Agree in the Lord
AGREE IN THE LORD
I think we can all agree that no one likes conflict in their relationships. And I think we can all agree that when we face conflict in our relationship our go to strategy is to “agree to disagree.” In that Spirit I found some jokes about people disagreeing. You may not think they are funny. But we will just have to agree to disagree about that.
“At conception,” said the Catholic priest.
“No, no,” said the Presbyterian minister. “It begins at birth.”
“It’s in between,” said the Baptist. “Life begins at 12 weeks when the fetus develops a functional heartbeat.”
“I disagree with all of you,” said the rabbi. “Life begins when your last child leaves home and takes the dog with him.”
Laughter can be good medicine. Especially in times of tension. Especially when we are agreeing to disagree. We should have the right to disagree of course. Our country was built on a constitution that prevents the Government from physically harming people when people in political power disagree with what people who are out of political power say. And throughout the Bible scripture is clear that the Lord’s servants are not to be argumentative or quarrelsome (2 Timothy 2:24). The question is not whether we have the right to agree to disagree, or whether we should be peaceful rather than argumentative. The question is can we maintain relationship with those we care about when all we do is agree to disagree? Can we continue to be in relationship with each other when conflict remains unresolved? I think the Bible says the answer is no.Paul says to Euodia and Syntyche, “ I entreat Euodia, and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, 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.”
We don’t know a lot about these two women. Some scholars have suggested that they might have been converts from the same river side prayer meeting that Lydia, the famous seller of purple cloth, wealthy business woman, who hosted the early church at Philippi in her home (Acts 16:11-40). He calls them coworkers and laborers in the Gospel. He considers them his equals in ministry. He says that their names are written in the book of life. They are definitely Christians, they are definitely saved, they are definitely important teachers in the church at Philippi. They are two well intentioned, committed, and loyal Christian women. Yet Paul is concerned that a dispute between them is dividing the church at Philippi. Instead of telling them to agree to disagree Paul says, Paul in very strong terms urges these two women not to agree to disagree but to agree in the Lord. Laughter is a very effective weapon in ministry. Often a good joke about things that cause tension in our relationships can bring much needed relief to those tensions. Laughter is good medicine. It can relieve our headache for a time. But Paul shows us it is better to agree in the Lord. It is better to resolve the source of the headache than to medicate the pain that results from the headache. And I believe when we agree in the Lord we shall find good news.
The Good News: When we agree in the Lord the world will see the one who writes our names in the book of Life. We agree in the Lord by.
- Through corporate prayer
- By focusing on doctrine
- By Practicing our doctrine with gentleness
First, Paul tells us that we come into agreement through corporate prayer. Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication to let our requests be made known to God. The word for prayer is a specific word that means to prostrate oneself in the presence of God. While I find it helpful in my pray time to lay face down on the floor to remind myself of God’s glory. The point is to bring our spirits before God. The point is to say you are God and I am not. The point is to say where was I when you God founded the Earth? How do we distinguish between talking to ourselves and praying? If we start with God’s glory we can be certain that we are praying. If we start with ourselves we are probably talking to ourselves.
Second we are to rejoice and give thanks. To quote Paul in in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As I often say we are not to give thanks for all circumstances, but in all circumstances we are to find a reason to worship, because his mercies are new every morning. Negative events weigh heavy on the human mind. That’s why the news tends to be fairly negative because there is something about conflict and disaster that fixes our attention. And certainly negative things in our lives will not go away if we simply ignore them. But when we obsess over problems it tends to magnify our pain and make the problems harder to deal with. By focusing first on the Glory of God and our blessings, we gain a clearly vision of the requests or petitions we need to make for others, and the supplications, that we need to make for ourselves.
Paul is clear that we are to gather together physically for the specific purpose of prayer. While we can pray individually Jesus tells us that there is a particular power when two or three gather together to pray and agree in his name (Matthew 18:20). Paul tells us when we pray in this way, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” While this verse is often used to talk about the personal peace that God can give us, that is not the context it is being used in. Paul is talking about corporate prayer and Paul is talking about corporate peace. Paul is suggesting that when we pray together in this way God will resolve our conflicts and we will find ourselves agreeing in the Lord and being at peace with one another though we have no idea how we got there. He is suggesting the peace of God will guard our hearts as soldiers guard a military base. In Ephesians he tells us the peace of God will also be shoes for our feet helping us advance the Gospel beyond the walls of our building. In a world of anxiety the world will be drawn to a people who walk together in perfect peace.
