Only two verses in the Bible refer to Euodia and Syntyche, and the women certainly don't have common names we readily recognize from Scripture or can easily pronounce. Yet we can learn a tremendous lesson about relationships and conflict resolution from these two succinct verses that the Apostle Paul wrote regarding these fellow ministry workers.
In the short passage in Philippians 4:2-3, we meet two Christian women who encountered conflict while serving in Paul's ministry in Philippi and who were unable to work out the problems on their own. They had not yet learned the art of agreeing to disagree.
Euodia and Syntyche probably were charter members of the church at Philippi. They worked with Paul as church planters and were influential women for him to mention them by name. Their argument was enough of an issue that he heard about it while under Roman imprisonment some 800 miles away. We can't minimize the significance of Paul addressing these women in a letter he knew would be read to the entire church publically, and quite possibly to surrounding churches. Arguments among Christians are a big deal!
Paul realized what a roadblock this divisive conflict would be to ministry and evangelism in Philippi—thus you'll see that the entire Book of Philippians addresses the conflict these women encountered and how to prevent conflict from disrupting the message of the Christian church.
When you compared your unresolved and resolved disputes, some of you might have said the difference was that in the unresolved scenario, you weren't yet a Christian, and in the resolved scenario, you were a believer with a softer, more compassionate heart. Others may feel that age and spiritual maturity assisted you in dealing with conflict, and still others might have read books or taken classes on anger management or dealing with life's disagreements. Still, there are many for whom this area of conflict continues to be a major struggle.
While writing this session, my phone rang. When I answered, I heard the sweet, southern voice of Cameron calling from a church that had a Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry. Cameron shared that conflict was the theme of their last ministry event. I told her I was writing on that very subject and her phone call was a confirmation that the Lord wanted this Bible study written.
"My mentor equipped me with ministry skills—but no one ever taught me to expect conflict. No one ever told me that every ministry leader experiences criticism, personal attacks, and church politics."—Sue Edwards, Leading Women Who Wound
Disagreements don't need to be fatal to a relationship; they do need recognition for what they are—differing viewpoints.
God made us each unique, with different gifts and points of view. That's healthy! Differing opinions bring breakthroughs.
We should allow others to express opinions that differ from ours and consider their merit. We don't have to accept a contrasting opinion, but we should graciously acknowledge it. We can then defend our original point of view, rethink it, or expand on it.
Fair debate or discussion is a healthy way to express or acknowledge a differing opinion. We see debates every election season. Speech classes teach acceptable debate techniques. Unfortunately, most of us have disputes instead of debates. When challenged, we want to prove our point and win, sometimes at any cost—not becoming behavior for a Christian. Only God can change another person's heart. Paul reminds us that the fundamentals of Christian faith are not debatable.
My daughter Kim and her husband, Toby, attend Eagle Christian Church in Idaho, pastored by Dr. Steven A. Crane. The church mission statement epitomizes healthy Christian agreement and disagreement: "We have made it our mission as a church that we will be unified in essentials. We want to give liberty and grace in the non-essentials, and to love God's way in everything. We want to be a place of truth and a place of love." Summarized:
In all things—Love!
"What makes a relationship work is having things in common. What makes a relationship passionate are our differences."—Anonymous