Agree in the Lord
One of the most important things to maintain, yet one of the hardest, is peace with others. From the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night we have many opportunities to either be a peacemaker or a peace-taker. What we decide depends on our relationship with God. We are to extend peace to others because Christ “himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). Yet even as believers, being a peacemaker isn’t always easy, even with those in the church. Thankfully, Philippians 4:1-9 teaches us what to do when we’re not getting along with another believer.
Peace With Others
Chained to a Roman guard in Rome under house arrest, Paul writes to the Philippians, who are suffering at the hands of those who don’t like the Jesus they proclaim, as well as suffering from disunity within the church. In light of such circumstances, Paul exhorts them to “stand firm…in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1). In other words, they must recognize Christ is their righteousness, remember the gospel of peace, look to Jesus with eyes of faith, recall their spiritual blessings, and pray continually (Eph. 6:10-18).
Sadly, there were two women in the congregation that were not getting along. Euodia and Syntyche had labored side by side with Paul and other believers in gospel ministry and loved the Lord, but they were having a hard time loving one another (Phil. 4:2-3). So Paul, their spiritual father, exhorted them to stand firm together for the gospel of Christ. He lovingly entreated these two sisters “to agree in the Lord” (v. 2). In other words, they must be of the same mind and have the same love (2:2). They must put away rivalry and conceit, and in humility think of others as more significant than themselves (v. 3). They must look to the interests of others (v. 4). And they must have the mind of Christ (vv. 5-11). Evidently Euodia and Syntyche weren’t able to work things out without help. So Paul asked one of his companions to help these women agree in the Lord. It is a blessing when someone helps us, or when we’re able to help others, maintain peace for the sake of Christ and His gospel.
The Bible says it is “good and pleasant…when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1). So if you are living in discord with a fellow believer today, it is not good. Anytime there is friction with fellow believers, we must strive by God’s grace to agree in the Lord. Our witness for the gospel of peace is at stake.
Peace With God
The health of our relationship with others is dependent upon the health of our relationship with God. Paul grounds biblical peacemaking with others in the God of peace (Phil. 4:4-9). When our peace with God, or our peace with others is threatened, we first must “rejoice in the Lord always” (v. 4). As we praise the Lord, we will be able to put the disagreements in relationships in their proper perspective and not be ensnared by them.
Second, in the midst of conflict “let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (Phil. 4:5). In other words, we must look to Christ, who is “gentle and lowly in heart” and find our rest in Him (Matt. 11:28-30). Only then can we extend gentleness to others.
Third, we must recognize that “the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5). We are to show the compassion and mercy of our Lord and Savior to all people, understanding that the Lord is near. He is with us now in our relational difficulties, and He is coming again to make all things new. Remember, the brother or sister that you are in disagreement with now is one with whom you will be worshiping the Lamb for all eternity.
Fourth, in every situation we must pray to God (Phil. 4:6). As we talk with Him about our relational difficulties we must not grumble against Him, or question His plan for our lives in anger. Instead, we must practice thanksgiving. Begin by thanking Him for who He is and for all that He has done for you and your loved ones. Also, practice honesty as you pray. Confess your sins. And bring specific requests before Him. When we do these things (rejoice in the Lord, rest in Christ’s gentleness, remember the Lord is near, and run to Him in prayer) something supernatural happens. The peace of God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (v. 7).
Fifth, to be peacemakers we must meditate upon whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). Our behavior flows from our belief. Instead of mulling over what someone else has said to you or done to you (a sure way to be a peace-taker), take your thoughts captive to Christ so you can be a peacemaker.
Finally, we must practice what we have learned, received, heard and seen in our spiritual leaders (Phil. 4:9). Our spiritual mentors have learned many things over a lifetime of walking with the Lord. What they have taught us formally or informally, how they have counseled us, and what they have shown us in their walk with the Lord, are things that we should put into practice. The God of peace that has proven faithful to them will also prove faithful to you and me.
It is likely that at some point today we will have to decide if we are going to be a peacemaker or a peace-taker. If we are to be peacemakers, we must rejoice in the Lord, rest in Christ’s gentleness, remember He is near, run to Him in prayer, recall the right things, and regard our spiritual leaders. Only then can we labor side by side in the gospel together, looking to the God of peace.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.