Updated: Feb 3
My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 23, the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, October 15, 2017. It is important because Paul made a call for Apostles to be steadfast in their support of one another, making it a point to mention the role women played in assisting in the spread of the early church.
Chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Christians of Philippi is the end of that epistle of encouragement. By beginning his closing statements with, “My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved,” he was stating their closeness in Spiritual relationship. They were all, sender and receivers, “firm in the Lord” as true Christians, filled with a deep love of God, gifted the Christ Mind, via the Holy Spirit of God. This statement of closing says the love of God produces a love within, which is so strong it generates a desire for others to seek their own inner strength of love. They are brothers and sisters as born from the same love that comes from the Father.
When Paul named three people of the church in Philippi, to whom the whole of the epistle was written, those three (a number that is symbolic of initial completion, as representative of the Trinity) were in need of special attention. To recommend that the two women “be of the same mind in the Lord,” says they were still struggling to let go of their egos fully. That could have then been a statement of those two having opposite agendas for the Lord, thus making it difficult for one to fully support the other. Clement then became the one man that both women loved and respected, so he could mediate the differences between the two women. Therefore, Paul was asking all to leave their egos behind and follow the one mind of Christ, as that represents a strengthening of their faith.
On a symbolic level, the names of those mentioned have meanings. A name (then) was given as a parent’s blessing to a child, as a prayer to the Lord. A name then reflects a parent’s wish upon the life of the child, which the child then knows to live up to. Euodia means “Good Road” or “(Have a) Good Trip.” It can be used to denote “Success!” or “Good Luck!” Syntyche means “Great Fortune” (Good or Bad Fortune), but can also mean “Accident” or “Happy Event.” Clement means “Calm or Peaceful or Tranquil.”
Given these name meaning, for Paul to write: “They have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers,” the intent is less to say those people were actually with Paul in his travels; but the purpose was to show how they were remembered by the meanings of their names, as Paul struggled in his evangelism. Paul needed to find the “good road” to travel, so he had “a nice trip” spreading the Gospel. He was having the “good fortune” of encountering people of all walks in life (some good and some bad), with each meeting yielding the “happy event” of another soul led to Christ. Those people met Paul seemingly by “accident.” Still, through his travels, Paul longed for those friends in Christ that he had to leave behind. Therefore, he struggled with that heartfelt pain, by remaining “calm” and at “peace” in the Lord. Paul reached out to the other disciples of Christ, with true love and affection … that of brotherhood.
The remainder of this letter touched on the traits characterized by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Those become the measuring sticks that show one’s growth in spiritual love. Those traits are: 1.) “Rejoice in the Lord,” as your heart leads your brain; 2.) “Gentleness,” which means one is considerate of others; 3.) “Do not worry,” because fears only come in the absence of God’s love; 4.) “Prayer and thanksgiving,” which is staying in touch with the Lord’s presence within; 5.) “The peace of the Lord,” which is letting the Christ Mind lead your actions; and 6.) Be a model of Christ Jesus, which means all truth, honor, justice, pleasure, and commendation that comes to you is due to his presence within.
In this closing chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the message that should be taken today is Love. Paul is doing (naturally) what Jesus said to do: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus said that to his disciples at the Passover Seder meal (the Last Supper), and should not be read as a general “love everyone” message. This is known by the subsequent verse, which says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Therefore, Paul was doing as Jesus would have him do, from his heart and soul.
Paul loved his brothers and sisters, and everyone knows that Paul was a disciple of Jesus Christ because of the love he showed in his travels and follow-up letters. It is a commandment given by God, through His Son, and is therefore not an option. To be Christian is to support all Christians with love and acceptance.
What Christians do not read in the books of the Holy Bible are the letters written back to Paul. Paul might have received letters from Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement while traveling, which he responded to in this letter’s closing statements. The same answer spoke to all three.
The point is a true Christian does not shun other Christians. Love is not a silent emotion. Love throws its arms around its brothers and sisters in Christ; and when physical touch is impossible, love throws its arms around its brothers and sisters in Christ through communications and prayers.
It is not the confessions of the disciples that proves they have obeyed this final commandment of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave that command as he was telling the eleven that one would betray him. Judas Iscariot stood as a symbol of Christians without true faith. As such, many will confess they believe in Christ, but not all will join together in unity and steadfastness, as some will sneak out in betrayal.
The measure of success is then the love one expresses to other Christians – the Acts of the Apostles. And that love is known by God , as He knows the heart quite well.
Love comes from the heart, where the throne of God rests. Are you of one mind, which means God sits upon that throne in you – making you his kingdom? Or, do you keep God from ruling over you, because there are so many other Christians who promote agendas in opposition to yours?