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Thieves of joy E-mail
Opinion
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 07:26

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MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron



You may have heard the one about a guy rescued after a very long time alone on a desert island. Before leaving on their ship, he took the sailors on a little tour of his habitat. “Here are my living quarters, my garden, and I even built a small church where I worship regularly.” “Very nice,” they replied, “but what is this building?” “Oh, that’s the church I used to attend,” was his answer. 

Conflict can occur in all settings – homes, neighborhoods, the workplace, among nations, and even among spiritual people. Near the end of his joy themed letter, which for the most part had been positive, the apostle Paul addressed tensions in the Philippian church. Other places in the Bible speak to conflict, as in Proverbs where it is a major theme, and often during Jesus’ ministry. If not dealt with decisively, conflict can steal joy from everyone involved. 

A snapshot, a moment in time describing what happened in this early church, is found in Philippians 4:1-3. For three chapters Paul had written about how to be faithful and strong. But now seeing his subject change in the last chapter, we can look back and catch hints throughout previous verses:  “…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind…” (Philippians 1:27); “…do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit…” (Philippians 2:3-4); “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14); “…for they all seek after their own interests” (Philippians 2:21). 

In the fourth chapter Paul began to address specifically a problem between two ladies in the church – and he named names. Euodia and Syntyche evidently were key people in the fellowship, working side by side with Paul. He began by addressing the entire group fondly, and reminded them of all they’d been through together. 

There are several things Paul did not do when dealing with the conflict. He didn’t dictate a process such as a 12-step plan, he refrained from making any threats, and (unlike some of his other letters) he didn’t display any of his own ego. However, he did express affection, he emphasized God’s grace, and yet he exhibited urgency in dealing with the problem. Enormous conflicts over the years could have been avoided had they been addressed by such a reconciler. 

Paul modeled ways each of us may help to reduce conflict in any setting. Instead of pouring fuel on the fire, he served as a peacemaker. He wrote, “I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel” (Philippians 4:2). He spoke with grace, to and about the parties involved: “…you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown…dear friends!” (4:1). He sought common ground: “...stand firm in the Lord, dear friends…agree with each other in the Lord” (4:1,2). 

The common ground uniting every believer should be each following Christ in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Coupled with that is a passage in another of Paul’s letters. “He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). 

The salvation of believers is more than deliverance from eternal punishment. The promise of living with Christ – even while still on earth - should not be marred by a snapshot in time like that of Euodia and Syntyche. Jesus told his disciples, “’A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you… By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-36). Helping resolve conflicts – even church splits like the guy on the island experienced – will stop these thieves of joy. 

 

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