of the saints – what will people say about you?

    What will the people who never met you hear about you? Will you be like Euodia and Syntyche? People will say ‘Ah, yes, I remember them. All they did was argue…’

    How we live with each other in a community of faith is actually very important. You can be the most super-spiritual, Bible-literate person in the world, but if all you do is argue, that’s what people will remember.

    It’s OK for us, as Christians, to disagree. It’s not OK for us to be disagreeable.

    Jesus’ instructions to his disciples – to us – is that we love one another, not hold fast to our principles. “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John chapter 13, verses 34-35) Our relationships with each other are very important. They are the evidence to the world that we truly follow Jesus.

    In conclusion, here is a question to ask yourself: What is my legacy going to be? What am I going to be known for when I’m no longer around?

    Euodia and Syntyche are only known for one thing. Arguing.

    What’s your one thing?

    Listen to the full talk here.

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