Have you ever had trouble getting along with another Christian? Perhaps you found it difficult because the other person was unwilling to respond to you or because of what you suspect is a failure in yourself.
Many Christians have the same problem. In fact, even in the New Testament church at Philippi two good friends of the Apostle Paul were having similar problems.
Paul gave them some good advice, and I am sure that his advice will be helpful to you, too.
Apparently there had been trouble at Philippi. It was not terrible trouble, but it was serious enough to have made Paul worried. Two of the Christian women had been at odds with one another — Euodia and Syntyche — and the disagreement had grown to the point where it could hinder the unity and effectiveness of the church.
Paul wished to warn his friends of this danger and avoid the problems that might come. So he wrote to them, asking them to forget their differences, work for the same goals, and be happy together as Christians.
He wrote, "I beseech Euodia, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also and with my other fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:2-5).
The unity that Paul refers to is a Christian unity, and this means a unity only among those in God's family. Paul says that Euodia and Syntyche are to be "of the same mind in the Lord." And who are those "in the Lord"? Only those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christian unity is possible only for them.
It is a matter of being a born-again member of God's family. Perhaps you ask, "Oh, but aren't all people members of God's family?" The answer is, "No, they are not."
I know that there are some who teach that all people are God's children. But although it is true that all people are part of God's creation and all are His offspring, it is not true that all are His children. In fact, Jesus told some of the men of His day that they were actually the children of their father the devil (John 8:44).
Are you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you belong to God’s family? You need to ask yourself that question if you have never done so. For everything in the Christian life flows from it. There must be a moment in your life when you stand before God and say, "Lord God, I confess to You that I am a sinner and am barred from Your presence because of my sin. I am not of Your family, and I have no claim to it. And yet I believe that Jesus died for my sin and that You have offered to take me into Your family and to give me new life through Him. I ask you to do that now. Amen." If you will do that (or have already done it), then God will make you a member of His spiritual family, the invisible Church, and you will experience new life in Him.
For all who have done this, for His children, God now commands a visible, earthly unity. As in Philippians, God commands that His children live in harmony with each other.
But how is this harmony that exists initially among God's children to be maintained? Notice how tactfully Paul answers the question in his brief remarks to Euodia and Syntyche.
First, Paul says that Christians are to be like-minded. This means that they are to have the mind of Christ, and, since Christ was not proud or defensive of His own interests, they were not to be proud or defensive either.
It is the same thing that Paul had in mind earlier when he wrote, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). He is not speaking of the doctrines that Christ taught, although they are important. He is speaking of the attitude that Jesus had in relation to others. It is the mind of One Who did not consider equality with God something to be retained at all costs but Who came to earth in order to die for the salvation and well-being of others.
In other words, to be humble you need to stop thinking about yourself all the time. You need to stop comparing yourself with your boss, the secretary who sits next to you, the other Sunday school teacher, or whoever it is who rubs you the wrong way. Instead you need to think of what you can do to help him.
This humility will never occur apart from a personal and intimate walk with God, for in ourselves we do not like it. And we cannot achieve it without Him. If you are far from the Lord, then frictions will inevitably spring up between yourself and other Christians. The things they say will irk you. The things they do will get under your skin and fester. If this is not to happen, then you must maintain a close and personal fellowship with the Lord.
You see, Paul wanted his admonition to the women at Philippi to come down to the personal level. For he knew, as we all should know, that the effectiveness of the Christian warfare depends upon the conduct of the individual Christian soldier. As the Church impinges upon the world it is a little like a triangle. It has a broad base composed of many believers and many doctrines. But the impact point is the apex; and the apex is the individual Christian. The individual is what the world sees. The individual is the one who either promotes or hinders harmony. And who is the individual? You! And I! If there is to be Christian unity, you and I must maintain our walk with the Lord.
Secondly, Paul says that Christian unity is something we must work at. He calls attention to this step toward unity by referring to his fellow workers at Philippi and to the one who was a "true yokefellow" in that ministry. It is not enough, he implies, for Christians merely to think about unity. They must work for it, and they must work together.
Another way of saying the same thing is to say that reading this pamphlet will not be enough. Positive thinking is not enough. If you are to get along with another Christian with whom you have difficulty, you must roll up your sleeves and work together with him. The problem that he is facing is a good place to start, whatever it may be. Clean his garage with him. Help with her shopping. Then, when you run out of those things, go visit a person who is sick, teach a class, start a home Bible study. But do it together.
