Go with Repentance

by Joe Johns
Today, we continue looking at the practical and blessed art of being a peacemaker in the conflicts around us. While conflict is inevitable even among believers, broken relationships are not.

We are studying one such conflict in the bible between two women named Euodia and Syntyche. Though we don’t know the nature of this conflict, it certainly got Paul’s attention such that he addressed it in a letter to their church. This move underscores how important it is to proactively deal with conflict.

Here’s the passage once again, along with verse 5, which I want to highlight.

2 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.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:2-5)

Here in verse 5 we can see another step to take in resolving conflict biblically.

Step #2: Go With Repentance.

Paul exhorts us to demonstrate our gentleness in the midst of our conflict because the Lord is near.

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
What does this mean? How does it apply to our conflicts?

I remember a super painful conflict I was in a number of years ago now. I had been wronged and that was all I could see. My attempts to resolve the conflict never got beyond me defending myself.

But Paul calls us to demonstrate gentleness (or reasonableness) in our conflict; meaning, don’t simply defend yourself.

Often, we add to the conflict even when we try to engage them because we don’t have the ears to listen and hear what the other party is saying. Resolving conflicts biblically requires us to be the most open, teachable party.

What does this look like in action? It looks like listening to what someone is saying instead of planning your next comeback. It looks like validating the emotions of the other party instead of judging them. (“it’s easy to see why you feel as ____ as you say”). Such words can be offered without justifying their position or affirming something untrue. Acknowledging how someone feels is a kindness and it often opens a door to a more productive dialogue.

Resolving conflicts biblically requires us to be the most open, teachable party.

As the scriptures say, a gentle word turns away wrath… (Proverbs 15:1)

Gentleness in conflict flows from a repentant spirit in which there is a willingness to own our part of the wrong. It is willing to look at the plank in our own eye before pointing out their speck. (Matthew 7:3). This gentleness (openness) also keeps us from gossip afterwards in the name of “processing.” It also prevents us from lashing out on social media to slam our rivals.

You may be wondering about now, how is this gentle repentance in conflict even possible? What could possibly motivate us to do something so against our instincts?

Paul tells us, saying, …the Lord is near. (verse 4b). Realizing the Lord is near in your conflicts matters greatly in 2 different ways.

First it means you are not alone. You will not go undefended forever. The false accusations or pain of being misunderstood will not endure for eternity. Paul may be referring to the judgment day which will soon come and when it does every wrong will put right. Justice will be served so that final restoration can happen. But he might also have in mind that, like stories of Jesus in the Gospels, when Jesus is near, broken bodies and relationships can be healed by the power of God’s spirit. Either way, it motivates us with hope.

But it also means he is the rightful judge of both parties in conflict. If he is near, he sees both sides clearly. He will not stand for us to treat poorly those whose names are written in his book of life—those for whom he has bled and died, just as he did for us. If the Lord never gives us what we deserve, neither should we want our brother or sister to get what we think they have coming, no matter how we might think they deserve it.

So, in response to Paul’s teaching so far, consider these questions today:
  1. Is there a conflict that needs your attention right now?
  2. Do you have imagination for how to engage it in a spirit of gentle repentance?
  3. Who can you ask to pray for greater imagination?
  4. When will you attempt to address the conflict (again)?

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