Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 10, 2007

Resolving Church Conflict, Philippians 4:1-3

coorg-waterfall.jpgWhat does an argument that took place 2000 years ago between two ladies have to do with the church today? We will find out plenty.

A few years ago I was talking to a minister that told me the story of his church. He said that at one time the place where the church is located was very heavily populated. It went through a period of depopulation. There were two churches in the area but as people left neither church could afford a full time pastor. So they did what seemed logical to them, they decided to form together as one congregation to hire a full time minister.

A problem arose from that amalgamation. Now this one congregation had two facilities. The decision on where to meet was an easy one for them. Just meet in the facility where they always had been meeting. The problem was though; both groups had the same idea. A conflict emerged. It was impassible. Then a solution came. They would keep both facilities even though they did not need both. One week they would meet in one facility and the next week the other.

This decision to meet in alternate places took place about 40 years earlier. But this pastor noticed something. Some from each facility would only attend church when it was held in their own facility. There was a grudge that the church members had held on to for forty years.

Conflict and bitterness in the church might be the single most damaging thing to the work of the gospel. We need to be sure that in out church we do not let any hindrance in our relationships keep the gospel moving forward. Could you imagine moving to that town and looking for a church? You would probably ask to be directed to the nearest town where the people could meet together as one congregation.

Philippians 4:1-3 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow,a help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul wants to make it clear how important it is for members of a church to get along together in peace and harmony. It seems so difficult for people to get along with one another. If you would talk to someone who does the hiring of college graduates for a major business you would find that he is not worried about the grade point average. Very seldom is someone not hired because they are not able to perform the arithmetic required for the job or the reading required for the job. Nine times out of ten when a young person enters the job market the problems found are relating to the other workers. They find it very difficult to relate properly to others around them. It is so important in the church that we can look others in the eye and say I love you in the name of Jesus Christ and that we let no hindrances come in our walk with Christ because of our relationship to others.

What a blessing it is for a congregation when it gets a vision to start a mission. That mission is blessed of the Lord and starts to grow and pretty soon the mission becomes self supporting and the mission church constitutes to be its own self governing church. But two become separated. But it is an entirely different matter when churches because of inward turmoil divide and split and become two separate congregations. The difference is that one honors the Lord and the other is a disgrace to the name of the Lord.

It is inevitable with a congregation with so many people that differences are going to arise among the people. Yet we need to agree and seek to work out reconciliation with others. Inner conflict in a church that interrupts the work of Christ is a very serious matter. Paul in the book of Philippians has been making passing reference to inner conflict in this beloved church. When we think back to the great churches of the first century and the church at Philippi was probably one of the greatest of them all. But this church stood on the brink of destruction because of the internal conflict between the individuals of the church.

Paul’s first instructions to them is to stand firm in verse one. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! In chapter 3 Paul was exhorting the church to press on in Christ, and he was reminding them of their heavenly citizenship.

He says with all that, therefore stand firm in the Lord. There is the introduction of a new section here about a church controversy. But Paul wants his church to know that although we want peace in the church, even though we want to rid ourselves of all the fractures that divide us that it in no way means that we compromise out message in Jesus Christ.

There are certain things that we must stand for. We believe in the incarnation of Christ; that he is fully God and fully man. We believe it is because of the sins of man that Christ went to the cross was crucified and rose again. We cannot compromise that message. There are many who would ask us to compromise that message.

Recently I read an article in the paper that said that those who believe that Jesus is the only way have a closed mind and a pinched heart. They went on to ask why not let all ways to God be thought of as being equal? Why say Christ is the only way? That may sound attractive, but in reality that is a cruel message. Jesus said he was the only way. He came on a mission of love when he died for the world. We preach Jesus as the only way. We must stand firm on that conviction. Paul tells this church that he loves to stand firm.

Paul loved this church in Philippi with all his heart. In verse 4 he calls them brothers. He told them he loved him and longed for them. They were his joy and his crown. There are enemies of this church that would like the church to compromise its basic position. Paul says no, stand firm. Some of the attacks against the church may be subtle and some may be more direct, but whichever the case we need to, without any shame, stand firm on the essentials of the gospel. Jesus died, was buried and rose again and he is the only way to God. That we must insist on.

As badly as we may want peace in the church if we have to compromise on that message then we have gained nothing. We must stand firm on the basics of our faith in Christ. That is what Paul is calling for in this text. But after establishing this Paul moves into the heart of the message. He wants those in conflict to seek agreement in the Lord. Paul has mentioned this disagreement but he now becomes specific and names the two ladies in the church who were at odds with each other, Euodia and Syntyche. Paul asked these two ladies to resolve their differences in a manner that honored the Lord.

