In A Word….Conflicts

The Porcupine story — Part 2

by: Mike Stokes


I have been using the analogy of two porcupines trying to get warm by huddling together, but their quills kept jabbing one another: to conflicts between Christians. In the first article we discovered the source of conflicts by analyzing (James 4:1-2), and learned they come from raw selfishness. Now we will peer into a personal conflict in the early church at Philippi. Before addressing the specific conflict Paul calls for a return to a fundamental principle that defuses disharmony:

(Philippians 4:1), here is the “stand fast principle” which he uses many times in his writings. Note here, he uses five terms of loving affection coupled together. Why did he continually repeat this concept? Because it is a fundamental principle in maintaining harmony; standing firm in the Lord precede relating well in Gods family. Standing firm in the Lord means: Following Christ’s teachings, respecting his word, modeling his priorities, and carrying out his will. Imagine what would happen if believers committed themselves to these goals, how many problems would unscramble, there would be little difficulty with disharmony.

Now Paul moves from the principle to the people, he actually names two people whose conflict was well known, this conflict reached Paul’s ears in Rome. (v2); “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” From this brief sentence we can make five observations: (1) These are two women in the church (verse 3), also the names are feminine; (2) They are mentioned no where else in scripture; (3) Details of their dispute is not revealed; (4) Paul’s counsel is to urge them to harmony, “I beseech” (urge); (5) He appeals to their hearts.

Note what he did not write to them: He does not spell-out a step by step process, he does not take charge by telling them what to do, he didn’t say they were acting like children, he doesn’t threaten them (get this settled or else). He graciously allows them the dignity of working it out. Also note, his deep sense of concern; twice he uses “beseech” suggesting both women were at fault. Occasionally disputes are so deep and long standing it takes a third party, apparently he thought this was such a case, so he ask a close friend (yokefellow) to act as arbitrator. He also mentions others by name and some unnamed; apparently all these people had worked together at some time. Let’s not be to severe with Sisters Euodias and Syntyche, they needed each other but they kept needling each other, like we do sometimes.

What lessons can we glean from this: Disputes will continue to occur, so long as raw selfishness of our nature rages war, there is no such thing as a conflict free family; not all conflicts are wrong, not all disagreements call for reconciliation, when the issue is fundamental truth, not personal taste or personalities; If a dispute should be resolved and is not, then stubbornness and selfishness are at the core. Should you be the unnamed yokefellow needed to assist in reconciliation remember: the ultimate goal is restoration, not discipline; the right attitude grace, not force.

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