1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
You could have cut the tension in the house with a knife. The long-married couple were having an argument, and it was a big one. Brows were furrowed and jaws set in determined faces. Icy stares and cold shoulders were the order of the day. The kids were walking on eggshells lest they set off a bomb.
There was not much joy in that house. Have you ever been in that house? Many of us have. Sometimes those moments haunt us for the rest of our lives. A home perpetually in conflict is even worse. The moment I am thinking of was resolved by a friend, a friend who had the courage to point out just how ridiculous the couple were being in their rage. Tears were shed, forgiveness sought, forgiveness given.
Paul writes to the people in Philippi from prison, but he writes about joy. In the first verses of chapter four he mentions a conflict, a fight between two women in Philippi named Euodia and Syntyche. Paul seems to be asking the Pastor or other leaders in the congregation to mediate, helping these women come to a resolution of their conflict. We do not know what the substance of the argument was. It does not matter. These conflicts suck the joy out of any room.
When the old couple I am thinking of forgave one another, joy returned to that house. We often start this reading at verse 4, treating the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche as an event randomly inserted and disconnected from the joyful life which Paul describes in the bulk of this passage. That is a mistake. Paul’s injunctions to rejoice in the Lord always, to be reasonable, to think about things that are honest, true, just, pure, praiseworthy, etc., make the most sense as a program for living out forgiveness. These are the conscious and deliberate choice you must make when you forgive someone who has hurt you. Forgiveness is doing these things despite what the other has done.
Try it. It brings real joy.