2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. (Phil. 4:2-3)
Throughout Paul’s epistle to the Philippians there are a number of references concerning the need for, and importance of, unity. In the opening chapter he charged them to strive together for the faith of the Gospel (1:27), and in the opening verses of the following chapter he called them to make his joy complete by being of the same mind (2:2), and to do nothing out selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind to esteem one another better than themselves (vs.3-4). So, although the Philippians were in many ways a model church, between the exhortations for unity and humility, one could ‘read between the lines’ and suppose that there was some issue that Paul was confronting. Well, such a supposition is confirmed in the second verse of chapter four. There we see what was, at least, the primary interpersonal issue that Paul had on his heart. He wrote, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”
Can you imagine what it felt like for Euodia and Syntyche to hear that?
Most likely this epistle was read publicly to the church at Philippi and, most likely, Euodia and Syntyche were among those sitting and listening. You could imagine them agreeing and affirming what was being read for the first three chapters, and then after hearing an exhortation to stand fast in the Lord (Phil. 4:1), their hearts were likely pierced as they heard their own names called out and read aloud! That, along with the fact that Paul implored them, i.e. beseeched and exhorted them, I think, speaks to how important it was that their issue be resolved.
Now, Paul didn’t elaborate upon the issue these two women had. Nor did he give any specific instructions regarding their specific dilemma outside of the charge to be “of the same mind in the Lord” (vs.2b). If this had been a matter of doctrinal deviation we would have clearly expected Paul to have taken a side and made the matter plain. After all, he’s done that many times before – take Galatians for instance. This conflict appears to have been some kind of personal, opinion-driven disagreement. And note – this kind of thing can happen even among God honoring, Christ following Christians. Euodia and Syntyche weren’t described as spiritual slouches. Paul called them “women who labored with him in the Gospel”, and he considered them “fellow workers, whose names are the Book of Life” (vs.3). Those are indeed noteworthy credentials and descriptions. These women were not only Paul’s co-laborers, but he also had a great assurance of their salvation!
And even so, despite the godly resume of these women, if their issue was left unattended, the division could have spread and caused greater strife among the church. Seeing the situation as dire, Paul called out both women and essentially said: “Work it out”, “Come to a consensus”, “Think about what Christ thinks about your situation and how you ought to obey Him!”
And he didn’t expect for them to work it out alone…
He charged a man by the name of Clement, and a person who he refers to as Suzugos (Gr.σύζυγος) which means “yoke fellow”, i.e. one of Paul’s trusted ministerial colleagues there in Philippi, to help these women (vs.3). You may ask – to help them do what? Well, to do what he charged them to do – to be of the same mind in the Lord (Phil. 4:2b). In other words, to help them be reconciled to one another and be instruments of God’s peace within the church.
This is an important responsibility and a high privilege. According to Proverbs 6, one of the things that God hates is when someone sows strife among brethren (Prov. 6:9). Taking that into consideration, how much do you think God loves when His people ‘plow for peace’ among their brethren and try to remove, not enflame, seeds of discord? As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt. 5:9), and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Psalmist calls us to behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps 133:1).
Therefore, may we be exhorted today to play the role of Clement and the person we’ll identify as – Suzugos, pursuing peace among believers that God loves and cherishes. And should you find yourself in a position like Euodia and Syntyche, may you hear the word of the Lord likewise imploring you to be of the same mind in the Lord.