“How to Heal Disharmony”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.1-3
Philippians 4. Christians have turned the process of a church split into something of a recipe.
Needed: 1 church full of the usual combative personalities and power grabbers. For best results, ensure that the pastor shall have been at this church for no more than 5 years having replaced the former pastor who had been there since dirt and was greatly feared and revered by all as the Final Authority.
– Begin by placing a church building project in a large container and letting it sit for approximately 3 years while berating the membership for more funds.
– Take one power-hungry music director and stir well. (If possible select a freshly picked music director who has dreams of being a travelling evangelist and who’s wife also plays the piano .)
– Blend in a scandal at the Christian school involving a grandchild of one of the members in good standing who’s offerings provide no less than 25% of the church’s annual budget. Be sure to fire at least one teacher who was well liked by no less than three fifths of the congregation without bothering to tell anybody why.
– Divide the congregants into two heaps each aligned with a faction wherein both sides may accuse the other of gross heresies, such as being closet Calvinists, believing in soul sleep, or skipping Wednesday night church to go bowling in an establishment of ill repute wherein is played honky tonk music.
– Season to taste with secret business meetings, dirty tricks, parking lot confrontations, and votes of no confidence. If a zestier flavor is desired, add a handful of lawyers.
– Take whatever part of the church that shall separate from the body and place it in a new church building no more than three miles from the old church and called it Grace Baptist Church, being sure to appreciate the irony in the name.
As funny and clever as this may be, church splits are sad! Disharmony is a common theme in the New Testament and, unfortunately, in many churches.
And disharmony is the subject of the 3 verses we’re approaching today.
Philippians 4:1–3 1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 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.
I’d like to handle this passage a little differently this morning. First, we’ll see 4 principles of disharmony. Second, we’ll how to deal with disharmony, and third avoiding disharmony.
Principles, how to deal with it, and avoiding disharmony. I’m preaching this morning on “How to heal disharmony.”
TRANS: First, principles of disharmony.
Principles of disharmony
Disharmony can happen in a good church
First, disharmony can happen in a good church. By disharmony I mean some sort of lack of a spirit of unity, some discord or strife, hostility or friction between Christians.
That can happen in a good church. Paul loves these people in Philippi. Back in Philippians 1:3-8, remember what he said to them…
Philippians 1:3–8 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Also remember it is the Philippians who gave Paul a gift, for which Paul was thankful.
Based on Paul’s assessment of these people and his affection for them and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be major issues like say the Corinthian church, we can assume this is a good church.
TRANS: But Euodia and Syntyche are two ladies in this church who aren’t getting along! They are not “of the same mind” nor “intent on one purpose.” They are at odds with each other, they are not unified not in harmony.
Temptation to lack harmony happen to godly people
So our second principle of disharmony is that these situations can happen to godly people. Many a preacher have called these women Odious and Soontouchy.
But the truth is, these women are godly ladies. Paul says in verse 3 that these women “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.” We don’t know anything about these people, other than they served with Paul in some way and their names are in the book of life. They are Christians! They are serving Christians.
GOSPEL: They spread the message that Jesus is God who worked miracles that He lived the perfect life and died a redemptive death and was raised again the third day. And they appealed to people to repent and trust in Christ and they themselves have abundant fruit in their life that they are followers of Christ. They are Christians!
And they shared Paul’s struggle in the gospel! They preached it! But these women were very likely determined individuals, also. They probably had a tenacity about them. And when you get two strong personalities together and they disagree, what can happen is conflict, strife, dissension and a lack of harmony.
TRANS: So the temptation to disharmony can happen between godly people.
It’s a violation of picture of the church: a body
But strife and disharmony between God’s people is a violation of His church. So third, strife and disharmony is a violation of His church.
God’s people are pictured as the body of Christ in 1 Co. 12. A body is a picture of unity in diversity. It is a picture of very different individuals working together for a common cause. There is a unity of mind and purpose.
Our purpose is to spread the gospel of Christ and to make disciples. When there is disunity and strife and when Christians bear grudges against each other, there is a violation of the picture of the church as a body.
ILL: Why would the hand in my body get upset with my elbow? They need to work that out or we’re not going to accomplish our goal as a body.
Just like a body, the Philippian church was diverse. Acts 16 tells us there was Lydia of Jewish background and the Roman jailer with a military background and perhaps the slave girl with a background in the occult. Different types of backgrounds can be a challenge to a church. But when disharmony occurs, it is a violation of the picture of His church as a unified body of diverse parts working together.
Disunity damages the health of the church
Fourth, disharmony damages the health of the church.
You remember in the book of Acts in chapter 4 Satan attempted persecution. When that didn’t work, Annias and Sapharia lied to the church, and then in Acts 6 there was the issue with the widows being overlooked in the daily serving of food. You could maybe hear the bickering from that!
“But Peter didn’t come and give food to my mom! I can’t believe that Peter!”
