Euodia and Syntche: Co-workers in Christ

Paul wrote  two intriguing sentences about Euodia and Syntche: " I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3 NIV)

Who were these women? In what way did they labor alongside Paul and Clement on behalf of the Gospel? What disagreement caused this estrangement between these coworkers that was so great that Paul (in a  letter intended to be read in public) urged them to reconcile and requested someone to act as mediator?
Those who could answer these questions are long dead. 

Yet we can learn the importance of restoring broken relationships from this inspired letter to the Church at Philippi. Their quarrel had most likely begun to affect the rest of the congregation and the effectiveness of their service to God in spreading the Gospel. Whenever two influential individuals refuse to come to an agreement, others in their group begin to take sides which results in more broken relationships and even a divided congregation. 

Since Paul brought this matter to the whole church, this problem had grown beyond the possibility of a private reconciliation. He didn't take either side; instead, he suggested someone, who knew and cared for both women, should help them resolve this dispute. 

It isn't necessary to go beyond the contents of this letter to learn how to restore our own frayed or broken relationships. Paul began his letter with thanksgiving to God for each member of the Philippian Church. It is impossible to sincerely thank God for a person and at the same time consider her to be worthless. He goes on to state his prayer for love to increase among them. How? Through Jesus Christ. Why? To glorify and praise God.  When we focus our motivation towards pleasing God and living in union with His Son, then our disputes take on a different perspective. God loved us first while we were still unrepentant. We also must take the initiative to restore our broken relationships, loving others even if they don't reciprocate.

He goes on to say that preaching Christ is more important than where, how, or even why He is being preached. Since this is true, what possible value can there be in continuing a disagreement about where, how, or why? Paul and Barnabas settled their dispute by carrying on separate ministries, but they did not destroy their relationship over it. (See Acts 15:36-41; I Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10.)

He exhorts the congregation to behave "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." The Good News is about reconciliation. We must live it, not just talk it. We must not waste our energies and resources quarreling with others who are also in  Christ. Paul urges them, and us, to stand together in the faith of the gospel. 

Jesus set us an example of humility, of willingness to suffer, of considering you and I worth suffering for and redeeming. He lived out the admonition, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Too often our conflicts are rooted in a competitive spirit. The attitude we ought to have is a desire to bring out the best in others while honoring them for their love and service toward God. Paul reminds us that our job is to "hold out the word of life." We do that best by resolving our conflicts and forbearing our differences. While conflict may arise, it must be resolved not just suppressed.

Peace with God, peace between Euodia and Syntche, and peace in our relationships result when
we rejoice in our relationship with God and our Lord, 
maintain an eager anticipation of his return, 
maintain gratitude toward God and each other, 
and request God's help in restoring and maintaining our relationships. 

I like to imagine that Euodia and Syntche were moved by this letter to have compassion for each other, forgive each other, and allow the grace of the Lord Jesus to restore their relationship.

Scarlett Stough

For the scripture reference list and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: A Lesson in Reconciliation