Paul was looking back to those glorious days that he had spent in Philippi among Christians. He was thinking of the great joy he had had as he worked with them for spiritual ends. Now that unity is threatened. So he says to them, "Keep on. Do not let your unity be ruined by friction between your members. Work together. Make sure your unity can be seen in your actions."
The third step in getting along with other Christians is to rejoice in the Lord. Paul says that in verse 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." Paul knew that if a Christian is rejoicing in God's mercy and goodness to him, he is not so likely to be nitpicking with his fellow Christians. You will not be seeing another's bad temper, laziness, or unreliability if your thoughts are filled with God.
The word "rejoice" is interesting, for it is only a variant form of the word "joy" which is one of the great Christian virtues, the fruit of God's Spirit. Consequently, rejoicing, like joy, is supernatural. Joy is the Christian virtue; happiness is the virtue of the world. There is all the difference in the world between them. In fact, it is the difference between the world and heaven.
The Latin word for joy is fortuna (chance), and it gives the clue to the meaning of happiness. Happiness is entirely external. It is circumstantial. We have all seen the Charlie Brown cartoon that defines happiness as a warm puppy. But suppose there is no puppy. Well, then, there is no happiness. Happiness depends on the things we have or can acquire. For some it is money. For some it is fame. For some it is power or good looks. But it is all external, and when these things go, happiness goes with them.
It is not that way with joy. Joy issues from nature of God, and it is intended to well up within those in whom God's Spirit dwells. It is not external; it is internal. It does not hinge upon chance. Things may happen to the Christian that nobody, including the Christian, would be happy about. But there can still be joy. And the Christian who is filled with this supernatural, abounding joy will not be finding grounds for disagreement with his fellow Christians.
The fourth step is given in verse 5. There, Paul says that Christians are to let their "moderation to be known unto all men." Moderation here is not the same thing as temperance, which is mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It is a different word from that. In fact, it is an unusual Greek word and one that does not even occur in the classical Greek before Paul's time. He may have coined it. Literally, it means "reasonableness" or "being reasonable." It conveys a warning not to be unduly rigorous about unimportant matters.
That does not mean that Christians are to be compromising in their doctrinal beliefs. Paul is not talking about doctrine here any more than he was talking about doctrine when he referred to the mind of Christ in verse two. And he is not talking about compromise with the world's standards of conduct either.
He has already written that Christians are to live as "blameless and harmless, children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom [they] are to shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). He wrote to the Roman Christians that they were not to be "conformed to this world" but to be "transformed by the renewing of [their] minds" (Romans 12:2).
Actually, he is merely saying that those who profess the name of Christ should be a bit bending in their conduct, especially where other Christians are concerned. They should not be brittle. Neither you nor I are to have a personality so inflexible that people bounce off it like a tennis ball bouncing off a stone wall. We are to listen to them, even to tolerate their errors for a time, if you will, in order that God in His time might use us better to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.
This should be especially applicable in Christian families. Often children rebel against the gospel and against their parents; and they do so many times (I am convinced) simply because the parents have been too rigid and too doctrinaire in their training. Here too, there must be moderation. And it must be an aspect of that yieldingness with one another to which Christians are called.
None of these high standards of conduct is easy — to be humble, to work with someone who is difficult, to be filled with joy, to be reasonable. And, let us admit it, the difficulty of living them is where the problem of unity lies. It is one thing to say to each other, "Well, let us be of the same mind and work together. Let us rejoice. Let us show moderation." But it is quite another thing to put the words into practice. Fortunately, Paul knew the difficulty also. And as a result he has given us the solution even to this problem.
Have you ever noticed how many times he speaks of being "in the Lord Jesus Christ" in the first four verses of this chapter? Three times! And once he reminds them that "“the Lord is at hand." The solution is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He Who will do in the lives of yielded Christians what we might judge impossible.
You can learn to get along with other Christians only as you surrender yourself to Him and seek His will, as His Holy Spirit enters your life and begins to make you into the man or woman that He would have you be.
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This series traces the "New Beginning" in God's plan of redemption. Dr. Boice follows the story of the patriarchs, demonstrating along the way how easily we can identify with them. Learn how Abraham grew into a mighty man of faith. And learn from the lessons on faith and judgment in the lives of the next generations - Isaac and Jacob.All Sermons by Dr. James Boice