God commands that we cannot have division among us. How can we achieve peace and unity? This sermon will discuss the challenges and solutions to becoming spiritual diplomats.
[Steve Myers]: If you had to describe the feel of this world, especially with the challenges that it’s facing at this time, there’s another word that came to my mind, contentious.
This world seems to just want to pick a fight. The other day, I was flipping the channels, and there was this talk show going on, and this family was having issues between themselves. And the next thing you knew they’re throwing chairs at each other, and we call this entertainment. It’s not the only time it happens. And so, it seems that is kind of the way things are right now. It doesn’t seem like we can figure out how to work things out. Arguing and contentiousness is out there. It seems that we can’t help taking sides. Do you find that in your experience? I mean, “I’m team red.” “No, I’m team blue.” And boy, if you are team red, and I’m team blue, today, it’s not like, “Well, you just have a different opinion than I do.” That is definitely not the case, is it? It seems like, “Well, if I’m red and you’re blue, I hate you. I hate you. You are something that is totally foreign to me.”
And that seems to be the way things are going. And it seems like people are solidifying into taking sides. And yet when you think about God’s congregation of people, think about our congregation, is it possible that even good congregations find brethren with differences that just don’t seem to be able to get along? Is that possible? Well, there’s several examples in the Bible that actually speak to that very situation. One of them is found over in Philippians 4. If you want to begin to make your way over to Philippians 4, the apostle Paul writes this beautiful letter to Philippi. In fact, oftentimes, commentators will call it Paul’s thank you note to the Philippians because the Philippians were an amazing church, an amazing congregation, one that stepped out and helped him and served Paul, sent him help when he was traveling through the Roman Empire so that he was able to continue to preach and teach. And they stepped up and really served in that way.
But it was also interesting to find that Philippi was not the perfect congregation, that there were rifts between members right there in this church that had set such an amazing example. And so, Paul had to address it as well in this letter. And in chapter 4, if you’re there, verse 1, Paul doesn’t shy away from addressing the contentiousness that had come into God’s church in Philippi. And he begins in verse 1, chapter 4, he says,
Philippians 4:1 Philippians 4:1Therefore, my brothers dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
American King James Version×– “Therefore, my beloved and longed for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.” Then in verse 2, he has a little bit of a shift of thought, and he says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. I also urge you, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice.”
Now, I don’t know about you. I’ve always thought at times, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your name in the Bible? Would it be cool if my name would... and there was a reference to me in the Bible?” That would be really cool, unless your name is Euodia or Syntyche, right? Like, “Oh, I don’t want that kind of reference in the Bible,” is like, “Come on, you guys, straighten up. What’s wrong with you?” Yeah, that’s not the best way to be mentioned in the Bible. But Paul doesn’t shy away from saying, “You two have an issue and this is not acceptable, having a contention between you to quarrel.” I mean, we’re not told what the issue was, doesn’t seem to be a doctrinal thing at all, but more of a personal kind of a deal that they just didn’t seem to be working out. And so here, Paul is telling them, “You need to have peace, you need to work this out.” And in fact, he not only addresses the two of them, but expands this to the entire congregation, that the congregation has a responsibility to make peace. And so Paul, in just these few little verses, begins to show how it’s possible to have unity, how to work things out with your brother.
Now, normally, when you think of go to your brother, probably a whole different set of scripture comes to mind. You probably think of Matthew 18, “Well, go to your brother,” and there’s some valuable information there. But here in Paul’s letter to Philippi in chapter 4, he gives us a number of ways that we, all of us, can make for peace, that we can be peacemakers, or maybe to think of it in a little bit different terms, that we can be a spiritual diplomat. You know, diplomats work out situations between sometimes countries or people. And here, Paul tells us, “Here’s a way to be that spiritual diplomat, here’s how you can work for peace, how you can be a peacemaker, and ultimately, how you can achieve unity.”
And so in chapter 4, he begins to tell us, not just that you should do it, he says, “Here’s how, here’s how.” And if we read over it really quickly, we might miss it. But if you’ve got a little marker, you might put that right here in Philippians 4 because we’ll come back to this little section a number of times throughout the sermon this afternoon. And right off the bat, when we begin chapter 4, what does Paul do? I mean, he knows there’s this issue, and he knows he has to address it, but he begins by expressing his love and appreciation. Even though there’s this problem between these two sides, you’ve got your red side and your blue side, I don’t doubt that there were probably some, you know, team Euodia and team Syntyche over here within the congregation. And Paul begins by saying, “If you’re going to be a peacemaker, you have to love both sides. You have to love both sides.”
