In the Book of Philippians there’s a brief but pointed message to two godly women, Euodia and Syntyche. Paul “implored” them to get their relationship right! So what goes into making relationships work? This message has some great directives from the Bible to help in any and all relationships.
1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And 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. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Some are a great blessing and source of comfort and help and belonging. Others not so much. Some are chosen for us, like family, work, school. Others we choose. Are they necessary? Absolutely. Do we want them? That all depends.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that they really don’t have any friends. Usually they mean that they don’t have any close friends that would be there for them in a pinch, someone who understands, relates and is committed to them. Loneliness is a common complaint among Christians. And it doesn’t have to be that way!
Euodia and Syntyche were two devoted Christian workers. Sisters in the Lord. They both were known and respected for what they did and who they were. They were known to all the leaders and folks in the Philippian church, yes, but they were well known by Paul and his team too. But here’s the deal: they had a problem with each other. How would you like to be known in the Bible as one of the two people who specifically struggled with each other?
I looked to the meanings of their names for a clue. Euodia simply means “fragrant”. Ah, she smells nice. Sounds kind of feminine to me, like her mom and dad named her that because she was precious. It also has a reference to prosperity and an easy journey. So maybe she had a refined upbringing, I don’t know, but I can imagine.
Syntyche comes from a Greek root word meaning “accident”. Like, oops. That doesn’t sound like a sweet feminine name to me. Maybe it had something to do with “fate” and her being fortunate to be here, or her family fortunate to have her. But when you’ve got one person who’s “Fragrant” and another “Accident”, you have to guess they might have been two different kind of women. One from uptown and the other from the other side of the tracks. And even though they had their relationship with Jesus and the church itself, they were struggling to get along.
Human relationships can be complicated. And because we’ve been hurt before by them, we develop fears, survival mechanisms and coping mechanisms that keep people at arm’s length. Hmm. So how do we make relationships with other humans, work?
Here’s Galatians 6:6-10
6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Of course, this is directly talking about personal holiness, but it also applies to many other aspects of life, like relationships. What the Scripture tells us here is that we’re all farmers.
If you’re going to make relationships and make them work, be a farmer.
The farming concept involves sowing, raising and reaping. And it’s initiated by the farmer. Farmers don’t wait for the crop to come to them. Farmers make efforts to create a favorable environment for crops. Don’t just wait for someone to come find you to be your friend. So, lessons from farming relationships:
What kind of person are you in the relationship making business? Are you hurt, reeling from problems in your own life, hard to get along with, angry, demanding, critical or the opposite, completely shut down? Your heart is the soil for good relationships to form. Ask someone that can be honest with you. Am I hard to be closely related to? Is there anything off putting in me? And be prepared for an honest answer, and then get some help. We have an inner healing team here at church, spiritual counseling, and there are good Christian counselors out there. The good soil of relationship is unhindered, genuine love for people in your heart.
If you want corn, plant corn. If you want beans, plant beans. And if you want a lot of them, sow lots of them over many acres of prepared soil. What are the seeds of good relationship?
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
It always starts with one on one. Then it may have to involve other people, depending on the situation. But relationship maintenance, repair and rescue are important skills to learn. You won’t be great at this at first, it’ll be awkward anyway. But don’t say, I’m too shy, I’m too scared to try.
I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
Each of them had a call to repair the relationship. Does it always work? No. It may just be that time and the Lord’s work has to come to pass before it eventually happens. As much as lies in you, be at peace with all men. You may be embroiled in difficult intense relational disasters or you may just be looking for a friend.
What new relationships can you begin to farm? What old relationships need to be refreshed? What important relationships need to be repaired?
God is the Lord of relationships!