Naming Euodia and Syntyche is not because they are the bad ones, who need singling out above others who are not getting on. Naming them (strangely to us), is evidence of their friendship with Paul, because as Gordon Fee writes, one of the marks of enmity in these kinds of ancient letters is that enemies are left unnamed and thus denigrated by anonymity.
They are long term friends and co-workers for the gospel. He wants them to agree and do so without taking sides. He wants someone to help them get on.
Conflict is inevitable when people are put together. In fact if we don’t ever disagree we don’t know each other deeply enough to have found disagreement! But conflict needs handling well and in multicultural settings that is not easy. The English are reserved, the Dutch are blunt, Filipinos don’t like to confront directly – and I’m sorry if I have insulted other nations by not mentioning them, or by mentioning them. Forgive me, I love you all! Biblical kingdom culture transcends earthly culture. Jesus taught, in Matthew 5 and 18 that where offence has been caused, whoever realises first must go to bring reconciliation. Sometimes that doesn’t work as well as we had hoped and we need to invite someone else to help – as has happened here.
I read recently that one of the best things to do is respond one better, relationally, to an approach – if it was by email, ring back; if it was a phone call, pop round; if it was face to face, take them for a coffee; if it was at coffee, go for lunch! Doing that is showing how much we value the friendship, as actually we see here in Paul’s culture, naming Euodia & Syntyche was valuing them as friends not enemies.
Most of the rest of the passage deals with another big issue in many people’s lives – anxiety. I’ve been watching Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies”, the story of the lawyer who defended a Russian spy in 50’s America, then negotiated the prisoner exchange of Gary Powers, the US pilot shot down over Russia. In the film, there’s an oft repeated line by the Russian spy – “Would it help?”. When asked if he was worried, he replies “Would it help?”!
Worry doesn’t help – it just robs today of joy by bring tomorrow’s portion of trouble into today!
Paul has an antidote…
Rejoice in the Lord – one of our dear folks who struggles with mental health issues finds the only thing that helps is worship music. Anchor your joy in Jesus. Listen to worship, sing in tongues, pray, enjoy the presence of God.
Be reasonable – it’s hard to think when you are tired and under pressure. Remember to make some space to think before snapping back. Be reasonable.
The Lord is at hand – God is right there with you by His Spirit. Acknowledge His presence continually!
Choose not to worry – Paul commands us not to be anxious. Choose to not worry. Choose to trust God.
Pray and give thanks – Keep praying and keep listing things to be thankful for. Work on being thankful in everything and with everyone. Make it a habit. Thank you!
Rest in peace – God gives us a supernatural peace that transcends all understanding.
Think about the right things – It’s all too easy to dwell on things you are worrying about. Paul urges us to replace those thoughts with things that are helpful to think about – true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy things. Replace those bad thoughts with good ones.
Are you worried?… Would it help?