Look at the words that he uses here in these first couple of verses. He says, “My longed-for brethren, we’re family, we are family.” And of course, Paul loved those in Philippi. He loved God’s people. He may have had a hand in their conversion as he preached and he taught, and he loved that fact that he could spend time with them. He says they were much beloved, which is saying he loves them, he loves all the congregation, and especially these two as well as he’s expressing this. In fact, he says, “They’re my joy and my crown.” He saw them as kind of a symbol of the success of God’s Word, that God had used Paul as an instrument to preach and to teach. And the evidence of God’s true teaching was their conversion. And so, it didn’t matter what side of the issue you were on, Paul loved them, and he expressed that love and that care and that concern, and the fact that they were symbolic of the success of the gospel because he truly loved these people. And he doesn’t only express it here in chapter 4, but throughout this letter, he talks about this.
And it’s such a reminder for all of us, that if we’re truly to be that spiritual diplomat in our congregation, we have to do the same. We have to express a love, and a care, and a concern for those that might be on different sides of the issue, that we have to care for them. I mean, how can we help? How can we help bring people together if we pick a side? If we take sides, there’s no way we can be a diplomat. We can’t be an arbitrator if we like this side better than that side. How could we be impartial? How could we bring people together? Which is in a sense a reflection of who God is. Does God take sides? Does God love one person more than another? Well, does God love me more because He’s called me now and others come late? No, God is not a respecter of persons. We’re told that many times over that God loves mankind. He loves the world so much that He gave His own son.
And so, Paul starts us off in that way that a peacemaker’s advice, a peacemaker’s counsel wouldn’t be kept in the same way if they knew you really favor them over me, that mom always liked you best. No, that wasn’t the case at all. This mutual love is what Paul expresses right from the very beginning. So Paul would be fair. Paul would certainly be one that would be able to address the issue and not take sides because of personalities, or because of people’s personalities or their character. No, he doesn’t do that.
In fact, I think that’s a reflection of what’s written over in the book of Hebrews. Now, if you want to put a little marker here in Philippians 4, or hold your place there while we turn over to Hebrews 12, take note of what it says over in Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
American King James Version×. Interesting section of scripture as we get to Hebrews 12 because here we’ve just come through chapter 11, which is the faith chapter, and it rehearses all of those great men and women who went before us, who sets such an amazing example of faith, who yet are awaiting the promise of God, awaiting eternal life.
And as Paul gets in the chapter...most likely the apostle Paul wrote this. But as he gets into chapter 12, he talks about this cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, and how much we need to follow their example. And he uses this analogy of a race, that we are in a spiritual race to the Kingdom. And as we are racing toward that Kingdom, it’s interesting what Paul emphasizes, as we run this race, notice verse 14, verse 14, he says,
Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
American King James Version×– “Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” And I think that’s a reflection of this idea of loving people, no matter what side of an issue they may be on. Now, we’re not talking about doctrine here, we’re talking about challenges that we face in life, challenges that a husband and a wife may face, friends may face, co-workers may face. He says, “Pursue peace with all people.” And he frames that in the metaphor of a race. Now, if you’re going to win a race, you’re going to win that race if you just kind of saunter along, just walk along, and no, people are going to pass you by. And that’s the concept of this idea of peace. It’s not something that just happens naturally. Naturally, we’re different and I’m not sure I like you that much. That’s human nature. That’s a human way of thinking.
And so Paul says that, as God’s people, peace is something we have to go after, we have to pursue it, we have to chase after it, something that we have to work at. Other translations say things like, “Make every effort to live in peace.” Live in peace with everyone. And that can certainly be a challenge. We have to go after it. So, we have to turn away from the things that aren’t godly, but what do we turn toward? We turn toward good. So, in a way, we’re told here, it’s not good enough just to get away from bad, from sin, but we have to go after what’s good. We have to pursue peace, almost a little reminiscent of the Psalms. We sing this concept many times at Sabbath services. Do you remember what Psalm 34 talks about? I know you could finish it if we start singing it. That’s the Psalm that says, “Turn thou from evil...”
[Congregation]: “Do what is good; seek peace, pursue it earnestly.”
