“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2)
Yesterday, I wrote 8 rules for constructive conflict and today I want to build on that quite practical guidance with a theology of conflict resolution from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. There were two women at war in that church and I believe the Apostle Paul wrote the entire epistle to the Philippians to show them how knowing Christ teaches us to deal with conflict. Here’s a summary of the letter and a theology of conflict resolution:
1.1 Paul addresses all the saints, including the arguing Euodia and Syntyche. In situations of conflict we ought to address all believers.
1.2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. If God has been gracious to me and made peace, then I am obligued to be gracious and make peace too.
1.3 Thank God in prayer for all believers. Paul builds on the inclusive prayer for all believers.
1.5 You are gospel partners – you are on the same team with the same goal, think about how this affects the way you view one another.
1.6 God began a good work and will complete it – take the long-term view, don’t worry about the short-term.
1.9 May love abound more and more. This is an obvious prayer but hard to put into practice.
1.11 May you be filled with the fruit of righteousness to the glory of God – ditto
1.12-26 Paul’s imprisonment advances the gospel – the gospel comes first. Paul’s rights or desire to be justified or even to save his life are all subordinate to the advance of the gospel. The church must learn from his example, not to seek our own rights when wronged above the advance of the gospel.
1:27-30 Contend with one spirit to live lives worthy of the gospel, fight side by side for the gospel (this is gospel partnership)
2:1-2 look for glimpses of gospel encouragement in each other
2:3-4 don’t be rivals
2:5-11 live like Christ
2:12-18 work out your salvation with fear
2:19-30 look out for the interests of others
3:1-11 everything is rubbish compared to knowing Christ by faith (so don’t argue over justification by the law)
3:12-16 forget what is behind, press on toward the goal (don’t keep dragging up the past, there’s work to be done)
3:17-4:1 have a heavenly focus, not earthly, and so stand firm.
4:2 Church elders must help the warring parties
4:4 Rejoice it the Lord – shift your focus from the issue over which you are fighting, stop being preoccupied with the other person, and focus on Jesus with joy in your heart
4:5 Be gentle (Proverbs 15:1)
4:6 Don’t be anxious but pray
4:8 Focus on anything good in the other person
Then God’s peace will reign (4:7 and 4:9)