Go With Gratitude

by Joe Johns

This week, I’m continuing in a series to offer practical help at resolving conflict. As I noted last week, conflict is inevitable—even among church folk. But broken relationships are not. Engaging conflict in a Biblical way is not easy, but when its practiced reconciliation and healing can occur. That’s why Jesus calls the peacemakers blessed because they will see God working in their midst.

The apostle Paul was not a stranger to conflict. And so it’s not surprising that he addresses a conflict between two believers in his letter to the church at Philippi, writing...
"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life."
- Philippians 4:2-3
Apparently, news of a conflict between two women named Euodia and Syntyche reached Paul in prison. We learn from Paul that these two women had both partnered with him in the Gospel and carried influence with others.

And here, we learn something valuable relating to conflicts. They happen between godly people in the church! The maturity of these women did not prevent them from having a conflict that was difficult to resolve. Let’s not be surprised or dismayed when conflict happens among even mature believers. Instead, let’s resolve it as mature believers.

Which is exactly what Paul exhorts them to do. Verses 4-9 are often read as stand-alone verses at the end of his letter. But, we might do well to read them as Paul’s help to Euodia and Syntyche for resolving their conflict. When we do, we find 4 biblical and practical steps for peacemakers who want to resolve conflict.

Step One: Go With Gratitude

Paul is clear and direct. He gently but directly calls out the two women and their conflict. This is the “Go” part. Conflicts get out of hand and become all the more difficult to resolve when they are not addressed, directly, firmly, and in a timely manner.

Jesus told his followers resolving conflict is so important that you should even leave worship to do so (Matthew 5:24). He also stresses the need for someone to initiate “going” to the other when conflict arises (Matthew 18:15).

Similarly, Paul pleads for Euodia and Syntyche to “go” to one another, as well as urging his “true companion” in that church to also “go” and help them resolve their conflict. It’s unclear who exactly Paul meant as his true companion, but the point is not lost: biblical conflict resolution requires directness! No beating around the bush: Go!

I’m convinced so many conflicts would end so much better, if only we were more convicted and disciplined to go to the other person as soon as we sensed a problem.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He says…
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)
The first step is to Go with Gratitude. In the middle of the conflict Paul says to “rejoice.” Twice. And back-to-back. What’s he getting at here?

Paul is saying when you go to resolve conflict, do so with a joyful directness. Conflict resolution demands directness. Beating around the bush, avoidance, and lack of honesty will not do. But sometimes directness can come across as harsh, or lacking compassion.

The key for Paul is to rejoice; to find a reason to be grateful as I go into this conflict. For Paul, he rejoices about his past relationship with Euodia and Syntchye—how they were some diligent in the Gospel work they shared. He praised God for the relationship even as he waded into their conflict.

For many of us, wading into conflict feels terrible. It’s often full of unpleasant and distressing feelings, especially when we have a history of conflicts not resolving well. That’s why we’re tempted to avoid conflict.

But Paul shows us another way. He says to enter into conflict with rejoicing and worship. It’s so counterintuitive that he has to say again…literally.
Imagine the difference it will make if on your drive to a crucial conversation with someone, you begin praising God for your history with them. What would happen to your heart and to the way you begin to address first with your gratitude, not your grudge.

I encourage you to think about a relationship you have that is in conflict. What might it look like for you to rejoice in that relationship?

I’ll say it again: what might it look like for you to rejoice in that relationship?

Maybe it’s writing out your thoughts of gratitude for that person, noting the things you have valued (and still do) in the relationship. Maybe it’s about reading that out before the Lord in prayer, or perhaps, sending to the other person in order to keep the relationship bigger than the conflict.

Whatever form it takes, may you be a peacemaker who goes with gratitude.

Look for Step 2 coming soon…
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