Euodia and Syntyche
An Open Letter to Euodia and Syntyche
Based on Philippians 4:2-3 (ESV)
“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
By Elizabeth DeBarros
To the beloved sisters in Christ at Philippi,
Greetings in the Lord. I pray my letter finds you both in good health and I trust your souls to prosper, even as you have been taking pains to seek the Lord during this difficult season. May God be pleased and His Name be hallowed among us and among all the saints throughout the world.
I write to you both, Euodia and Syntyche, as your names and faces have come to mind repeatedly, oftentimes late in the night. I believe God’s purpose has been for that of prayer on your behalf. Over the past few months, I’ve spent many fitful nights weeping over things I’ve hardly understood. I only know the burden has been great, and the urgency relentless. Countless times I have wrestled until my entire body ached while holding you both before the Lord in prayer. Most days, when I was not occupied looking after the widows in our midst and other certain needs among the brethren; I’ve gone about as though a part of me were missing, as if to be left standing without eyes or limb. The sense of loss has been diminishing. And my longing for you in the Lord is equal to my affection for the Lord Himself.
As you know, it has been some time since our beloved Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. You recall his pleadings — that you settle your differences in the Lord — and how he had called on me to come alongside to help you. Now, after much concerted prayer, I believe time has come to assist you further. Through this open letter, I’m compelled to share with you and the church at Philippi what has been my observation and that which burns continuously in my heart.
You are both true servants of God. Your love for the Scriptures is without question. You are like the noble Bereans, and I commend you for holding fast to sound doctrine. Your faithful service to the ministry and your loving care for the flock here at Philippi has been evident to all. By God’s grace, you have both worked untiringly to advance the gospel. Whether by keeping prayerful watch or diligent study, or by washing the feet of the saints or cooking meals for the infirmed, you have proven yourselves in these things, thinking nothing of yourselves. The entire province has heard of your good works, and it’s been clear to all that your greatest privilege has been to serve God with an undying love. These things have been a great example to me and the rest of the family of God. We remain indebted to you for your zeal and gracious service.
But now, as I have waited upon the Lord, I must unburden my heart and speak of difficult things I fear may pain you to hear. But I trust the mighty God within you to convince you against any petulance.
Thus, here is what I have observed: You’ve allowed troubled waters to run dry under the bridge. Although you have seemingly forgiven one another, having formally reconciled, and that in the presence of the elders, I’ve noticed you no longer come together in prayer like you did in times past. The friendly banter and warm smiles exchanged at mealtimes have all but stopped. You have somehow become polite, to the point of coldness, even avoiding one other before and after the meeting! What is more, you have become selective with whom you speak. There is, I daresay, a stale air within your circles of fellowship. The proof of such has borne out, as I am pained over the two sisters who have recently come to us from Troas. They were reluctant to say at first, but a few days ago they told me of how they have not been well received, as no one has offered to disciple them. They are feeling bruised and disheartened, and are making plans to visit the church at Ephesus soon.
Disagreements are inevitable. The Lord Jesus said offenses would come. I well understand how tensions can easily mount when there is no singular vision on a matter. But disputes are such that they prove our discipleship: are we serving God or are we still trying to please ourselves? How many occasions are there to see things differently than our brother or sister? Innumerable! When provisions are limited or when guests are hungry and tables have not yet been set, Greeks do it one way, Jews another. Like-mindedness is a holy challenge to which we mortal creatures must aim. Granted, it would be much simpler to be a Stoic, but that is not our goal, to stand apart and self-sufficient. Ours is a higher calling. His blood was shed for each member of the Body of Christ that we be one, even as Christ and the Father are one.
Now, I say this in all humility, while you may have done everything right outwardly, we know from the scrolls that God looks on the inward parts. If I am to serve you honestly, I must make my appeal to you forthrightly. Be reconciled to one another in truth, from the heart.
You have been amply supplied with instruction to know what you ought to do when disputable matters arise. Even you yourselves have said, “Is food more important than Christ and our brother for whom Christ died? I implore you, my dear sisters, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to one another. Cast away your silent stones. Remember Jesus. When the saints are assembled, come together again; lay down your pride, your will, and your heart. As you kneel before the throne of God, raise your hands in declaration of the cross of Christ, forsake your own way and surrender your spirit to Him once more.
As for the elders, deacons, and all the saints at Philippi, we shall continue to pray, asking God to heal the delicate rift in His precious body. May the Lord bind your hearts once more unto full restoration. And may righteousness, joy, and peace be found again in the house of God.
Your loyal brother,
End Note: The name “Syzygus”- Gk. syzygos means “true yokefellow” (ESV footnote). Not all Bible commentators agree as to who is the “true companion” to whom Paul refers in his letter. It is not made clear. Some say Syzygus could be the proper name of a certain individual, while others suggest Epaphroditus.
About the Author: ELIZABETH DEBARROS makes her home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Virginia with her husband of 24 years, their two sons, and beloved cat, Adagio. She cares deeply for people, words, theology, Darjeeling, and likes taking long walks in any kind of weather. She can be found at Finding the Motherlode sharing her thoughts, observations, poems, and the occasional firebrand.