[Mr. Steve Myers]: That’s right. Yeah, we turn from evil, we seek peace, but it’s not just seek, “Oh, I like to have peace. It would be nice to have peace, wouldn’t that just be wonderful?” No, you better go after it. You better pursue it earnestly. That’s the song we sing. Psalms 34:14 Psalms 34:14Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
American King James Version×says just that, just what Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
American King James Version×says. You have to go after it. It’s not going to happen naturally, normally. It’s going to take the power of God’s Spirit within you to go after peace because normally, people divide. Normally, people separate. It’s easy to see the differences. But when we face differences in love, with the power of God’s Spirit, we see ourselves as family, we see ourselves as brothers, we see ourselves as beloved. And that’s why Paul begins to address that situation. That means you can’t live with dissension. You can’t live with disunity that division has to be put away. So arguments and quarrels that might divide us have to be addressed.
And so no wonder Paul says, “Here’s how you start, you start out of a perspective of love.” Now, of course, he doesn’t stop there. If you head back to Philippians 4, he gives another key to being a spiritual diplomat, to really being a peacemaker. Certainly, love conquers all. And 1 Corinthians 13 is a good reminder of that. So, Paul started there. But it’s also interesting how he addresses the problem. If you notice what he says back in verse 2 of chapter 4, he says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord.”
So here, we see an equality between these two people. Paul doesn’t say, “Euodia straighten up,” and then leave it at that. You know, maybe she was the bigger part of the problem, could have been, I don’t know, we’re not told enough about it. But instead, what does he do? He implores both of them, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche,” both are implored. And that’s a very interesting Greek word that he uses when it’s translated, “implore.” King James says, “Beseech,” maybe that doesn’t help us out too much. What do you mean when you say that? Well, you probably would recognize the Greek word that’s used for “implore.” This is the word, parakaleo. It’s the same word that is translated the comforter or the paraklesis, the Comforter, that’s identifying God’s Spirit. So, we have a connection here that parakaleo, “I parakaleo you, Euodia. I parakaleo Syntyche.”
And so it carries that meaning of calling to your side. God’s Spirit comes alongside us to help us as we face life. Here, these two are implored to come to one another’s side, that you’ve got to address this issue, this is something that you just can’t ignore. And so he’s encouraging them, exhorting them, that word can certainly mean as well, and he can then comfort and instruct them. So, I’m instructing you to do this, which is a little bit different than... I mean, he could have said, “I command you.” I mean, he could have done that, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t use the word to command, instead, Paul pleads with them, and he encourages them to deal with the issue.
And so it shows us how as a peacemaker we need to act. We need to make sure we treat both sides equally, imploring, encouraging, exhorting both sides equally, that they need to come together. So rather than take sides, he treats both sides equally and tenderly. I think that’s an important aspect of if we’re going to be a congregation that comes together and grows spiritually, it means we can’t get into taking red side versus blue side, or mask side taking unmasked side. We can’t do those kinds of things. We’ve got to realize, we all need to be on God’s side. And so Paul shows us by treating each other equally, that’s the means by which this can happen.
In fact, a little bit later, in a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy, so if you hold your place here in Philippians 4, head over to 2 Timothy 2:24 2 Timothy 2:24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient,
American King James Version×. 2 Timothy 2:24 2 Timothy 2:24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient,
American King James Version×, Paul deals with the same subject with the young minister Timothy. And it’s interesting the way that he deals with it here in the second letter that Paul writes to Timothy. It’s interesting that he just got done talking about in this letter in chapter 3 about the perilous times in the end. And in chapter 3, he addresses the way people are. And if we were to take the time today to read through this, we might read through this list in chapter 3 of descriptors, of the time, of the end, and we’d say we’re there. This is how people are, this is a pretty good description of the way society is and the way people act today.
And so, as he discusses these different things, it’s interesting that just before this in chapter 2, he says, “We can’t be a part of that. That can’t be describing who we are.” So, take a look at 2:24 of 2 Timothy. And just before getting into all these descriptors of the way people are at the end times, he says this, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel.” In fact, if we were to read this in the Amplified version, look back at verse 24, again, it says, “The servant of the Lord must not participate in quarrels, but must be kind to everyone.” Amplified says, “Even-tempered, preserving peace, and he must be skilled in teaching, patient, and tolerant when wronged.”
