I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. – Philippians 4:2-3
Sometimes even profoundly dedicated Jesus-followers need help. That was the case with Euodia and Syntyche. They needed help to be able to “agree in the Lord.” These ladies were not some wall-flowers in the background. They labored by Paul’s side along with Clement and “the rest of my fellow workers.”
This “agreeing in the Lord” is a theme that runs through the letter to the Philippians. Even though this was a joyful church and the first church in Macedonia to partner with Paul regarding financial support, they had a problem. They had a bit of arrogance in their ranks. Paul first addressed this issue in Philippians 2:1-4
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Being “of the same mind” is the same phrase in Greek as “agree” in the Lord. The “same mind” Paul was after in this text is a mind of humility as demonstrated in Christ becoming a human being and dying on a cross. He became a servant, and that is the “mind” we should have.
I know most Jesus-followers don’t think they are perfect, but some do have an attitude of superiority. Another word for perfect is mature. Paul addressed the proper attitude for a mature or perfect believer.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. – Philippians 3:12-16
The word translated here as “think” is the same Greek word we have been noting above. Mature believers are to think a certain way and Paul, in his inimitable gutsy way, makes it clear that if you think otherwise, God will make it clear to you. So, how is it that Paul says we are to think if we are mature? The mature believer keeps his eyes on Jesus and the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, not on the earthly issues that add to our problems.
So, when Paul exhorts Euodia and Syntyche that they “agree in the Lord,” the context of the letter would indicate that he is saying, “walk in humility and keep focused on Jesus and the ultimate prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
What does that say to us? When we have a doctrinal difference with fellow Jesus-followers (assuming we are not talking about apostasy) we are to be of the same mind with them, that is, maintain humility and keep focused on Jesus and his upward call rather than on your differences with a brother or sister in the Lord.
Why humility? There are a couple of practical reasons besides that fact that humility is the example presented to us in Jesus.
- It is entirely possible that you will one day conclude that you were wrong and your brother or sister held to the more appropriate doctrinal position. If so, it will be much easier to admit it and walk in the truth if you haven’t been arrogant about your position but been respectful of a position with which you presently disagree.
- Assuming you are correct and hold the most appropriate doctrinal position, don’t you think it will be much easier for your brother or sister with whom you disagree to listen to what you have to say if you speak with respect for their position and hold your own position with humility?
Euodia and Syntyche have a lesson for us that will aid in the unity of the body of Christ both in our local congregations and in the body of Christ at large. Maintain humility and keep your focus on Jesus and his upward call of God in Christ Jesus.