You've seen it.
I know you have.
You've maybe "been there."
Even in the community of faith, in a group of believers, inside the fellowship of a church, it can happen.
Two people who have worked side by side, and shared ups and downs, can have what my grandma used to call "a falling out." They've labored together, laughed together, cried together, and seen God's blessings together.
But something happens.
Maybe it's a disagreement over something small. Maybe it's a small sliver of jealousy that grows larger with time. It's usually not something major.
But it gets that way.
Then you have the sharp glances. The whispers. The lack of cooperation. The open dissension. The attitudes that have no place in the church, and hurt the testimonies of the people involved, and the church itself, as outsiders look on.
Because it can affect not only the people involved, but the entire congregation.
The two ladies that I'm talking about lived over two thousand years ago. People are still talking about them (and learning from them, I hope) today. We meet them in the final chapter of Philippians:
Let's go back and lay the groundwork for this letter, and for Paul's plea to these ladies to "make up." Do you recall when we studied Lydia? She was a "seller of purple," a wealthy lady who was the foundation of the church in Philippi. This is the church that began as a prayer meeting by the river, and grew into a thriving, passionate church.
Paul was writing to the church here primarily to thank the congregation for a recent gift.
One of the folks from that congregation, Epaphroditus, had gone to visit Paul (to deliver their gift to him). He had become very ill, but was now recovered sufficiently to travel home, so Paul penned his letter to the church and asked Epaphroditus to carry it with him.
In his letter to Philippi, Paul stressed unity, self-sacrifice, respect, humility, and more. Here's an example from chapter two:
Then, finally, in the fourth chapter, he "names names." Ouch. That packs a punch, doesn't it? He was concerned enough about the contention between these two women, that Paul addressed it in a letter that he knew would be read aloud to the church!
Think he was too harsh?
Think he did just right?
We'll learn more as we study this week! Hope you will join us!