“Oh, how they need God’s peace!”
How often have you come away from an argument muttering those words under your breath? Admittedly, I have, and more than once. No sooner do those words enter my brain or leave my lips, than the wheels start turning and my own gut starts wrenching.
The conversation in question (or, more often than not, what the other person did or said) replays over and over in my head. I toss and turn in my bed, sighing and committing to not fixate on the conflict. But, yet again, the dispute worms its way back into my consciousness.
Unfortunately, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean we are always going to get along with everyone, even if they, too, belong to Christ. This is the type of situation Paul is referring to in Philippians 4:2-9, with the women Euodia and Syntyche. We know nothing else of these women or the source of their conflict other than that it was a distraction from the advancement of the church and, undoubtedly, was robbing them each of God’s peace.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Can you imagine that being your way of getting your name in God’s Word for all eternity— because you were having an epic catfight with another sister? But Paul’s purpose isn’t to shame Euodia and Syntyche. Thankfully, Paul aims to diffuse their dispute and give us all tools to use the next time we are involved in a such a conflict.
I find Paul’s directions helpful as a sort of a checklist for when such an issue arises:
1. Rejoice in the Lord (v. 4). Have I reminded myself of the joy in knowing Christ and that He, no matter the conflict I’m in, has already triumphed over it all? Though it may be the last thing I feel like doing, I am called to rejoice!
2. Practice grace and patience (v. 5). Am I being gracious and patient as I wait for the Lord and HIS resolution?
3. Pray steadfastly (v. 6). Have I poured out my heart to God, asking for His help and showing gratitude that He hears me and is already working on my behalf
4. Dwell on Him, not the problem (v. 8). Am I focusing on God’s Word and His character— His beauty, compassion, righteousness, grace— instead of on the conflict?
5. Obey Him (v. 9). Am I letting God be God, regardless of the conflict, holding onto my faith and obediently following His will? Or am I abandoning His truth and being driven to sin?
Today’s cultural climate is so full of issues for believers and non-believers to disagree about, whether face-to-face or behind the veil of social media. It seems Paul’s words may never have been more applicable than now. But, friends, as followers of Christ, we have every reason to rejoice like Paul said — to offer grace instead of grumbling, to turn our worry into prayers, and to hold tight to the gospel as a family of faith.
Remembering Paul’s charge to the Philippians, let’s ask God to use our conflicts to change us, to help us focus on Him and those things worthy of our thoughts, and to keep us in His Word and will.
Because, oh, how we all need God’s peace.