How would you react if you knew that the dispute you have with your brother or sister would be recorded in the Bible? How would you feel if believers for hundreds of years would stumble over your name and the name of the brother or sister you had a squabble with in the Word of God? I suspect that none of us would cherish this possibility.
And yet this is exactly what happened to two women in the church of Philippi. They were mentioned by name and they were encouraged to bury the hatchet. Euodias and Syntyche had a dispute that had apparently been going for some time.
God’s will is for peace to prevail in our hearts and then in our relationships with others. We cannot share God’s peace if we do not first possess it ourselves. The topic of conflicts in the Church is an opportunity to illustrate some important things about God’s peace.
At the root of our conflicts is P-R-I-D-E. Lack of Peace is a Pride Problem!
Important Facts about Conflicts
1. After a While the Details Don’t Matter
There is no mention of the details surrounding this dispute. And thus this example illustrates one important thing about disputes that we often ignore. The fact is that at some point a dispute ceases to be about details and becomes about personalities. We remember the names Euodias and Syntyche, but we don’t remember what their dispute was about.
While individuals may feel that the details are important, when it affects the unity of the Church, it no longer matters who is right and who is wrong. It doesn’t matter who is at fault or what happened. When it hurts the work of God it has moved beyond a simple disagreement or a difference of opinion to become a tool of the enemy.
When Paul urged these two sisters to be of the same mind in Christ, he was not suggesting that they miraculously begin to think alike and agree on everything. Paul was not pushing what I call the myth of one mind. Paul was encouraging these sisters to be in harmony in the Lord. It is impossible for individuals to agree on every point. It is possible that we agree to live in harmony and to consider each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul is suggesting a Christ-centric mind, not a cloned mind.
2. Unresolved Conflicts Tend to Enlarge
The longer a conflict goes unresolved, the greater the number of people that will become involved. I wish this were not true in the Church, but unfortunately it is true in any environment. What begins as a simple disagreement has the potential to become a regular Hatfield and McCoy feud if left unresolved?
When a conflict involves others beside the two who originally had the disagreement, it is no longer a private matter. When your conflict expands beyond the individual you are in conflict with, “your” problem becomes others’ problems. It takes less than 15-seconds for your private matter to become an issue of public concern. This is true in a family, and it is true in a church family. Due to closeness, the tendency for conflicts to expand is multiplied.
3. Pressure to Pick Sides
It is not fair to expect others to “back” you because of whatever reason. Demanding that others take our side in a conflict only expands the conflict but never resolves it. The more people involved, the more difficult it is to sort through the problem and find a solution.
I have seen situations were those who began the conflict reconciled but their different adversarial armies continued in the good fight for years. And the memory is a funny thing. We can forget the details while remembering the hurt feelings. It is easy to forget what the conflict is about, but hard to forget the hurts we have suffered in the struggle “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Proverbs 18:80
As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, would you like generational, or current feuds to be an iniquity you finally overcome and be thing-of-the-past? Would you like to be the first "Generational Warrior" and break the sin-habits of others? How can we let peace prevail? Paul has some good suggestions for us in this same passage.
Moderation Is Important
“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5 Moderation means avoiding extremes. In this context we are not speaking about a wishy-washy political position. There are many who call themselves moderates who are really just trying to avoid taking a position. Moderation in the context of this passage has nothing to do with the politically charged term that is used today. The Greek word is Epieikes and it is the intensive form of a word that means “reasonable.”
“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.” 2 Corinthians 12:16
The type of moderation spoken of in verse five of Philippians Chapter 4, has more to do with one’s spirit than his position. Many times people cannot get past others’ attitudes to be able to hear their views. Those who relish a hard reputation are doing their views no favor. We should desire to be known as people who exercise forbearance, who are gentle, and who are sweetly reasonable.
I have noticed that those who relish the reputation of a hard-nosed individual are often those whose positions are also illogical and unreasonable. If Euodias and Syntyche had been more reasonable, their conflict would not be exposed in the New Testament for all believers to see. If their attitudes had emphasized the lordship of Jesus, their conflict would have died long before Paul heard of it. Consider how long it took news of their conflict to travel by foot from Philippi in Macedonia all the way to Paul’s prison in Rome. And they were still firing shots at each other when the epistle arrived in Philippi from Rome!
Prayer is Key
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
The next suggestion that will allow peace to prevail in our relationships with others is prayer. In fact, far beyond a suggestion, prayer is an essential element of the spiritual life. One can no more live the spiritual life without prayer than one can live the natural life without breathing. It simply is not an optional thing.