So, you see Paul is not just writing to Timothy as a minister, he’s writing to all of us. By extension, he’s writing to every individual who is called of God, a servant of the Lord. We serve God Almighty. And as God’s servants, yes, we can’t participate in those things. And on the contrary, we have to be willing to preserve peace, actively preserve peace. And so, no wonder he says we have to be skilled, we have to be ready to be patient and tolerant as we work with the issues. And even when we’re wronged, we have to be able to step up and figure out how to solve the problems. And Paul didn’t shy away. He didn’t shy away from the fact there will be problems, even in God’s church. There are problems, imagine that.
But what’s the difference between a functioning church, or if we think of it a different way, a functioning family versus a dysfunctional family? Well, functioning families don’t have problems, right? No, they have problems. Functioning congregations have problems. Philippi had problems. The difference is the functioning family, the functioning congregation deals with those problems, the dysfunction, oh, they can’t fix it, they don’t want to fix it, or they ignore it. So, as a functioning congregation, Paul’s reminding us, this is what we need to do. We need to deal with the problems. And we need to fix those problems with God’s help. And so, no wonder he’s reminding Timothy that this needs to be taken care of. In fact, take a look at verse 25, verse 25, it says,
2 Timothy 2:25 2 Timothy 2:25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
American King James Version×– “In humility, correcting those who are in opposition.” Yes, sometimes a little bit of correction is necessary. So, the Amplified version says, “He must correct those who are in opposition with courtesy and gentleness in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and be led to the knowledge of the truth.”
So, God might grant them repent. You see, that tells us something important. When we can’t figure things out, when we can’t get along with each other, when there’s issues between us, that’s something you can’t ignore. That’s not something you can just put on the back shelf and just hope it’ll fix itself. No, Paul says, “You better deal with this.” This is something that has to be dealt with so that you can have unity. Because if we don’t, he says, “That’s a problem.” And if you notice the level that he puts that on, what’s required? He says, “We’ve got to change our thinking. We have to repent. We have to repent and know the truth.”
And of course, he’s reminding Timothy here as he did Philippi there is a need in God’s church. There was a need back then and there is a need today for those spiritual diplomats, those peacemakers that can bring people together. And as we do that, we use patience and tolerance. We use love and tenderness and fairness in treating those that are on different sides of an issue. And as we are impartial, the council isn’t tainted by taking sides, or having any accusation of, “Well, you’re prejudice, or you like them better, you are biased.” No. Because we treat both sides equally, it is possible to come to unity. And so, Paul reminded Timothy of that very fact that ultimately, we can come together and we can deal with the challenges and be a fully functioning church of God, be fully functioning godly children as well in God’s family. And so, there’s certainly a need today for that very kind of individual.
Now, of course, if we’re going to fulfill that, Paul talks about another aspect that back there in Philippians 4 that’s also important. Take a look at this third facet that Paul deals with in just those first opening verses of Chapter 4. Now, if you notice back in Philippians 4, if you held your place there, he certainly talked about dealing out of love with each other. He certainly said that we have to be sure that we deal with people equally and fairly and tenderly, no doubt about that. But it’s also interesting in verse 2, where he says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord, to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Paul intimated that to Timothy, and it is a matter of changing your mind, changing your mind.
This is something that Paul had already talked about in this particular letter to Philippi. He had kind of set up this issue earlier in his letter. So, if you turn back a page or two to Philippians 1, notice what he says in verse 27. He says that “You must have the same mind.” And it’s not like, “Well, I got to pick the red side, or I got to pick the blue side, or I have to pick team Euodia or team Syntyche.” No, that’s not it at all. It’s the same mind in the Lord. And here in Philippians 1:27 Philippians 1:27Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
American King James Version×, he says,
Philippians 1:27 Philippians 1:27Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
American King James Version×– “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. So whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast, in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
So, it’s not her faith or her faith, it’s the one true faith by the one true spirit and that one mind, that one mind, being like-minded, having a mindset of unity, having the right kind of love. And now, he uses this to implore these two ladies to come to one mind. And they had to be of one mind. It wasn’t either of their minds, it was ultimately the mind of Christ. And Paul is going to talk about that in this letter as well. So, oneness of mind, oneness of mind, that reminds us, “Well, it’s not picking sides because there really is only one side.” Who is on the Lord’s side? That’s what Joshua said, who’s on the Lord’s side? That’s the frame of mind we want. It’s not just making a peace accord. And we’ve all read about peace accords in the news, two nations come together, and they certainly come to one mind, don’t they? No, they don’t. I want this, and I want that and all it is a big compromise. And what happens? Well, peace accord breaks down because they never really get to a oneness of mind. It’s only a compromise. It’s only a compromise.