There were two parties involved in this disagreement. Paul did not ask who first wronged who. Paul says to both of them, I want you to be reconciled together. He is not concerned who was the first one to do something offensive. His concern was that these two Christians be reconciled in Christ. Paul loved this church and he knew that the vitality and mission of this church was in jeopardy. This conflict had the potential to spread and divide the whole church.

When there is a problem among us we need to seek to work it out. What does an argument that took place 2000 years ago between two ladies have to do with us here today? It has so much to do with what our purpose is about. First of all it lets us know that even in the first century they had their problems. We talk about getting the old time religion, but we need to remember that even the old time religion of the first century had its difficulties. Here were two beloved members of the church at odds with each other. So we need to remember that things were not always so rosy in the first century. They had their difficulties. But another thing this passage tells us is that these difficulties must be worked out.

There must be a coming together of those whose conflict has the potential of fragmenting the fellowship of this church. God expects the Hatfields and McCoys to live together in one church and not just be tolerant of one another, but to love each other in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here were two women in conflict of whom Paul said, their names were written in the Book of Life. In other words these are genuine believers in Christ.

These are not pretenders who have come into the church. These are truly Christians who are at odds with each other. Paul says they worked along with him by his side. These are prominent church members. These women are great Christian leaders if they worked along side the Apostle Paul. They were probably at the very heart of the founding of the Philippian church, along with other women like Lydia the seller of purple. These were important women and prominent in the Philippian church. Their conflict threatened the life of the fellowship. When we have conflict we must carefully seek the mind of Christ. Human pride, the pride of the flesh, personal ambition can get in the way. We need to seek with prayer for the mind of Christ.

Jesus emphasized how important it is for Christians to relate rightly to one another. Look back to Mathew 18:21-22. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus said in Mathew chapter 5:23-25 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Before we come to worship we should remember that how we relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ affects our relationship to God. Jesus made that clear. He asked how will people really know you are disciples of Christ? He said it is how you love one another.

Nothing hurts so badly as to be injured inside of God’s house. It is so tragic when you find countless people who don’t go to church because somehow they were injured in their service to God. It is so tragic because what should happen is reconciliation. Paul says to seek agreement in the Lord. If you have a disagreement then you should seek agreement in the Lord. You know that God has forgiven you of so much, more than you could ever forgive someone else. So we need to do as Paul says here and seek agreement with those we have difficulty with.

How do you know if you have a relationship that needs this kind of reconciliation? For one thing this is an issue that needs sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. It is something that needs to be approached with much prayer. You need to remember that it is reconciliation that you seek, not revenge. Paul did not say to get even in the Lord. He said to seek agreement in the Lord.

It may mean humbling yourself to go to another person. It may be you have wronged them or they have wronged you, but according to this passage, in either case seek agreement. That is when a church really gives a testimony when with all the diversity there is a harmony in the Lord.

Seeking reconciliation from others will prevent you from having bitterness and resentment in your life that can keep you from a proper relationship with the Lord. Paul tells the church to stand firm, don’t compromise your message. He tells them to seek reconciliation. Then Paul says to seek others who can help you in your reconciliation.

Paul calls on a trusted servant to help these two women in conflict, look at verse 3. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, a help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul appeals to someone else in the fellowship for help. This is someone who obviously had the trust of the fellowship. Paul not only told these two to be reconciled with one another, but he also called on someone else who could help them be reconciled. Maybe you are stand in the role of a yoke fellow.

Maybe you need to help two Christians to agree together in the Lord. It is so helpful at times when someone who is not emotionally involved in a conflict helps two people come together in Christ. I am thankful that on many occasions I have been helped by a third person. I had a division with a roommate before I was married. With good help we don’t have to leave in conflict, but we can seek agreement in the Lord.

It takes a mature person in Christ, but we desperately need those who are peace makers. Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers. We need people who can help those Christians in conflict with one another. Are you a peacemaker? God wants you to seek agreement with all your brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is not a call to meddle in the affairs of others. It means to compassionately help others be united in Christ. This conflict in the church in Philippi could glorify the Lord or cause destruction in the church. Paul makes an appeal to those who could help. This is his beloved church and he wants to see nothing destroy it. But he knows that the one thing that could destroy this great church is unresolved conflict.

Maybe you have a conflict with someone. There could be someone who can help you reach an agreement in the Lord. We need to spend time evaluating our relationship with others. It is so important. We need to ask God to show us if there is really reconciliation that needs to take place.

Weather you have been offended or you know of a situation where you have offended someone else, we need to seek agreement in the Lord. You can just ask the Lord in a prayerful way if there is someone we need to seek agreement with in the Lord. This kind of reconciliation is vital for your walk with God and for our church.


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