Timeless truths from Philippians 4:1-3.
Conflict. Disagreements. Impasses. Experience is a great teacher if we learn from it by not repeating the same poor choices again. Paul spoke from experience when he addressed two women in conflict. The church of Philippi was troubled. They had lost their joy (Paul brings up the subject of joy in verse 4). Conflicts usually are not a time of great joy.
Paul had a “falling out” with Barnabas in one of the best known early conflicts in church history. These two great men parted ways. It is sad. But Paul learned some lessons and brought them to the table in writing to believers in Philippi.
Some practical steps:
First, “stand firm in the Lord.” Clearly we are to stand firm in the clear truths of the Lord. Otherwise, we need to learn to stand down. Biblical principles are not to be compromised for the sake of “unity.” However, most divisions are based on our own personal preferences. No doubt, these two ladies felt very strongly concerning their “rightness.” Paul would say to us, if it involves the clear principles and commandments of Scripture, Stand Firm. Otherwise, Back Down!
Second, “beloved.” Love people in the middle of their ugliness. Friends, that is not only hard, it is impossible without the grace of God. We don’t know the nature of their disagreement or how loud, bitter, ugly they had been. Paul loved them anyway. Wisdom says “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” Love people enough to see beyond their selfishness.
Third, encourage harmony. Remind people that their harmony is in the Lord. We are members of the same family. Our harmony is based on the fact that we bow to the same Master, are indwelt by the same Spirit, have the same Father, and will enter the same eternal home.
Fourth, call people out. Conflict is ugly but sitting by and allowing it to happen is even uglier. We aren’t in school anymore and we need to step up and help diffuse conflict. Be a “Clement”!
Fifth, don’t write people off. Paul made it clear that these ladies names “are in the book of life.” We have a tendency to discount those who disagree with us. Some even begin to doubt the salvation of others because of division. Now, use some of sanctified sense here. If someone is a trouble maker, God’s word instructs us to stay away from them. Some people are just oblivious to the damage they are doing because of their division. Don’t write them off.
“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 NASB