Date: 10/10/04
Title: A Call To Harmony
Text: Philippians 4:1-3
Theme: As citizens of heaven, we learn to experience harmony and unity in the present Christian community

I remember shortly after I was ordained, during a visitation, one person said to me, “You better watch out for the elders in this church. They would chew you up and then spit you out of their mouth. They have done this to several other pastors already.” Talk about being encouraging.
The congregation may complain about their pastors, and pastors about their congregations. Very often conversations about the church end up in a rather unpleasant manner. Disunity and disharmony is just around the corner. We can become so used to disharmony that we think it is no big deal and say where you have people, you will have problems. We can be so used to it that we even become a part of the problem.
For this reason, it is always refreshing to read and study Paul’s epistles. He not only acknowledge the existence of problems within the church, but he also provide a solution. Yes, there are problems of unity and harmony in the church, but we don’t have to let them control and divide us. Instead we can overcome them.
In this passage we’ll see a simple truth: as citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we learn to experience harmony and unity in our Christian community.
I. In the Christian community we face the challenge of learning to honor one another.
Vs. 4:1, ‘Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, ….my beloved. 我所想念親愛的弟兄們,你們就是我的喜樂、我的冠冕。所以,親愛的,…” Do you remember when you bought your first new car or that new house? You were so proud of them. They were your love, joy and crown. Or when you first set your eyes on that prince charming or snow white, he/she was your love, joy and crown. This is how Paul thought so highly of the believers at Philippi. They were his beloved, his love, his joy and crown. Not because they were perfect, for they did have problems and that was why he wrote this letter. Instead, Paul and the believers at Philippi were children of God, citizens of the heavenly kingdom. This is how God sees his children. Isaiah 43:4, “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.. 因為你在我眼中非常寶貴和貴重,所以我愛你;….”, Job 1:8, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?你有沒有注意到我的僕人約伯?世上再也沒有一個人像他那樣完全、正直,敬畏  神,遠離罪惡’”As if God is saying, “Sat, check him out. He is my love, joy and crown.” Here Paul is setting an example for us that in the Christian community, we are to honor one another. We are to think highly of each other. We are to treat each other as our beloved, our love, our joy and crown.
I think of the churches I have served. Well, only two: the church in STL and HCC. Whenever I think and talk about them and you, I have a choice to make. Are they a pain, or are they my joy? We all have our share of problems. There is no perfect church on earth. And I constantly ask God to help me that whenever I talk about you, to talk as my love, joy and crown.
When I see you, I recognize that behind each face in this sanctuary is a story of God's on going work in our lives. The more I know you, the more I see how God has brought you to faith. I see how he has changed you from a stubborn, cynical person to a gentle and humble person. He hasn’t finished with you or me. He is still working in our lives. Whenever I see you, I see God's finger print in your lives. And when I see that, I see you as my beloved, my love, joy and crown. When I see the 23 young adults using their vacation time or leave without pay to go to Mexico to help out with the orphans, you are my love, joy and crown. Yesterday when I saw 7 couples, after taking marriage enrichment classes, renewing their vows to each other, I was so touched by them. You are my love, joy and crown.
My prayer is that I too, can be worthy of your love, joy and crown. And you can be each other’s love, joy and crown.
II. In the Christian community we face the challenge of disunity and disharmony.
The believers’ community in Philippi was Paul’s love, joy and crown. However, this is also a community with problems. Vs.2, “2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.我勸友阿嫡,也勸循都基,要在主裡意念相同。” They had problem with unity and harmony. These problems prompted the writing of this letter. Beside the problem of disagreement among two individuals, they also faced the problem of being influenced by the enemies of the cross. In other words, the enemy is attacking this Christian community. His objective is to sow seeds of resentment and hatred towards each other. Instead of honoring one another and thinking highly of each other, Satan wants this community to become a place of cynicism, hatred and disharmony.
In light of this, Paul urges the Philippian believers to stand firm. Vs1, “….stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved…所以,親愛的,你們應當靠著主站立得穩” Be strong, don’t falter. The enemy wants to destroy this community of love and harmony. Don’t let him succeed. Stand firm in the Lord.
It is easy for us to stand firm in our own opinions and personalities. It is very natural for us that the older we get, or the longer we have become Christians, or the longer we are in ministry, the stronger we may feel about some of our opinions. It is easy to see ourselves better than others; and only caring for our own interests and well being. Very often, Satan takes advantages of this and causes dissension and disharmony among the Christian communities.
Therefore, in light of this, we are to stand firm in the Lord. Stand firm in the Lord means to be diligent in obeying God's word; don’t waver from it. The scripture teaches us that the greatest commandment is, “37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." 38"This is the great and first commandment." 39"And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 你要全心、全性、全意愛主你的  神。這是最重要的第一條誡命。 第二條也和它相似,就是要愛人如己"” (Matthew 22:37-39). The greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor. In Philippians 2:3-4, “3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.不要自私自利,也不要貪圖虛榮,只要謙卑,看別人比自己強; 各人不要單顧自己的事,也要顧別人的事.”
To stand firm in the lord means that I am to love others just as I love God. To stand firm in the lord means that with God's help, I learn to see others better than myself. I learn to see their strengths instead of their weaknesses. To stand firm in the lord means that I am to consider others’ interest and not just personal interest. I learn to see the world and situation through your eyes and try to understand why you feel a certain way. This is how we can stand firm in the Lord when challenged by disunity and disharmony.
III. In the Christian community we face the challenge of restoring harmony and unity.
What do we do with our problems? Again, look at Paul. Paul recognized that the Philippian church had a problem with unity and harmony. He did not beat around the bush but he dealt with this problem head on.