No bickering and contention! That damages the health of the church. That doesn’t mean you can’t request help or bring forth your ideas, but let’s be unified and harmonious about it! “I’ve noticed a problem in the daily serving of the widows, can I help?”
The Lord hates sowing discord or the spreading of strife, the stirring up of dissension…He hates it Pro. 6:19 says. After a first and a second admonition, reject the divisive man, Paul says Titus. 3:10. Disharmony and disunity is not tolerated in the church. If you bring that kind of a spirit in the church, it will be dealt with decisively!
If Euodia and Syntyche didn’t become unified and harmonious after proper encouragements to do so, further disciplinary action would have taken place.
TRANS: The principles of disharmony…
1. Disharmony can happen in a good church
2. Disharmony can happen between godly people
3. Disharmony is a violation of the picture of the church as the body of Christ
4. Disharmony damages the health of the church.
Now, how to deal with disharmony in the church…
How to deal with disharmony
First, deal with disharmony lovingly. Verse 1 is a pastoral set up to discuss the issue in verses 2-3.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
And then Paul brings up the issue in verses two and three. So, in verse 1 before he brings up the issue he needs to discuss, he’s reminding them that he deeply cares for them.
He loves them dearly. He says “my beloved” at the beginning of verse one and also at the end of verse one. He loved them dearly.
He also had a family mindset when dealing with their disunity. He called them “brethren.”
He also longed for them… He says, “I long to see you.” He rejoices over them. The Philippian church is his joy. And as well he gloried in them, they are his crown. He is proud of their faith and their progress in it.
Some of these people shared in the struggle for the gospel. So clearly he is not scolding them when he deals with the issue. But he is expressing his appreciation for them.
He’s taking his own advice in Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.
It would have been very easy for Paul to be upset with them simply because they have caused him a problem. But he does not take that stance.
No matter what the cause, no matter what the issue, to restore someone is going to take a loving mindset. You must first work on loving the person who is at fault and then seek to restore them. If you don’t have this mindset first, then you’ll flop the attempt at restoring unity.
Galatians 6:1 1 … restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
You can be tempted in a situation like that to get upset, to join in the fight, or generally not be the calming influence on those who are at odds.
TRANS: So, first to properly deal with disharmony, you must deal with those involved lovingly.
Deal repeatedly, with increasing specificity
But second, you must deal with it repeatedly with increasing specificity. Paul is here very specific about the Philippian church’s need for harmony. But he already mentioned this in general terms in this letter. First general, then specific if speaking general doesn’t work. Turn back to …
Philippians 1:26–27 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
That was the problem, they didn’t have one mind, or a striving together. As this letter was first read to the congregation, you could probably have heard the thoughts under people’s breath and seen the eyes go over toward Euodia and Synteche.
Also in …
Philippians 2:1–4 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Again as this was read in the assembly, people would have been thinking of these two women. Paul is speaking first in general terms, and he’s repeating the same counsel. They need to have the same mind, united, one purpose, nothing from selfishness.
Paul was not being very specific in these verses but now in chapter 4 he increases his specificity. He’s more specific to the point.
Sometimes when people are not unified or they can be a cause of dissension in the church, first deal with them in general terms to see if it fixes the problem. You may just have to deal with it in general terms.
But then put the heat on more if the point is not taken. Keeping in mind gentleness throughout. In some of these cases of disharmony you’ll have to deal with people repeatedly and with increasing specificity.
TRANS: To heal disharmony, deal with those involved lovingly, second deal with them repeatedly with increasing specificity, and now thirdly deal with them without bias.
deal with it without bias
Notice how Paul puts it in Philippians 4:2, “I urge Euodia and I urge Synteche.”
He repeats the verb both times. Paul is not preferring one lady over the other. “I urge Euodia and I urge Synteche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
Paul is not taking sides in the matter. And so now neither of those two ladies could walk away and say, “Paul seemed to be on my side.”
So dealing with those individuals who are not in harmony and to do so without bias means don’t take sides, but to deal with the real issue: they are not harmonious.
Without bias also means that Paul did not give his judgment on the case. Paul does not even give us the details to the case nor does he give his judgment on the matter. The issue is not who is right and who is wrong then; but how the disagreement is handled. Do they have harmony in the disagreement? If not, they are both at fault.
What the two ladies are arguing over doesn’t actually matter; it’s their spirit about how they handle the problem … that’s the real problem!
There is contention here… and only by pride comes contention, Proverbs 13:10. So it’s not who’s right and who’s wrong… it’s how you handle the problem. You can be so right that you’re dead wrong!
Because most times what is being argued about is not scriptural.
ILL: I have here a real list of real church squabbles. One church leader did an online survey through Twitter and people kept telling their stories.
Here’s one: one church had an argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard.
A deacon accusing another deacon of sending an anonymous letter, and deciding to settle the matter in the parking lot.
Whether the clock in the sanctuary should be removed, what type of filing cabinet to purchase, an argument over what type of green beans the church should serve, what type of coffee is served and how strong it should be, whether the church should allow deviled eggs (as long as it’s balance with angel food cake, I suppose), or whether to call the meal after church a “potluck” or “pot blessing” (good luck resolving that one)…
Those were real issues by real churches!