Now, we would never do that in the church, would we? Just have a peace accord, you know, have a peace arrangement. “Well, they don’t bother me and I won’t bother them.” Is that peace? Is that the oneness of mind that Paul was talking about? You know, maybe you’ve heard it said, or maybe you’ve even said it. “Well, I know I need to love them, but I don’t have to like them.” Really? Is that the oneness of mind that God’s talking about here? That can’t be. No, you actually do have to like them. You have to figure out how to like them. Love takes it to the next level, doesn’t it? And I think that emphasizes the fact this can’t just be a nice little peace agreement where we come to, you know, some sense of closure with ourselves and try to ignore the problem, because what happens? I mean, the problem resurfaces, it comes back, it’s not ever really solved.
And so, for us, we have to be of the same mind in the Lord. And so we are striving to put on that kind of thinking, that mind of Christ. And so it’s no wonder that Paul told Timothy we have to repent because that’s what repentance is all about. What’s the definition of repentance? It’s changing your mind, changing your thinking. And so we have to change from our human way of thinking and reasoning and looking at situations to looking at situations from God’s perspective and having His mind.
In fact, if you turn the page here over to chapter 2, notice verse 2, Philippians 2:2 Philippians 2:2Fulfill you my joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
American King James Version×, Paul writes,
Philippians 2:2 Philippians 2:2Fulfill you my joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
American King James Version×– “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” - And then he summarizes it - “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” That’s the goal, that’s the standard, that’s what we’re shooting for.
And so that’s such a reminder, we cannot be content with just having a truce with someone. That’s not going to work. That’s just the cessation of hostilities is the way they put that in the world. Now, okay, so you’re not yelling and screaming at each other, but underlying all this stuff, there’s division. That’s not what peacemaking is all about. Peacemakers go to the limit. They deal with the divisiveness of the mind, the division that’s in our mind because that’s the true cause of the problem. So not just dealing with what’s on the outside because outside can look very nice. So, yeah, we get along perfectly, but you never deal with the issue. Well, that’s what peacemakers do. They deal with the issue, and Paul’s certainly encouraging the Philippians to do just that.
Now, sometimes, that may mean, I can’t do it myself, I can’t do it myself. And Paul deals with that as well. Flip back to Philippians 4 once again. It’s interesting that in Philippians 4, after approaching the whole situation in love and tenderness and care and in an equality, he also then shows the fact that they have to be of the same mind. But that sometimes it takes a little bit more than just what two people can do. And so verse 3, he says,
Philippians 4:3 Philippians 4:3And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.
American King James Version×- “I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
So what’s Paul doing here? He’s saying we need some help. Paul’s saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do it from where I’m at. In fact, I’m not sure I could necessarily handle the problem, but true companion, you can, you can do this.” And so here he’s seeking assistance, you might say. Paul’s not too proud to ask for help, not too proud to do that. And it’s such a reminder for all of us. If we can’t figure it out, get the help that you need. Get the help that you need from... here’s a competent, obviously a spiritual individual who can come to their assistance. He probably knew both these ladies very well. Probably an individual that was well-known in the congregation of being able to bring people together, to bring unity, and to bring peace.
In fact, it’s kind of interesting here. If you look this word up in the Greek for true companion, I think the old King James says yokefellow, my yokefellow, my true companion. That’s the translation of the Greek word, “Syzygus.” Now, that might not mean a lot to most of us, but it does seem to indicate something kind of interesting. Syzygus was actually a Greek name. So, it may very well be that in your King James or your New King translation that they translated this person’s name as a true companion. Because otherwise, Paul’s using all these other names like Euodia and Syntyche and Clement. And most likely, he’s saying, “Syzygus, you need to help these ladies. You’re one who could step up and be a peacemaker, to be able to bring people together.”
And so, Paul, in a sense, is calling this person to live up to the meaning of their name. And they had that opportunity to do just that, to help out this whole situation. And of course, as a spiritual diplomat, I’ll bet that’s exactly what he did, to step up and serve and help and try to take care of the division that was separating these individuals or the teams that were backing them up. And I think that’s important for us to realize when we have a situation that we just can’t seem to solve, we need to get the help that is necessary to be able to solve, rather than putting it on the shelf and ignoring it. You know, there are issues, we need to figure them out. If there’s issues in my marriage, I need to figure that out. Maybe I need help in order to figure that out. If there’s issues between family members, well, maybe we need help to sort these things out.
