Just as God uses Moses and the psalmist to bring the people of God back to their senses, God uses Paul to effect reconciliation in the Philippian church. We do not know for sure whether Euodia and Syntyche restore their relationship, but we can see the basis Paul uses for exhorting them to do so. His twofold appeal can be useful today when fellow Christians need to be reconciled.
First, Paul counsels the believers to work for emotional stability. He commends a renewal of gladness and gentleness and an elimination of anxiety brought about through earnest prayer. He knows that very little is changed when we live in the whirlwind of negativity. We don’t think straight. We don’t respond well when we are engulfed by deformative feelings. Paul points to the big Bible word peace as the goal for which to aim in reconciliation.
Second, he exhorts the Christians at Philippi to seek edifying soundness. He tells them to think of things that are excellent and admirable. Often, reconciliation occurs not by coming to complete agreement but by deciding that the things that unite us are more important than those that divide us. We come together along the lines of common commitments. Paul names good places for common ground: truth, holiness, justice, purity, loveliness—“all that is worthy of praise.” When we get it wrong through disagreements, we are often reunited through our core convictions and common pursuits.
God, give me the will to share in fellowship with other believers, not on the basis of uniformity but on the basis of unity. Teach me the difference between agreeing on things and being in agreement about the things that matter more than disagreements. Amen.
The texts this week remind us of how quickly we can turn away from God. Even while Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments—the first of which is not to worship any other gods—the people fashion an idol and begin to worship it. The psalmist refers to this story as evidence of how often the Israelites have gone astray, and yet God repeatedly has restored them. The parable in Matthew speaks of many who are invited to a banquet, yet they reject the invitation of the king. It is often read as a warning about turning our backs on God’s gracious invitation. Paul encourages the Philippians to seek God with confidence in difficult situations and to focus their thoughts in ways that lead them closer to God.
Read Exodus 32:1-14. When have you or your faith community gotten it wrong? When have you interceded with God on others’ behalf?
Read Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23. How has forgetting that you can be wrong hurt you or your faith community? How has admitting that you were wrong strengthened you or your faith community?
Read Philippians 4:1-9. What issue or conflict has divided your faith community? How might Paul’s urging to “be of the same mind in the Lord” help you work toward peace?
Read Matthew 22:1-14. What work might you need to do to open your heart so you can resolve a conflict?
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