A quick survey… Please raise your hand if any of these pertain to you:
- Have you ever had a disagreement with someone?
- Have you had a disagreement with someone you love?
- Have you had a disagreement with someone you love, who also called themselves a Christian?
If you raised your hand for these questions, you join 100% of my congregation who answered “yes” to all three.
When we are in close proximity to anyone, there will be conflict. In fact, close proximity usually leads to more conflict, because closeness increases friction. For a Christian the issue is not if we will have conflict with others in the Church, but how we will navigate and resolve these conflicts.
The Apostle Paul wrote a thank you letter to the church at Philippi, in which he speaks in some of the most glowingly loving terms of any of his letters. Clearly this was a group of people close to his heart. So when he heard about the conflict between two ladies in this congregation, he took time to address it in his letter—
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2)
We don’t know why these ladies were arguing, but notice that Paul doesn’t take sides. He simply says “I please with Euodia AND I plead with Syntyche.” The word for plead means someone who comes alongside to help. In using this terminology, Paul gives us an important principle…
We can come alongside those in conflict without taking sides with either one of those in conflict.
In the next verse Paul implores the rest of the church to join him in the alongside-ness—
And I exhort you too, my genuine yokefellow, help these two women to keep on cooperating…. (v. 3, Amplified Bible)
In other words, Paul wants the rest of the church to embrace these at-odds sisters too, without taking sides. He addresses the members of the church as yokefellow. It’s not a word we use too often today (although it is still in the dictionary), but it paints a crystal clear picture of our role. Here’s what we CAN’T do as yokefellow:
- Look away
- Mind our own business
- Hope the situation will work itself out
- Try to navigate around the problem
Instead we embrace the conflict by embracing those in the conflict. We help them to cooperate and to work in harmony in the Lord (v. 2, Amplified Bible). It’s our responsibility to help maintain the bonds of peace, so that the Body of Christ can grow in a way that is healthy and God-honoring.
Do you know someone in conflict right now? Are you in the conflict yourself? Ask God to show you how you can come alongside—not take sides—those in this conflict to bring about peace.
Please join me next Sunday as I continue this series of message on Life Together.