Well, don’t be too proud. You know, God gives grace to the humble. Don’t be too proud to get the help that you need. And so here, Paul is using others who have the ability, who have the means to be able to provide good counsel and good direction. And hopefully, we’ll be glad to get that help that we might need because the goal is peace. The goal is unity. And so, who cares who gets the credit for helping bring people together? It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. It’s just solving the issue is the goal. And so perhaps Syzygus was one that was a well-known counselor that could help bring people together. And that certainly is part of our calling as well. We’re called to be peacemakers, we’re called to be that kind of spiritual diplomat that can be one who brings people together.
In fact, when you think about it, if we’re going to emulate Christ, if we’re going to have the mind of Christ, maybe we need to think about one of His names. Remember, Christ was called the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Peace. In fact, He said in probably one of His most famous sermons, the one that included the beatitudes in Matthew 5, when He says, “Blessed are...” Well, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He said that Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
American King James Version×, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Yeah, they are part of the family, and that idea of takes effort. It takes effort to work through issues, but it’s such a blessing when you do. It’s such a blessing because, remember, peace is also one of the fruits of God’s Spirit, right? Galatians 5 reminds us of that. And when we recognize how important it is, we know it’s something that is absolutely necessary.
If we turn over... hold your place here in Philippians 4. Turn over to Romans 12 for a moment. Romans 12 reminds us that it is part of our calling, it is who we are as God’s people. “You know, am I my brother’s keeper or not? Do I have a responsibility to work things out when I might be the problem, or when someone has an issue with me, do I have that responsibility? And do I have that responsibility to step up when I know others are having an issue between themselves?” Well, absolutely. We know Christ talked about that, we know Paul wrote about it extensively. And here, in Romans, it’s interesting the way that the apostle Paul writes to God’s people in Rome. Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
American King James Version×he says,
Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
American King James Version×- “If it’s possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
And so, you look at that, and how much depends on me? Well, if I’m in an issue with you, probably 50% or so, probably is on me. Well, maybe you are more of the problem but if I’m, I got to recognize that. As much as that... now this isn’t saying I can work out every single issue of all time with anybody. But I better have that frame of mind, I better have a repentant attitude so that I am not the problem because that is dependent on me. And if I’m living peaceably with my neighbor, if I’m living peaceably with those in my family, if I’m living peaceful in my congregation, there’s a lot that depends on me. And so I better be making sure that I’m fulfilling that.
And so no wonder he says, “Don’t avenge yourself,” verse 19. Yeah, it’s not up to you to get even with someone, even if they are the bulk of the problem. Is that my responsibility? No. He says, “Give place to wrath. It’s written ‘vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” If there’s something that just can’t be worked out and you’ve done everything you possibly can, that’s dependent on you and there’s still an issue, give it into God’s hands, put it in God’s hands because it is an amazing thing. It doesn’t say become enemies. It doesn’t say, “Well, put them down and don’t ever talk to them again.” No, it doesn’t.
Look at verse 20. You might say, “Well, if we can’t work it out, they’re my enemy. What am I supposed to do?” Well, verse 20, “If your enemy’s hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink.” And of course, that harkens back to Christ words, you know, “When did we see You hungry, Lord? When did we see You thirsty?” Same kind of thing. So, we feel like we’ve got some differences that we just can’t reconcile. How do I view that person? Better not be as an enemy.
He says even if you feel they’re an enemy, what do we have to do? We serve them, we care for them, we watch out for their good. He even says that will have an impact. In doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head. At that pressure, that weight of doing good when someone has done you dirty might come back and actually stimulate change. That’s what he’s talking about here. So, he tells us, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” And that’s such a powerful lesson in the Bible, isn’t it? You know, it’s like that idea of going after good, going after peace, knowing it doesn’t come naturally, that you have to do something.
It’s the same thing with evil. It’s not good enough just not to sin. Yes, we know we need to put sin behind us, but we have to pursue righteousness, we have to go after righteousness. So, don’t let evil overcome you, but overcome it with doing what’s right, with doing what’s good. And so as we consider that very thing, it’s no wonder then that even the gospel itself, the good news, we think of the plan of God, God’s purpose, His plan and bringing, you know, many sons and daughters to glory being sons and daughters of God for eternity in His Kingdom, in His family, we know it’s sometimes called the gospel of peace, the gospel of peace. And we know, I mean, Paul wrote to the Ephesians, He Himself is our peace, He Himself is our peace.