To better understand the passage before us, we have to remember that in the first century, apostles’ letters were read in the public during their gatherings. Can you imagine this? The clerk at the Philippian church just received this letter from their beloved apostle. So in a meeting or it could be a Sunday worship, this letter was read. They felt good at those passages where Paul was praising and affirming their ministry. They might have felt a little fidgety when Paul hinted that they may be arrogant and therefore needing to learn to humble themselves and have the mind of Christ. Then you come to vs.2, “2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.我勸友阿嫡,也勸循都基,要在主裡意念相同。” It is like in the middle of a sermon, I say, “Now, I urge Windsor and Henry to quit that quarreling.” One can definitely imagine the shock and embarrassment of Euodia and Syntyche. What is even worse is that this letter will be read in other churches. And even 20 centuries later, people are still reading about the disagreement between these two individuals.
We also know a little about them. vs.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. 我真誠的同道啊,我也求你幫助她們。這兩個女人,還有革利免和其餘的同工,都跟我在福音的事工上一同勞苦,他們的名字都在生命冊上。” They appeared to be founders of this church. They were believers, therefore their names were in the book of life. They were co-laborer with Paul. They were united at one time in their ministry, helping the formation and growth of the Philippian church. Then something happened. We are not sure what the nature of the problem was; but most probably it is not doctrinal in nature. As a result, there was disharmony/disagreement between the two. Because of their positions in the church, this disagreement had a far reaching effect on the entire church. their disagreement and disharmony was affecting that community’s love and harmony. Paul knew that this issue needed to be resolved. This problem must be of public in nature, therefore it required public solutions.
So, what was Paul’s solution to Euodia and Syntche’s disagreement?
1. Have the mind of Christ.
Euodia and Syntche were divided by disagreement. The first approach was a direct instruction. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntche to agree in the Lord.我勸友阿嫡,也勸循都基,要在主裡意念相同.” The antidote to disagreement is to agree in the lord. This means first of all they are to have the mind of Christ. In chapter 3 Paul tells of his goal in life: to know Christ, have Christ and to be like Christ. Chapter 2 he writes about having the mind of Christ. That is, see others stronger and better than self; learn to seek others’ interest. To agree in the Lord also means I am to submit my thinking to the Lord.
You know, very often our disagreement is not on the core doctrinal issues. Our disagreement is about opinions and how we see things. It has been said that it is easy to fight heresy and immorality in a church, when there is a clear cut in right and wrong. But differences in opinions are the hardest thing to deal with in a church. Everyone has an opinion on what the church should do or what the direction should be. In a recent phone conversation, a brother said to me, “it must be hard to be a pastor because you have to listen to so many different opinions.” How do we deal with disagreement?
We are to come back to the Lord, “…to agree in the Lord.在主裡意念相同.” We are to ask God to help us to develop and cultivate the mind of Christ; that we are to be humble and see others’ ideas better and more significant than ourselves. We are to learn to be humble and gentle, so we can see things from others’ perspectives. When we both come to the lord, to have the mind of Christ, then it becomes easier to agree with each other. It is also good to remember that unity does not mean uniformity.
2. Others can help.
Vs.3, “3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women,…我真誠的同道啊,我也求你幫助她們.” This is a very interesting verse. At this point, it appears that besides talking to Euodia and Syntyche, Paul is talking to another person. He is Paul’s companion. We don’t know his identity, only that he is a faithful partner and co-laborer with Paul. It appears that the believers at Philippian church know him. And now, Paul is asking for his help. The disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche is not private. Others know about it. So Paul is openly asking this person to help Euodia and Syntche. He wants this person to be a peacemaker between Euodia and Syntche.
Sometimes when we are in disagreement, either with our spouse or someone in the church, we may also need a third person to help us. The third person can help us to calm down and listen to each other. This person can give us a different perspective on the issue that we disagree. We need a peacemaker to bring us back to the mind of Christ.
However, there is a corollary. Yes, we need a third person to help us with our disagreement with our spouse or brothers and sisters in this church. Now, how about you as that peacemaker? I am always thankful to see some of you acting as the peacemaker in helping husband and wife to resolve a disagreement. I am thankful to see you acting as a peacemaker to resolve disagreements between brothers and sisters in this and other churches. We need a peacemaker when there is disharmony among us. We also need to be the peacemaker to bring peace back to the Christian community.
If I know you correctly, beginning Sunday afternoon, you will have plenty of opportunity to do church talk. If I am to follow you around for a day or two, I think I’ll also be hearing many negative remarks about this or that person, this or that minister. Well, to have equal opportunity, if you are to follow the pastors for a day or two, you probably will also hear the pastors talking negatively about their congregation members.
In our study of these 3 verses in the book of Philippians, we learn that when we do church talk, we have basically two choices. One is to focus on the problems and negatives in each person. the other choice is to see each other as our love, joy and crown. You see, if I focus on the negatives, what you have not done right, will only lead to further disagreements, thus sowing the seed for disunity and disharmony.
However, if I see you as my love, joy and crown, I will focus on the positives. If you are my love, joy and crown, and when I see disagreements among us, I will do my best to not propagate such negative thoughts. Instead, I want to make sure that I be close and obedient to God's word: to love God and one another. When I see you as my love, joy and crown, I will do my best to resolve the disagreement by submitting my thinking to the Lord. I’ll learn to be humble and considerate. I will see you as stronger and more significant than myself. Instead of insisting on my own ideas and opinions, I will learn to see your world through your eyes and skin. When I see you as my love, joy and crown, I will be willing to invite a peacemaker to help solve our disagreements. When I see you as my love, joy and crown, I will also be willing to be a peacemaker to help you with your disagreement with another person.
This morning I want to invite you to join me, that whenever we see and talk about this community, we are to see each other as our love, joy and crown. Just as God taught Paul to see the Philippian church as his love, joy and crown.