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conflict & your life story

“Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.” – Philippians 4:2-3 (NLT)

During a recent devotional time reading through Philippians I found myself mulling over this story of two women and their conflict. For weeks I’ve thought about these women and their story. What was their conflict? Why couldn’t they resolve it on their own? How in the world did it elevate to the level that Paul got involved?

I could take guesses all day about what Euodia and Syntyche’s conflict was about (lack of respect or honor, a household situation, a relationship), but the real lesson in the story of these two women is that continuing in their disagreement wasn’t an option according to Paul.

There are two things that stand out about this story of Euodia and Syntche:

They were believers and labored alongside Paul. The work they did to spread the Gospel brought their names to the level of attention that Paul not only knew who they were, but was also invested in seeing their conflict resolved. Their conflict was harming more than just themselves; it was also impacting the community of believers around them as well as tarnishing their witness about the forgiveness Christ offers through faith. By resolving their issue, Euodia and Syntyche would ease the tension of themselves and those around them (family, friends, fellow believers), be able to continue sharing the Gospel effectively, and actively live out a good testimony about conflict resolution that could be shared with unbelievers.

The simple act of living in community with others guarantees that we will face conflict. It’s our response to the conflict and how we take steps to resolve it that sets us apart from others. As Christians we are called to resolve. We can’t turn our back on a conflict and pretend it didn’t happen because then we are simply carrying the dischord with us. It’s a negative mark on our testimony about the forgiving and peace-giving nature of Jesus. Instead we need to make the active decision that our conflicts will not overshadow our witness.

They weren’t alone. Paul asks a fellow believer to step in and help Euodia and Syntche work out their differences. When conflict escalates and we aren’t able to settle matters on our own, we must remember that it’s ok to bring in people to help. We don’t have to navigate life and conflict on our own. The disagreement these women faced was consuming. It was the boulder in the path that they couldn’t see around. They needed someone to step in and show them how to move past it. That’s where Paul calls in reinforcements to help.

How often do I let my own conflicts rise to that level? How often do I allow an issue, situation, confrontation, argument or misunderstanding to take up such a huge residence in my life that it blocks everything else I am doing and it’s all I can see? It is the boulder blocking my path. My independent nature tells me I can figure it out and find a way to ignore the problem. But my track record reminds me that I can’t. It reminds me that when an issue becomes so large that others become acutely aware of it, I need an outside individual to come in and help me see more than my limited perspective.

This is the beauty of life as a follower of Christ: we are a living witness. For better or worse, we are the hands and feet for Him in this world and our actions (or lack thereof) speak volumes to those around us. We are called to be a good witness – to both those who believe and those who have yet to believe. What does your life say to those around you? What would Paul say about you if he were writing a letter to your friends, community or family?

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