Think of someone with whom you do not get along. It may be someone at work or school. It may be someone in your immediate family. It may even be someone in the church you attend. In fact, it what I am about to suggest will work better if it is someone in Covenant.
Have you thought about them?
Here’s what I suggest you do. Invite them over for dinner or dessert. Find a way to serve with them. Join their Bible study or community group. Or better yet invite them to join your Bible study or community group. The purpose of living in community is to humanize our brothers and sisters. As long as we keep our distance from those with whom we do get along, we never really learn to see them as someone for whom Jesus died. So get to know them. Listen to their story. Make the astonishing discovery that they have had some very serious challenges and yet the Lord stood by them. More importantly, they stood by the Lord. They chose to live faithfully by trusting in the faithfulness of God.
And learn from them.
If living faithfully means trusting in the faithfulness of God, then trusting in the faithfulness of God requires practicing what Jesus preaches in the company of others who practice what Jesus preaches.
In Philippians 4.2-3, the apostle Paul mentions two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Paul describes these women as having “labored side by side with me in the gospel,” (v. 3). However, something happened and a disagreement chilled their friendship. So concerned is Paul that they reconcile he urges them to work out their differences. For Euodia and Syntyche, living faithfully will mean forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven them.
Practicing what Jesus preaches means learning to work out our own salvation as part of a community of other believers who are also practicing what Jesus preaches. The exact nature of the disagreement that divided Euodia and Syntyche is lost to history. This much is certain: the path toward reconciliation is paved by the decision to practice what Jesus preaches in the company of others who practice what Jesus preaches.
Just in case these two women could not reconcile on their own, Paul requested the help of a third party. The identity of the person Paul identifies as “true companion” is unknown. Some say it’s a fellow named Syzygus (lit., loyal yokefellow). Others believe it may have been Dr. Luke, the author of the gospel that bears his name as well as the Acts of the Apostles. Whoever the “true companion” was, Paul appealed to him to mediate and help Euodia and Syntyche reconcile.
Paul counted on all three to live faithfully. His appeal is grounded in the confident hope that when men and women live faithfully by trusting in the faithfulness of God they will practice what Jesus preaches; they will behave as mature followers of Jesus Christ. They will set aside their pride and seek reconciliation by considering others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2.3).
It’s not known whether or not Euodia and Syntyche reconciled. I like to think that they did. And I like to think that the person Paul calls “true companion” helped.
So let’s return to my opening statement. Think of someone with whom you do not get along. Whatever is the reason as to why you do not get along, can you envision the two of you reaching reconciliation? Is there a third party to whom you can appeal for help in reaching the point of forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you?
We tend to think of disciplines like living faithfully as requiring us to do great things, perform mighty deeds and aspire to heroic achievements. And while such exploits are sometimes the result of living faithfully, at its core, living faithfully means practicing what Jesus preaches. It means loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. It means learning to love your neighbor as yourself. Sometimes it means learning to ask for and receive forgiveness.
And sometimes it means learning to practice forgiveness and doing so as a daily discipline.
You think about that.