There is a way to handle those disagreements: harmoniously. Live harmoniously in the Lord.
When those kinds of things are argued about, it is the argument itself that is the issue. And to restore people back to fellowship and harmony is going to take dealing with these people lovingly, repeatedly with increasing intensity, and without bias, not taking sides, lest you get caught up in the temptation to fight over deviled eggs!
There is nothing that you could fight over with someone that is as important as the fact that you are fighting! The fighting is the issue, not the thing disagreed with. Unless you’re a Martin Luther and standing up for the truth of the gospel in face of opposition, there’s not much else to fight over. But deviled eggs and the infamous sanctuary carpet colour or what we call the week of Bible time for the kids this summer…
btw, we have had harmony in our disagreements about our Summer Bible camp this year; I’m very thankful for that! We’ve worked them out harmoniously, which is great! We’ve had disagreements about the details of the building we’re in, but we remained harmonious through it all.
APP: Now, let’s deal with the home for a moment. Often there can be issues between members of your own family … over money, free time, or house work, … whatever it is, live harmoniously.
If something hurt you, and you need to address it, be unified with the person, not contentious with them. Recognize what the conflict is. It might be some repetitive behavior.
But oftentimes you should be able to overlook this issue because “love covers a multitude of sins” and you won’t have to address it because it really isn’t that big of a deal.
But if you do have to address it, because of some hurt that you can’t get over, be sure to understand what happened and what the problem is.
And then address the conflict with the person. You want to present the issue factually not emotionally. Try to understand the issue from their angle. And don’t justify yourself, remove the log that is in your eye before picking at the spec in your brother’s eye.
And then you’ll both want to confess sin, you want to forgive each other and make sure that when you leave the conversation you are harmonious.
TRANS: But in the church, we need to know how to heal disharmony. What do we do when people are not in harmony with each other in the church? You deal with them lovingly, repeatedly with increasing intensity and specificity, without bias… Meaning don’t pronounce your judgment on the case and don’t take sides in the matter… And lastly with issues of disharmony in the church deal with them first privately them publicly.
deal with it privately then publicly
First you deal with a privately. If your brother sins, Matthew 18 says, “go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have one your brother.” First, privately.
But in the case of Euodia and Synteche, they could not resolve it privately. Paul has caught wind of this issue 800 miles away while in prison. Epaphroditus, who sent this letter, probably told Paul about how the church couldn’t or wasn’t dealing with the problem. So Paul deals with it publicly. When Paul writes the letter, he fully expects that the letter will be read it before the congregation.
Colossians 4:16 …speaking of Paul’s letter to the Colossians…Paul writes, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.
Colossians was read publicly; it is likely the same thing with the Philippians.
Certainly as this was read in the church, people paid attention! Could you imagine a church full of people and your name and her name being mentioned in the letter by the apostle Paul?
All eyes would have been on these women as it was read!
Certainly Paul did not seek to embarrass them; he did express his appreciation for their ministry. But he also exhorted them: live harmoniously! And he did it publicly
through the letter he wrote and delivered by Epaphroditus.
And sometimes you have to get other Christians involved! He calls upon this unknown individual in Philippians 4:3 …the “true companion” to help these women… And he’s calling upon Clement to do the same as well as the other fellow workers.
So disharmony in the local church is everyone’s business. We do…we actually do stick our noses in that kind of business because it is our business… And we are our brother’s keeper. Disharmony distracts from the gospel, which is our business.
TRANS: And that brings us to the healing balm for, the solution to, and the prevention of disharmony and that is live in harmony in the Lord.
Avoiding disunity: live in harmony in the Lord
Philippians 4:2 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
Literally, to think the same thing. It is an expression of unity and harmony. It’s used that way in …
Romans 12:16 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Romans 15:5 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
2 Corinthians 13:11 11 Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Philippians 2:2 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
You can hear the unity focus in those verses.
ILL: But we’re a diverse bunch. It’s like harmony in an orchestra. We all play different instruments in the orchestra but we all contribute to the greater good of glorifying God in the gospel and making disciples. We play different instruments sort of speak and play different notes, but by the grace of God He’s making our assembly beautiful in eyes of those who look on, as we grow and contribute to His cause.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.1-3
So, are you bickering with someone, in your family, church, or this community? Are you holding a grudge? Resolve it as we’ve described this morning and be in harmony with them again.
One of Aesop’s fables goes this way…A FATHER had a family of sons who were constantly fighting among themselves. When he failed to heal their arguments by his words, he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do break the group of sticks together. He next opened the bundle, and took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into their hands. They broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle of sticks, whole and strong against any and all attempts by your enemies to break you; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.
Blest be the tie that binds #219. READ FIRST STANZA. If we are unified and continue to have sweet fellowship and unity, our hearts are bound, strengthened, and empowered against the enemy: the world, our flesh, and the devil.