It’s a fairly regular scene at my house. With a six-year-old and a five-year-old, both with very strong opinions and ideas, it’s not at all uncommon to have one stomping off with a harumph to tattle about how the other just won’t play the right way. Of course, anyone who has ever witnessed a similar scene will immediately realize that the “right” way usually has nothing to do with right and wrong. Rather, you can almost always translate the “right way” to mean “my way.”

Isn’t it a good thing we grow out of the stage where my way is the right or even only way? So that I am no longer primarily concerned about what I want or like. And I am far more concerned about following Jesus and serving and edifying others than I am about satisfying me.

Oh, if only…

In the opening verses of Philippians 4, the apostle Paul is addressing a church near and exceptionally dear to his heart, pleading that two of her central members will set aside their differences and get along and asking the rest of the congregation to help them do this. At first glance, the prescription is blunt: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” In my personal translation, which is admittedly greatly influenced by my kids, this translates to, “Hey! Euodia! Syntyche! That’s enough! If you can’t get along, you’ll go to your rooms!” Simply put, these two women are to get over whatever argument has erupted between them.

Having delivered the exact same ultimatum to my kids on more than one occasion, I can tell you exactly how well that works.

Fortunately, Paul didn’t leave the Philippians with this alone. Indeed, after asking the rest of the church to get involved to help these women get back on the same page, the apostle elaborates shares four rather profound steps to conflict resolution: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4); “Let your graciousness be known to everyone” (5); “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (6); “And the peace of God… will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (7).

Now, there is certainly enough in each of these steps for a blog post in and of themselves. But as I’m trying to finish up my word study on joy, I want to focus on the first one, which may actually be the most important of the four anyway.

Oh, I know. The peace of God is pretty important. But having spent years troubleshooting computers and such, I have learned a secret: jump right to the one thing that will solve the vast majority of problems. In computers, that means that the first thing a help desk operator will tell you is, “Restart your computer.” Probably 99% of all problems with a computer will be fixed with this one simple step that is so often overlooked by people panicking about that BSOD or kernel panic. (That’s a free bonus!)

When it comes to arguments in the church, it means that we need to check what we’re rejoicing in.

I mean, if my primary source of joy is the burnt orange carpet that was installed in the sanctuary with money from my dear mom’s cousin’s sister’s estate in 1976, then it will be a huge deal for me if someone suggests that it be replaced. But is that carpet really what I want as the basis of my joy? (I mean, if it was blaze orange or camouflage or something like that, then yes! But burnt orange? Really? What am I thinking?)

Okay, so that scenario was perhaps a bit facetious. But how often have church fights – even church splits – erupted because of situations just like this?

Paul knew that we rejoice over – celebrate, if you will – only those things which are most important to us. Thus we don’t usually celebrate getting a gallon of milk at the store, but we do celebrate getting a new car.

And his point was to make sure that the one thing that we rejoice over is the Lord.

Now, this is an interesting statement for two reasons. Number one, it reminded the two ladies involved that Jesus is ultimately Lord of the Church. In other words, it’s not Euodia’s or Syntyche’s or Jeremy’s church. It’s Jesus’ church.

And number two, it reminded these ladies that the single most important thing in Jesus’ church is Jesus.

So it doesn’t matter what color the carpet is. It doesn’t matter what kind of TP we use. It doesn’t matter (gasp) what style of music we play on Sunday morning.

Jesus matters. His glorification. His command. His commission.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

How many church fights would be diffused if the parties involved simply made Jesus the single most important thing on their agendas? And how many issues in life would simply go away if my preference or desire or idea took second (or four hundred ninety-sixth) chair to Jesus?

I dare say it would be quite a few.

Now, to work on my priorities.


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