First to agree in the Lord, we must pray corporately. Second, to agree in the we must focus on our doctrine . To quote Paul, “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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul tells the Philippian church not only to give thanks in all circumstances for God’s blessings but to recall, the ideals and doctrine that he taught them during his time with them. Paul fundamentally believed that our ideals, values, our deeply held convictions, shapes the world around us, and the world within us. Paul taught correct thought and doctrine produced better feelings and motivations. Often in today’s world we say it doesn’t matter what a church teaches, as long as the pastor has good motives and is doing good in the community. But Paul actually says the opposite. In Chapter one of the Philippians he says that some preach the Gospel out of impure motives, to make Paul feel bad since he is in prison and can’t preach as freely as he once did. But the preachers motivations didn’t matter because Christ was being proclaimed through sound doctrine. Paul acknowledged that none of us have completely pure motives, we are all a mixed bag of motives, but our motives are filtered through good teaching. In Paul’s day circumcision was very popular with Jewish Christians, who were the majority of the church at the time, Paul was clear that this was not good teaching so he opposed it. The problem was early in his ministry Paul became obsessed with speaking out against circumcision. So much so that he called his opponents dogs. He didn’t follow his own advice, which was to let our reasonableness or gentleness be made known to all people. Paul is clear that we put our doctrine and values into practice with a gentle touch.
Finally, we are to practice our doctrine with gentleness.
This word for gentle has several translations. Gentle, reasonable, kind, tolerant, not prone to exaggeration, impartial, even handed, one who practices moderation, one who is patient, one who yields to others, one who compromises and meets people halfway. This may seem to be like a hard thing to do in the moment when our passions flare into flames, threatening to burn away the ties that bind us. But Paul tells us there is Good News. The gift is available to us through the mind of Christ, which is ours because of What Christ did for us. As Paul tells us in Chapter 1 Jesus, the only Begotten Son of God, the Word who is God and was with God for all of eternity, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but he emptied himself, taking on our flesh, humbling himself to the point of death, yes even death on a cross. Jesus demonstrates the Spirit of being a Son and Daughter of God. And central to this Spirit is not needing to struggle over power.
A Minister named M. James Jordan in his book Sonship, tells the story of how he found his purpose in the love of God as His heavenly Father. The Love of God as his Father changed his perspective on his arguments with his earthly Father as a child. Reflecting on those arguments James says this, “Since then I’ve learned something about arguments. Arguing has nothing to do with the subject. The subject is merely a tool, which an argumentative person employs to give them the upper hand. An argument is actually a power struggle.” (Jordan, pg 60). When we find ourselves arguing we are not actually fighting for the truth. We are actually fighting for power. This is not the example of Christ, who is the way the truth and the life, set for us. He not only met us half way, he came down from heaven to be with us while we were still sinners. He went all the way to the cross so that we could cross the isle and meet each other halfway. I believe taking hold of the mind of Christ can reshape every relationship in our lives, from the church, to the government, to our marriages. I know the couples I most admire are those who have no need to be right. The couples I most admire are those wives and husbands who are so yielded to each other that they are able to talk disagreements out till they come into agreement.
Today we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate that last meal Jesus had with his disciples where he predicted his death and resurrection. These common elements are bread and juice are a Sign and a Seal of the sacrifice of humility that Jesus made so we might take hold of eternal life. And the question I want to leave you with was why was Christ body broken for us? Why was his blood shed for us? Was it so that we could agree to disagree? Was it so it so we could sweep our hurts under the rug or was it so we could bring our hurts into the light of all that is pure and true? We don’t have to wonder the purpose of Christ breaking his body and shedding his blood for us. In Gospel of John, before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed to His Father this prayer, “ I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth ; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Christ’s body wasn’t broken and his blood shed so we could agree to disagree. Nor did he humble himself unto the point of death, yes even death on a cross, so that we could get our own way. Instead, he died, so that the name of Jesus may be lifted above every name. That at the name of Jesus every tongue would confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father. He broke his body that we may enter into his body, that we may partake in his joy and in his sufferings. He broke his body that we may be one, and in being one the world may see that the Father sent Jesus, the one who writes our names in the book of life. Jesus died not so we may agree to disagree but so that we may agree in the Lord.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.