I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Philippians 4:2
Usually, I just slide over this passage, but this time I felt like God wanted me to look closer. It seems Paul had to encourage the churches to agree with each other a lot. Earlier in this same letter to the church in Philippi Paul had written:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2
To the Corinthians he wrote:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10
So here, at the end of the letter to Philippi, he singles out these two women who are having a disagreement. Looking at just the meaning of their names is enlightening. At first glance, Euodia means “fine traveling” and Syntyche means “accident.” That made me smile. Already they appear to be opposites.
Euodia, according to Thayer’s, means “a prosperous journey.” Strong’s notes it could possibly mean “success.” It comes from a word that means “to have a prosperous journey,” or “(figuratively) to be on the right (profitable) path.” In any case, I get this feeling of confidence, even care-lessness.
Syntyche, on the other hand, means “a happy event.” It comes from a word that means “accident,” like happenstance, or chance meeting. In ancient Greece the word syntyche meant “fortunate” or “with fate.” The words fate, happenstance, and accidental do not promote a lot of security. So that, whereas with Euodia there is a feeling of solid confidence, with Syntyche a little bit of anxiety and even insecurity creeps in.
It makes me think of the tension between optimism and pessimism. It reminds me of some of the disagreements Christians have had over the centuries: pre-tribulation rapture (we don’t have to worry about a thing because we will be out of here) or post-tribulation rapture (we will have to endure, dig in and fight), eternal security and conditional securityi, and arguments about salvation through faith and/or works.
If you go too far in either of these directions you get the familiar errors of either “you don’t have to worry about (or do) anything, just trust God and proclaim the promises,” or “everything is up to us, God has given us gifts and his commands, but we have to do it.” Worse, the insecurity of Syntyche can lead to suspicion and judgement of other Christians, while the careless trust of Euodia can lead to disappointment and even anger at God when things go wrong.
It seems to me that both of these extremes are an attempt to control life, to avoid having to trust God when bad things happen and life doesn’t make sense. Everything will always be happy and wonderful (God promises it!) vs. we must work hard to make everything happy and wonderful (God commands it!).
The first one leads to moving target prophesies and gleeful assurances of prosperity. It leads to disillusionment with the church and God. The second one leads to anxiety, burnout, or a “fort and fight” mentality, responding to current events in fear and even hostility.
But, what does Paul urge here? “… be of the same mind in the Lord.”
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7
We are to have the mind of Christ, which Paul assured the Corinthians we already do have.
But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16
When Paul urges Euodia and Synthyche to be of the same mind, the Greek word is phronéō, which means “the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart … [it] essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action.”ii Being of the same mind with each other is a heart thing. It is what we believe in our heart coming out in action. And that action is supposed to reveal Christ to the world. How important it is that we let God deal with our hearts!
The mind of Christ is the narrow way. It is the way we would rather not deal with when we are entrenched, off on the mucky shoulders of the path, in our own thinking, our own wants and needs and demands. And please know that I am not sharing this in a judging or critical way. I have flailed around on both sides at different times in my Christian walk. But I think that God is nudging us back onto the narrow way – the mind of Christ.
What is the mind of Christ? It is complete trust in God. It is to let ourselves become nothing. It is to be the servant. It is to have our “one thing” focus be on the will of God. It is to pour ourselves out for the salvation of the world.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
This is Jesus’ final word to us: the meaning of the Greek word translated “peace” in John 16:33 above is eirḗnē which means one, peace, quietness, rest. It comes from eirō – “to join, tie together into a whole“ – and so means “properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace.”
Take heart Church!
iFor a good explanation of conditional security see https://www.gotquestions.org/conditional-security.html
iiThayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Joseph Henry Thayer.
Image: Fort La Latte, Côtes d’Armor, France, by Semnoz https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:200707_Fort_La_Latte_38.JPG