I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2–3 ESV)
The holidays can be a stressful time. Different personalities are together for extended periods in confined spaces. Inevitably someone says or does something (or fails to do so), which leads to disagreement. Feelings are hurt. Words are expressed and more feelings hurt. It becomes awkward for all.
Imagine someone sends a letter to those remaining in disagreement. That’s what the verses above reflect.
The Philippian believers are the church most invested in Paul, relationally and financially. Euodia and Syntyche are two of those who have given themselves in ministry, a ministry they share.
But something has happened. We aren’t told what has come between these two key women in the church. Paul doesn’t take sides. Rather, he appeals to them to agree (literally, “to think the same thing”) in the Lord. Their names, along with others, are in the book of life.
He also calls on someone known to the church, someone simply referenced as “true companion,” to help these women, i.e., help them remember who and whose they are in Christ.
Some suggest the entirety of this prison letter was written by Paul specifically to address this strained relationship, which has impacted the church. Everything that comes previous – God doing his good work, thinking the same thing in the Lord and following Christ’s example, shining like stars in the universe, being alert to those who would divide them, focusing on the goal of knowing Christ, our citizenship in heaven – all of it was to set up his appeal to these two women (and others to help them) to work through their differences and disagreement.
In these two verses, Paul uses five words beginning with the Greek word often translated as with or together with (Syntyche, companion, help, labored side by side, fellow workers). Our English versions don’t bring this out, but the recipients of this letter could not have missed hearing this with refrain.
Do we hear the with refrain in our actions with others who also confess the same Christ we confess – in our families, our churches? And as much or even more importantly, do those who do not yet know Jesus see us committed to working through our differences because we are with?
Being with Christ is always in the context of being with each other.
Paul follows this personal accountability with these helpful words. Read them aloud as a prayer for yourself.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness (or gentle kindness) be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7).
Randy Jaspers is the regional minister for the NAB’s Northern Plains Region.