I once went on a trip with some good friends whom I consider like-minded. But to my surprise, we quickly began having disagreements over small matters—from our preferences and habits, to the best choices for our group.
This was especially true for me and one of my friends in the group. We had no major quarrels, but a series of small disagreements grew into a lump of ill-feeling and unhappiness on both sides. Perhaps spending time together 24/7 makes it impossible to ignore each other’s idiosyncrasies and little quirks.
Finally, my friend bravely decided to confront me over the issue and laid out his grievances. It took a while and involved some hurt on both sides, but after the initial indignation subsided, I began to see how foolish I had been in the way I dealt with our disagreements, and we reconciled. Looking back, I can truthfully say that the experience turned out for our good, because we learned more about each other and became even better friends through that experience.
In this last chapter of Philippians, Paul draws our attention to a similar situation where he entreats two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to resolve their differences.
Not much is known of these two women. But in Philippians 4:3, Paul says that these women “have contended at [his] side in the cause of the gospel,” and that their names “are in the book of life” along with the rest of Paul’s coworkers. Paul’s description indicates that these women were on the same side, working for the same cause, and also headed for the same final destination—heaven.
Often, when we’re in the midst of conflicts, it becomes easier to magnify our differences. But when we remember that we are children of the same God, colaborers of the same cause, and future citizens of heaven, it helps us look past our relatively minor differences and focus on what’s truly important—what binds us together in Christ.
In verse 3, Paul asks his “true companion”—or as some translations put it, “true yokefellow”—to help the women reconcile. It’s unclear who Paul is addressing here, but it highlights the important role we can play in maintaining unity in the body of Christ. Even if we ourselves are not directly involved in a conflict or disagreement, if we care for our Christian brothers and sisters, we should seek to encourage them and do what we can to help them reconcile.
Paul seeks true reconciliation for these two women. He does not simply hope for them to go through the motions of a superficial reconciliation, but wants them to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (v. 2). The Greek word used here is “phroneo,” which means “to exercise the mind,” or “to interest oneself in.” This means we are not called to simply shrug “I’m sorry.” Instead, we are to invest time and energy into working out our differences by communicating with each other, being willing to listen to each other, and to exercise forgiveness and love.
Conflicts are inevitable. It is also often uncomfortable, hurtful, and time-consuming to resolve them. But though it may be painful, it is necessary and can help us grow in deeper love for each other. Whenever conflicts come our way, may we remember Paul’s words to the Philippians and see that because of who we are and what we share together in Christ, we can work through these conflicts and achieve true unity in Christ.
—By Chong Shou En, Singapore
Questions for reflection
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