When Christians Clash2
This past week I counted up and gave some considerable thought to the churches that I’ve either regularly attended while growing up or at which I have served on pastoral staff. The total came to an even dozen. Continue reading . . .
This past week I counted up and gave some considerable thought to the churches that I’ve either regularly attended while growing up or at which I have served on pastoral staff. The total came to an even dozen. Included among these are four Southern Baptist churches that I attended regularly while growing up, one independent Baptist church, one Presbyterian church, two non-denominational Bible churches, one Vineyard church, one Anglican church, one non-denominational charismatic church, and finally Bridgeway!
I mention this only to point out that not one of them, even Bridgeway, has been perfect. I’ve never been in a church in which no false doctrine was believed either by the people or the pastors. Someone somewhere is always wrong about something! I’ve never been in a church that didn’t experience some degree of division, a church in which no needs went unmet and no ministry was left unfulfilled.
As much as I love Bridgeway, I have to be honest and say that we aren’t perfect. For most of you I hardly think that needs to be said, but I said it anyway. I can honestly say that Bridgeway comes closer to the ever-elusive “ideal” local church than any that I know of, but we are still a long way from having fully arrived.
If you were to ask me what local church in the New Testament has come closest to the ideal standard set forth in Scripture, I would probably cast my vote for the church in Philippi. They had partnered with Paul in the gospel from the get-go and had supported him financially when other churches failed to do so. They were theologically solid and filled with love for one another and joy in Jesus.
But if you’ve studied this book closely you know that there have been slight indications along the way that not everything was perfect. Paul’s exhortations suggest that they struggled at times with selfishness, conceit, pride, and disunity. As bad as that sounds, all in all they were a very healthy and growing church.
However, one particular problem finally surfaces here in the opening verses of chapter four. Evidently a rather intense disagreement had erupted between two women. Paul doesn’t even hesitate to name them! They couldn’t agree. Their differences apparently had spilled out into the church as a whole and people were likely on the verge of taking sides and dividing over the matter. Whatever it was, it was obviously serious enough that Paul took time to address it directly and explicitly.
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true comrade, 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 4:1-3).
Let’s never forget that although 1,900 years separate us from the Philippians, we aren’t that much different from them. But more important still, the spiritual principles that would serve to heal the breach back then are the same that are available and binding on us today. Paul’s way of handling the problem provides us with a pattern of how we should minister to one another and address our own divisions in our own local churches.
The first order of business, and one of extreme importance, is to determine how what Paul says here in Philippians 4:1-3 relates to what he just said at the close of chapter three (3:17-21). Did you see that word with which v. 1 opens: “Therefore”? What is it there for?
I think Paul is telling us that it is precisely because Christians in general, and Euodia and Syntyche in particular, are citizens of a heavenly kingdom that they must take steps to put aside their differences and live in love. It is precisely because all Christians, and Euodia and Syntyche in particular, are awaiting the return of Christ from heaven when he will transform their bodies and our bodies to be like his own that they must address this division and display for everyone to see the unity that Jesus Christ died to give us.
In other words, Paul is telling us in all of chapter four how we are to live in the time between Calvary and the Second Coming!
It’s as if he says, “Ladies, don’t you realize that very soon you will stand in the presence of your Lord and Savior? Don’t you realize the extent to which he suffered and sacrificed to save you? If you have any idea of what this means, please, take the necessary steps and humble yourselves and heal your relationship!”
To be continued . . .