And so when we are in a spiritual frame of mind, then we’re able to look at situations and problems and difficulties differently, and then we’re able to step up and help those who are in need of help. In fact, back in Philippians 4, there’s one other thing, a fifth thing you might say that we can do if we are to resolve issues, get rid of division, come to unity and be the kind of peacemaker that God’s called us to be. If you notice what Paul wrote back in Philippians 4, notice verse 3. So, he says, “I urge you, true companion,” – “I urge you, Syzygus,” – “help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” He says, “With Clement also, the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” And then he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, rejoice.” Oh, wow, how can I have joy when there’s this issue in our church? He says start working on that issue. And one way you can do that, see the good. You must see the good, isn’t that what he says? As he says to Syzygus, “Help these women who are just nagging old ladies who can’t leave each other alone.”
No, he doesn’t say that. Maybe they were, I don’t know. You know, maybe they were gossiping. I don’t know what the problem was. He could have said that. He could have said, you know, “Tell them they didn’t need to knock off all this bad talk about each other.” He could have said that. But instead, he chose to see the good. He chose to see the good because these were ladies, it says who labored. And that means to work until you are dead tired. They worked in helping to preach the gospel. So, he didn’t focus on the issue, he didn’t focus on the problem, he didn’t focus on their bad character traits. He focused on what was good.
I mean, have you ever felt that way? You know, when someone puts you down and you feel all the things, and “Yeah, okay, maybe I did do something wrong.” And all they do is harp on you and tell you all the negative things. It’s so discouraging. “You know, yeah, I am terrible. What good would it do to change? I mean, yep, you nailed it. That’s who I am.” And you just feel so discouraged, that’s hard to change. So, no wonder Paul says we must see the good if we’re to solve the issues, if we’re to come together.
And so they had labored with Paul, they had labored with Clement, they had labored with these other workers that he doesn’t mention. And what does he see? He sees...boy, he sees what he talks about in the Book of Revelation. He sees the Book of Life, their names are in the Book of Life, which is just an amazing thing that even though there’s an issue, he still is able to see the good. Because we know if you look for the negative, not that hard to find, we all have our problems and issues, and it’s easy to see those problems. But he says, “Look, there is credit. They were doing a good thing.” So, give credit when credit is due. You know, and when we do that, yeah, it will help ease the problem so that we can come to unity.
I mean, it’s easy to look at people that having problems and only see, “Yep, that’s who they are. They have those issues. And yeah, they’re terrible, and I don’t think they’ll ever fix it.” And we can have that perspective. But that’s not what Paul does. Paul says, “A true spiritual diplomat, a peacemaker, will remember the good.” Even if we’re having a problem with somebody, and I’m part of the problem, and they’re part of the problem, can I recognize the good in them? Paul says that’s a big step forward in solving the issues. And so, when we have power to recognize that at people, we need to make sure that we do.
So just in these three, four short little verses in Philippians 4, we are certainly given a means to come to unity within our family, within our church family as well, because certainly as we look out in the world, we are getting to those times where it is perilous, and there is contention, and there is constant disagreement and arguing, and it seems more and more heading that direction. If you aren’t this way of thinking, then you’re an awful individual. And so we live in this divided culture. And so, no wonder God calls us out of that culture so that we can effectively begin to be the kind of individual that will help bring people together.
And of course, if we’re going to do that, the Apostle Paul was inspired to give us these five musts so that we can be a godly peacemaker. And certainly, that starts with loving both sides. That goes on in treating both sides equally and mercifully and tenderly so that we can help them to seek the same mind. That’s an absolute must. And if we’re needed, get the help so that we must find help when there are disagreements that just can’t be resolved easily. And that we must begin to see the good and give that credit when credit is due as well.
And when we begin to do that, it will change things because we’ve changed our thinking, we’ve repented ourselves. And we change our thinking, we change our perspective, and we line ourselves up with the mind of Christ. And when we do that, we can be used as a powerful tool in God’s hands to bring relationships back together that were once broken, to help others come together, and then we can be known as a people. We can be known as a congregation who is like-minded, who has a camaraderie and a fellowship that can only come by the Spirit of God. And we can do that, and Paul urges us to and Christ urges us to promote unity, and we can promote unity by making peace.