31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Euodia & Syntyche
Even good, strong Christians have trouble getting along sometimes. We are human. It takes other loving, strong Christian FRIENDS to help get us back on track sometimes.
Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:2-3:
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
These two women are not new Christians. They have both struggled in the cause of the gospel.
What I notice from their mention in scripture is:
- Their disagreement was not private. Whether Paul was made aware of it during an earlier visit or someone had written to him, I do not know. But Paul is NOT in Philippi with them at this time and he is aware of their trouble. You may think that your disagreement with someone else is only between the two of you – eventually it IS going to affect other people. The way you respond to each other in public because of your “private” disagreement; the way you talk about the other person because of your “private” disagreement – your private disagreement is adding something negative to those around you.
- They were not in harmony “in the Lord”. Apparently they were having a difference of opinion that neither was able to agree about. It happens. We each have different thoughts, different experiences, and different ideals. We are to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). Unity is found in agreement, “being of the same mind” (Phil. 2:2). On matters of doctrine the goal is to be in agreement, to have the same mind, or to think in the same way. But it is a continual process. On matters that are of no importance to God, His concern is that we be united about not adding to the doctrines of Christ (Rom. 14). As Christians, unity is found when we all agree on the truth of scripture, the salvation in Christ, and the realization that we each need to work out the other things.
- This disagreement was not to be left alone to work itself out. Paul told those who were in Philippi to “help these women”. I cannot say about other places, but in America we have a deeply ingrained sense of right to privacy. We say right to privacy we mean the “right to have you not stick your nose into my affairs”. As a political debate, that may be a question, but in religious matters it is not. The New Testament is full of the calling out people publicly for their deceptive ways (2 Tim. 2:17), sins in their marriage (1 Cor. 5:1), sin in not removing sin from among the church (1 Cor. 5:2, 6-8), self-importance (3 Jn 9), or hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). The dealing with the problem may begin in private (Mt. 18:15-18), but it is not necessary that it do so. Within the Lord’s church, privacy is not a promise! Rather, we are to know one another so well that we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:1-3). Am I going to know you are covetous or swindler if I only ever see you on Sunday morning (1 Cor. 5:11)? God designed the church to be a functioning body – all the parts are attached (1 Cor. 12:12-26). While there may be things we can take care of one on one, like a disagreement between friends or spouses – if it is NOT dealt with, we must be willing to bring others in to help us get rid of it.
- When dealing with each other, do not forget that we are all soldiers in the same battle. Even while Paul tells the church to help these women are not right, he also reminds the brethren that these women have been a large help to the work of the Lord. They should be helped with that in mind – seeking to bring them back to that point, with respect because they do have knowledge and experience. These are not women who have sought to just stir up trouble like false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1-3). They are having a human moment in their spiritual walk together (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 4:17-24). We each have them – so exhort, admonish, or rebuke (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 4:2) where necessary, but consider how you would want to be approached (Mt. 7:12; Lk. 6:31).
I do not know what Euodia and Syntyche were out of harmony about. What I do know is that God did NOT want them to stay that way. These verses to not look like agreeing to sit on opposite sides of the building during worship to me. These verses encompass a loving endeavor from many people. The women need to be open to having help to solve their problem. They need to be willing to forgive if wrong has been done and forgiveness asked (Lk. 17:13; Mt. 18:21-35). Those around them need to be courageous and loving enough to step in and help to remove the divide between these women. Division because of man’s failings is never a good thing (1 Cor. 12:25). Division because of standing with Christ and against those who do not is going to happen (Heb. 4:12; Mt. 10:34-39). See Euodia and Syntyche as a banner reminder that sometimes we need help to fix our relationships. See them as a reminder that God wants us to be at peace when we can be (1 Th. 5:13; Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14). Be willing to make the effort to improve your relationships where you can. It’s the effort that takes courage and brotherly love – sitting back and ignoring it only feeds our self-interest. We should be looking out for each other (Phil. 2:3-4).