HAVING THE SAME MIND
Click here to listen to this sermon.
How do we stand firm?
- Have the same mind in the Lord. (v. 1-3) What sort of surprise or electric tension must have filled the room when Paul named names. Euodia and Syntyche were very important leaders in the Philippian congregation. They had worked along side Paul in his mission. However, they were quarreling.
- What was the issue? Who was right? Paul doesnt mention it. Why? -- Obviously because it did not matter. What mattered was that Euodia and Synthyche should move past their quarrel, conflict, and anxiety and have the same mind in the Lord.
- Paul pleads with them to agree with each other, but he doesnt want them to simply conform or set aside their convictions. Rather, he wants them to agree in the Lord. Having the same mind and attitude that Christ Jesus had (Philippians 2:5-11). All that talk about being like Christ and being concerned about others interests and not just your own it was aimed at these two women that Paul cared about.
- And Paul calls upon this loyal companion (yokefellow) to help them. Who does he mean? Maybe he didnt name anyone because he wants everyone in the congregation to be the loyal companion and help these women come together rather than rip apart. When disputes and disagreements take place among us and around us we may be asked, Whose side are you on? Who do you side with? Will you go camping or will you be a loyal yokefellow?
- Conflict in any group is inevitable. It will happen, but how we manage it as a group depends on our attitude and our maturity. Euodia and Syntyche were quarreling and they began to think that the solution was for the church to go camping. That sounds nice, but they were trying to form two separate camping parties. The rest of should be careful that we dont get caught up in the camping trip. We too easily get divided and our language and labeling begins to reflect that: Black and white, right and wrong, red state/blue state, conservatives/liberals, antis and pros, fer it and agin it. These sort of polarizations are not part of the work of the gospel.
- Maybe that sounds as if I (and Paul) are saying There are no absolutes; only a big fuzzy warm gray middle of the road mush. No, there is an absolute and weve already acknowledged that: The example and attitude of Jesus Christ is the absolute. Euodia and Syntyche do not have a corner on absolutes neither do we. Being a disciple does not mean working to make others agree with us, it means working with each other to agree with Christ.
- Paul is not avoiding conflict, and neither can we. But lets understand whose team were on. Paul commends Euodia and Syntyche by remembering how they were part of the same team. They struggled with each other and with Paul, and Clement, and all the others who are on Gods roster. When we start opposing each other and positioning others to oppose each other we are not behaving as those who have faced opposition together. Its not friendly fire when you spend too much time aiming your sights on your fellow soldier. Lets stand firm together having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
- Rejoice Always! (v. 4) Internal conflicts and anxieties make us lose courage and creativity. We get depressed and angry and that only fuels the fire. It only makes us more anxious and paranoid. Paul encouraged the Philippians to rejoice in all situations even those where joy might not be the typical response. How do we do that? First, our rejoicing is in Christ. We have comfort and encouragement in Christ. So, we can be encouraged and come together because we have a source of joy that is much deeper and richer than sugary glee. Rejoicing is more than happiness and enjoyment. Without denying sorrow and suffering, it means participating in the grace and peace of Christ regardless of our circumstances.
- Make it evident. (v. 5) Make what evident? KJV reads moderation. NIV reads gentleness. NLT reads consideration. What is it that we are supposed to make evident? Outside of biblical usage this word might be translated as sweet reasonableness (Matthew Arnold). Aristotle described it as a quality of character that respected justice, but was generous enough to allow that justice did not injure. In other words, it is the sort of maturity and graciousness in someone that they can forgive and not insist on demanding that all their rights be satisfied. That seems to work really well in this letter. That sounds a lot like the attitude of Christ who demand his rights but humbled himself. That sounds like the sort of attitude that could help a fractured, conflicted church family move toward peace.
- And we ought to make it evident and visible because the Lord is near. Thats doesnt just mean that hes coming back, it means he is always near by. That sounds like Jesus himself who said, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:19-20
- (v. 6a) And if we are going to make this sort of graciousness and sweet reasonableness evident then we will need to stop worrying. Conflict and disputing magnifies worry. Its a vicious cycle because the worry in turn makes the conflict continue. But when the Lord is with us we can hear him say to us, Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6)
- (v. 6b) The way to be anxious about nothing is to pray about everything. We worry about what others think, but in prayer we are assured that it only matters what God thinks. We worry about what others may do, but in prayer we are assured that it only matters what God will do. We worry about change, but in prayer we are assured that God does not change.
- (v. 7) Euodia and Syntyche were without a doubt very worried, very anxious, and perhaps angry. They had come down with the frantic flu and they had spread the virus in the congregation. [And when you spread a virus you dont spread the gospel]. They had tried all their own remedies to ease their symptoms, but Paul offers the only cure the peace of God. The peace of God is greater than our own ability to understand. It is effective enough to protect our hearts and minds. If we will have the same mind and heart that was in Jesus, we will also have that peace.
- Finally, we need to think and act like Christ.
- We focus our minds on: whatever is truthful, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. What if we focused on these qualities in others. What if Euodia could focus on that which is [list] in Syntyche? What if Syntyche could focus on that which is [list] in Euodia? What if we focused on that which is [list] in the people that we might disagree with? Would that make a difference? Would that turn conflict around and lead us to the peace of Christ?
- But we are responsible for our own behavior and so we have to put into action: 1) the lessons weve learned, 2) the trust and good traditions that were passed on to us, and 3) the examples of others who show us the way. If we do that then the peace of God will be with us.
So what happened after this letter was read to this church family in Philippi? Euodia was on one side of the room. Syntyche was standing on the other side. Most likely after the reading of the letter, the congregation gathered around a table. Some folks brought bread and they shared with those who didnt have any. Some folks brought wine and they shared with others. Wouldnt it have been fitting if the church circled together, pulling in Euodia and Syntyche from their opposite sides and seated them at the table. And there in the presence of the Lord, these two women and all the church family prayed together. And Euodia served bread to Syntyche and Syntyche served a cup of joy to Euodia. And they ate and drank together with thanksgiving.
What will we do now that this letter has been read to us? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 February 2008
Link to next sermon
Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin