We live in a world of conflict, but we can experience God’s peace by fixing our thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right.
1 Kings, chapter 15; 2 Chronicles, chapters 13-14; Philippians, chapter 4
Philippians 4:2-9 (NLT):
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
I’m sitting in the “breakfast room” of a hotel as I reflect on this passage today. I’ve been at our denomination’s General Assembly for the past week. Our focus has been on the fact that “Jesus is Lord.” We’ve heard how his Lordship calls us to Go, Follow, Worship, Serve, Live, and Love. It’s been a great week!
So what does that have to do with this passage? Several things, actually. First, Paul addresses a conflict between two women who have been workers with him in sharing the Gospel. That triggers my thoughts in a number of ways. First, our denomination has always recognized and validated women pastors. In fact, one of our General Superintendents is a woman, and several others have leadership roles in our tribe. I contrast that with another denomination which is currently wrestling with the idea of women pastors, and I’m glad to be where God has placed me!
“Settle Your Disagreement”
Paul urges these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to settle your disagreement. We don’t know what the disagreement was. We don’t know whether it was over something “important,” or whether it was based in their personalities. But it’s obvious that it was impacting the church, so Paul urged them to settle it.
Not only does he not tell us what the disagreement was; he also doesn’t tell them how to settle it. He gives no procedure for them to follow. There are no principles or guidelines for determining who is “right” or “wrong.” He simply tells them to settle it. The implication is that if they are submitted to the Lord, he will guide them to a resolution.
“Help These Women”
Paul does enlist the help of his “true partner” (verse 3). Other translations render this phrase “loyal Syzygus,” treating Syzygus as a name rather than a descriptive term. That doesn’t matter; what’s important is that Paul wanted this “true partner” to help their co-workers to resolve their disagreement. In a world where people too often don’t want to “get involved,” we’re called to work together in the body of Christ to solve conflicts and problems. We don’t do that as the “authority” riding in to make a ruling; rather, we do it as friends and co-laborers with Christ, who can help to reconcile people to one another.
“Considerate in All You Do”
The third phrase which stands out to me is Paul’s call to Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. We can sometimes be lulled into thinking that because we’re doing “the Lord’s work,” that everyone else should accommodate us. I came into this room this morning because my wife has a video conference in our hotel room. I picked a table in the corner of a room that was empty, set up my computer, and opened my Bible.
After a few minutes, someone walked into the room, put his phone on speaker, and proceeded to have a twenty-minute conversation. I took out my earbuds and put some music on so I wouldn’t overhear too much of the conversation, but what I did hear made it clear that he was attending the same gathering as I am. It seemed to me that he assumed that because he was talking about his spiritual journey, everyone would “be okay” with him sharing his conversation with us.
But not everyone in this hotel is attending “our” assembly. People who were trying to enjoy a quiet breakfast before their day began might not have been so understanding. In fact, other people who are attending our conference might not be so understanding! I think Paul’s call for us to be considerate in all we do involves not presuming upon the understanding and grace of others – just as we don’t presume upon God’s grace.
“Fix Your Thoughts”
The last phrase that stands out to me is in verse 8: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. That is a very practical way for us to get along with each other, and to be considerate in all we do.
If you turn on the news, pick up a newspaper (does anyone still do that?), or even look at your social media feed, you may find it hard to fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. There is so much anger and bitterness and conflict in our world! And that should not be surprising to us, because the prince of this world is the enemy of our souls. He has nothing good for us, and he will fight to fix our thoughts on the opposite.
But if we follow Paul’s direction, we can look forward to God’s presence and peace: Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Who doesn’t want “the peace of God” to be with them? If we do, we need to fix our thoughts on the good – which means, on God. And we need to settle our disagreements, because conflict in the body is not the type of witness that will draw people to Jesus. Finally, we need to be considerate in all we do, because that will confirm for our world that “Christ in us” is real, and we can have “the peace of God!”
Father, our world needs to see your peace. The only way they will see it is if they see it in your people. Help us to settle our conflicts with one another, and to help each other to be reconciled. Show us how to be considerate in all we do. Help us to fix our minds on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. And give us your peace, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.