Friday, September 14, 2012

How Will You Be Known?

I have been known as many things in my life.  When I was a child, I was my father's daughter.  As a teenager, I was that bushy haired girl. As a newlywed in my husband's hometown, I was his wife.  Now I am most often known as my kids' mom.  Since I want to be the best wife and mother I can, I don't let it bother me that I lose my identity somewhat in my family.  After all, there are worse things to be known as.  For instance, how would you like to be known as the troublemaker in the church?  The woman whose fight with another woman was known by the whole congregation?

Euodia and Syntyche were two such women.  In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul has a special section just for them. "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel..." (Philippians 4:2-3).  Paul's letters to churches, such as Philippians or Galatians, were usually read to the entire congregation.  Can you imagine being one of these women, listening as your name was read out for everyone to hear?  How mortifying!  But if Paul, who was in prison at the time, knew these women were fighting, then it was probably common knowledge at the very least for the local congregation. These women were not pew-warmers.  Paul said they had shared in his struggle, and that their names were in the book of life.  These were faithful women who had fallen into a trap of disharmony.

I wonder what they were arguing over.  Was it a man?  Was it their children?  Was it something silly?  I heard of similar case in a local congregation. I don't know the whole story, nor do I want to.  The part of the story that was common knowledge was more than enough for me.  One woman, we'll call her Amber, had said or done something to offend another.  We'll call her Debbie.  Later, Amber felt terrible about offending her friend and asked forgiveness.  Debbie could not forgive.  Amber tried for over a year to get forgiveness, but Debbie was resolute.  She would walk away whenever she saw Amber.  Amber even came before the whole congregation, asking for forgiveness without naming names.  Debbie and her whole family eventually ended up leaving the congregation.  It was a heartbreaking situation, and it hurt the whole church.

Are you in a disagreement with another woman in your church?  Have you ever been in one?  What is the answer?  Paul gives us the remedy.  First, live in harmony.  Paul didn't care who was at fault; he didn't assign blame.  He just told them to get along.  Does that sound easier said than done?   Don't forget the rest of the verse.  In the Lord.  Remember that with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).  Pray that you can live in harmony with your sister.  You don't even have to like her.  You just have to be at peace with her.  Ask for His help.  Second, accept help from those around you.  Paul asked his "true companion," probably a leader in the church, to help these women.  If no one has offered, and you just can't work it out on your own, ask your elders to help.  Now, I don't mean that you should tattle to your leaders.  I know that elders get tired of hearing tattling.  They know the difference between a woman who truly wants to get along with her sister and one who wants to make trouble. But they can help a sister with a genuine heart for harmony.  As our shepherds, it is their job to the lead the flock, even in awkward situations.

We don't know if Euodia and Syntyche ever made up their argument and lived in harmony.  I hope after having such a public dressing down that they did. I pray that I will resolve disagreements with my sisters before they become common knowledge.  I don't want to be known as the troublemaker.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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