We’re continuing in our series on Connecting with God through relationships. The first week we looked at the beginning of the church and how their natural reaction to the grace given at Pentecost was to come together as one people and share their things as though were one unified body. Last week we looked at the call of Christ for his people to love one another. Choosing to love one another brings us into an encounter with the nature of God that cannot be experienced in any other way. In order to love one another, we have to be in relationships with one another beyond the cordial greetings on Sunday morning. This isn’t about loving those who love you but choosing to be in relationships that you would not choose in the world.
This week, I want to look at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi to see what Paul says about what it takes to overcome differences within a congregation. One thing we all know about being in relationships is that conflict will arise. There are a few different approaches to reading Philippians. The approach that makes the most sense to me, for what Paul is addressing in his letter, is some kind of conflict between two leaders in the Christian community in Philippi.
In Philippians 4:2, Paul gets to the point of his letter. When you hear “plead” or “urge” used, the language is strong enough to draw the attention of everyone to listen closely. Everything said up to this point has built to this urgency. Who are Euodia and Syntyche? We don’t have much information about them, but they would have to be fairly prominent in the church to be called out for their conflict. Paul says in verse 3 that they have contended at his side in the cause of the Gospel. They worked alongside Paul, Clement, and their other co-workers. In regard to the work of spreading the Gospel, they were equals with Paul and his co-workers. We don’t know if they were “ministers,” leaders of house churches, or in some kind of leadership role. What we do know is that they were workers in the church in some capacity because of Paul’s comments and his desire that they find unity in their relationship.
Paul leans on a Greek philosophy of wisdom that he then baptizes in his letter to the church in Philippi. This wisdom is called “phronesis.” When we think of wisdom, we think of knowledge that comes from book study or we think of knowledge that comes from technical work, or regular practice. “Phronesis” is a different kind of wisdom that is heavily practical and comes through both books smarts and practice. This is the word that Paul uses in Phil 2:1-11, when he calls believers to be “like-minded” in Christ and in v. 5 to have the same mindset of Christ Jesus. This mindset isn’t just a different way of thinking about the world. This “mindset” is a combination of knowing scripture as well as practicing the way of Christ in your life every day. “Phronesis” in this sense is developed as you walk in the way of Christ. You begin to develop the wisdom of Christ and it is then shown in your actions.
With this conflict between these two church leaders in mind, read all of Philippians and see how Paul is using this concept of “having the same mind of Christ” to address these women. Paul points to others as examples of Christ-likeness as well. See how he develops his letter to then bring these two women to the point of confronting their disagreement. How would developing this kind of wisdom help you develop your relationships within the church? How would you think differently about those you don’t naturally connect with? How does Phil 4:8 apply to how you approach conflict with others? How would applying this verse to your relationships change the way you love others?
As we grow in how we love God, we have to connect with God through relationship with others. Relationships are messy. Genuine relationships with people you wouldn’t naturally spend time with often takes grace that only comes from God. Choosing to be in relationship with others takes many small decisions that shape a new life of love for others. Grace and peace be with you this week as you pray for guidance on how you might expand your relationship with others at Queen City.