Prayer invokes the presence of God into the issues that flow from a humble heart. Prayer is an exercise of the heart and the mind. It is quite difficult to humbly seek God’s direction in the resolution of a conflict while maintaining a prideful sense of entitlement. How can we ask God to help us fix a damaged relationship while steadfastly maintaining our “right” to be offended or angry?
This is precisely why many times we can pray about almost anything except the very thing that needs God’s presence and His peace the most. We will intercede for every far-flung need from Dan to Beersheba in order to avoid talking to God about the issue troubling our spirit and causing unease in others. We will open the phone book and begin to call out names before the throne instead of talking to God about what is on our heart. Why are we so reticent to make our requests known unto God in the area of damaged relationships? We are proud and we cherish our hurts. The reason we cherish hurts is because self is not crucified. The self-life still exerts its “right” to be hurt. It has been wronged, offended, hurt, used, abused, misused, etc.
If we press through in prayer and present that hurt to Jesus for healing and cleansing, we will arise a different person. Once we release our hurts to the Lord, we allow Him to minister to the attitude and thinking that reserved the right to stay hurt. Then the healing can begin. When the hurting is healed, the details surrounding the dispute are soon forgotten or at least they are no longer important. I am not attempting to oversimplify this process. There are times when the process of healing might be lengthy, but if we are unwilling to begin the process, healing will never happen.
In most conflicts, it is not the details of the conflict that are important. It is the hurts that have resulted. Taking those wounds to the Lord in prayer is not only inviting His healing into our spirit, but also it is inviting His peace into our conflict.
Focus on Good Things
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
After we have allowed Jesus to begin healing our wounds and bringing peace into our conflict, we also need peace in our thoughts. We must train our mind to focus on good things instead of bad.
The enemy is certainly involved in presenting the worst for our inspection and consideration. He will try to convince us of others’ bad intentions and motives. We must deny him the opportunity to insert negative thoughts. Misunderstandings often come about because we are willing to think ill of others words or actions. And the enemy will jump all over that.
We should examine our heart and ask ourselves why we are willing to assume the worst instead of the best in others. If it is because of our own insecurities or perhaps something in our past, we must ask the Lord to help us overcome. We must ask the Lord to help us retrain our minds to focus on good things and not assume the worst in others.
Follow Godly Examples
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4:9
Finally, those examples of godliness and sweet agreeableness that we observe in the lives of others, we must seek to follow in our own life. There is nothing spiritual about being cantankerous and hard to get along with. Some of us are in bondage to our squabbling sins all of our lives.
Who is your hero? Is it someone who always has the last word? Someone that wins every argument and comes away feeling justified every time? Well the Bible tells us that the only perfect man to ever live refused to open His mouth to defend Himself. That is WHO we should seek to emulate.
The peace of God will not prevail in our relationships until the same peace prevails in our heart. The reason these methods work is because they invoke the God of Peace. Verse seven mentions the “peace of God.” Verse nine speaks of the “God of Peace.” The peace of God can prevail wherever the God of Peace abides. Our task is not to institute the peace of God but to invoke the God of Peace.
A lifestyle that invokes the God of Peace is one that:
- Acknowledges the sin - “Pride-Factor”
- Promotes moderation by avoiding extreme positions and attitudes
- Makes prayer a priority
- Focuses on the blessings
- Follows godly examples with godly deeds
This is a lifestyle in which the peace of God can prevail. This is true because this kind of lifestyle allows the God of all peace to reign.
Unless we acknowledge that, at our core-level, we all have a “PRIDE” issue, then our potential for peace will be sabotaged, and the need for any preventative measures, will be ignored.
Praise God that I come from a relatively peaceful family; I say “relatively” because we are not around each other enough for any potential peace-problems to take root. But nonetheless, generational groaning is not an issue for us – YET!
We all have the potential for dispute-filled lives just as we all have the potential for peace-prevailing lives. Nothing is worth the warfare is it? Unfortunately, in the process of proving our position, either intermittently or as an ongoing pattern, our children are learning – the good and the UGLY!
What we do in moderation, our children will do in excess. All the way through Scripture, the sin “as did his father” is mentioned. “But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them;” 2 Chronicles 33:22
The next verse typifies the sin pattern we give root to in our unleashed behavior;
“And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.” Chronicles 33:23
What we do in moderation, our children will do in excess.
What am I passing onto Caleb? "Proned to wonder..."
I have a motto that I use for my own life, and one that has proved its peaceful affect over-and-over; “Be nice to everyone. We’re all having a tough day.”
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians 1:7
We were forgiven, yet we choose not to forgive? God is no respecter of persons and He never demonstrated pride "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:8
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord---humble thyself in the sight of the Lord---and He shall lift you up!
I Love You,