In digital photography, there is a technique called “tilt-shifting” where a picture of a real-life scene is made to look like a photograph of a model. The key to getting this to work effectively is to blur those things that your eye naturally uses to get a sense of scale.
Sometimes, when we have a difference of opinion with someone, we can so lose ourselves in the effort to make our point that we don’t pay attention to what harm we might be causing in the process. We lose our sense of scale. Our arguing can put a strain on a friendship or make nervous those who look up to us for leadership and example. To get things in perspective, it’s wise to just stop a minute, step back and see what’s at stake.
In Philippians 4:2 Paul is dealing with the only recorded controversy in the church at Philippi. Unlike his epistles to the Galatians or the Corinthians, the trouble at Philippi had not grown to the point where it defined the reputation of the church. Paul only had to deal with it briefly, and he did it so that the problem did not spill out of the church and on to the streets. How Paul deals with the problem is instructive.
First, he dealt with the problem before it got too big. Want to train a big-breed dog to behave? Train it while it’s still a little pup. Want to keep a small problem in a church from turning into a church-splitter? Deal with it while it’s still a small problem. Christian fellowship demands accountability. Accountability is confrontational, not in the sense that it’s always looking to pick a fight, more in the sense that it wants to diagnose and treat a problem while it can still be handled.
Second, he did not take sides. He didn’t even name the problem, just the key parties involved: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntche.” Knowing names is powerful. When I was a teacher, knowing the name of a student who was acting as an instigator was key. If all you could say was: “Hey, you! Stop that,” the student could still hide behind a shield of anonymity. If they didn’t behave right away, they could claim: “I didn’t know you were talking to me.” But if you could say: “Hey! J. J. Jingleheimerschmidt,” the student knew immediately that you knew who they were and that you meant them. No more shield of anonymity. “Yes, Jingleheimerschmidt, I’m talking to you. I know who you are. Now, cut it out.”
Paul called these two people out by name, not to shame them, but to help them see that their differences were no longer anonymous and no longer just between them. Whatever their argument, it had taken on an identity and it looked just like them. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’ve locked horns in an argument. Sometimes the only way to get things back into focus is to have someone outside the argument to look at it objectively.
This is exactly what Paul did.
Finally, Paul reminded Euodias and Syntyche of whose side they were supposed to be on: “be of the same mind in the Lord” (v. 2). In the following verse, he encourages someone he calls his “true yokefellow” to “help those women which [labored] with [him] in the gospel, with Clement also.” Whether “those women” refers specifically to Euodias and Syntyche or is aimed at the women at Philippi in general is not clear. What is clear is that they are people “whose names are in the Book of Life.” It’s another perspective statement. “Euodias and Syntyche, forget whatever argument you were having and let’s remember that you are both people for whom Christ died.”
Measure everything against your standing in Christ and you’ll always be able to adjust your sense of scale.
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