A Recipe for Peace
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I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:2-7
In these few sentences Paul moves from a personal message to a message for the church at large. It begins with what could be a familiar scenario: two godly women (gender doesn't matter here, it could just as easily have been two men) having a disagreement. We don’t know the details and it doesn’t matter. But note that these aren’t ornery, cantankerous, unbelieving ladies here – these are godly women who have contended for the Gospel with Paul. They’ve been saved by it, they’re standing in it, and they’re fighting for it . . . and they’re at odds with each other. It happens, even to the best of us.
Paul is emphatic that they both work on this, and they both move to meet in the middle, to agree in the Lord. So, we see that the place to resolve our disagreements is in the Lord. If anyone ought to be good at working out a snarl in a relationship, it ought to be believers.
You see, the problem with not having peace among ourselves is that disunity contradicts Christian servanthood and Gospel partnership and the life in God’s family that Paul has been outlining so far in his letter. So Paul says “agree in the Lord.”
You see, if we get could lost in the glory and story of the "Gospel of peace", as it’s called in Ephesians - which is the work of Christ done on our behalf to remove our enemy status, to absolve our sins and dissolve the enmity between us and God and reconcile our relationship to God - if we could be truly caught up in that, then it will be much easier to find a way through difficult Christian relationships.
Think of it. If our names are next to each other in the Book of Life, we can agree in the Lord and not let differences become divisions.
Now Paul moves from his entreaty to these dear women, to what feels like a more general address to the Church and describes how we are to make peace amongst ourselves and in our daily lives.
"4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
There’s a recipe here of commands that lead to peace. When you add these together, and stir them up good, the result is peace. Notice also how Paul uses superlatives and absolutes: always, all, anything, every. There's not a situation that isn't covered by Paul's commands!
And then of course the unique quality of the peace of God is that it surpasses and transcends all understanding.
These commands are given in a particularly emphatic way, and delivered with all the confidence that comes from a 100% money-back-if-you're-not-satisifed-guarantee. This’ll work, friends. It’s the path to a peaceful heart.
Let’s take a few minutes to think about what it means to rejoice, to be gentle, to not be anxious, to pray about everything and to be guarded by the peace of God.
First of all, joy must go deeper than happiness. If our joy is derived solely from our circumstances, then we stand a pretty good chance of being miserable really soon!
We must realize that in Christ, circumstances don’t make or break you. Rejoice always, because you really do have much to be joyful about.
Now gentleness. It’s the exact opposite of contention or selfishness. Jesus himself is our example. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 Paul describes Christ as "gentle and gracious."
This quality should be evident to all. Not just to other smiling faces on Sunday morning, but also to the super slow check out person at the store and the maniac that just passed you on the highway! Even more importantly, it should be known where it really means something: with your kids and with your spouse. Is your gentleness known to them?
Now Paul says, do not be anxious about anything. Proverbs 12:25 says that “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” We all know that. If you’re an adult, you know how heavy anxiety is. Anxiety is a joy killer. And anxiety and joylessness make relationships hard.
Think about the things that cause you anxiety. The wayward child, the bank balance, exams and interviews, relationships gone dry. No matter what the case, our Father tells us, “don’t be anxious about that.”
In its clinical form anxiety can be debilitating. I’m not saying we can or should ignore it. I’m saying that God says there are things bigger than it and better than it.
And from here we segue into the anxiety antidote, which is to take all that weight and dump it in the Father’s lap. In every situation we are to pray, ask, and give thanks. Nobody can care for us like the Father does, not even ourselves. I think Paul is almost daring us to bring all these anxieties and cares to God and thank him for carrying the load.
When we do all these things - we rejoice, we learn to be gentle, we handle our anxious thoughts with prayer and thanksgiving - our hearts and minds are guarded by God's peace.
There’s a military concept here. We are in God’s protective custody, garrisoned by Him. These hearts and minds of ours that are so prone to wander and worry are guarded by the Peace of God.
Furthermore, if we practice rejoicing, gentleness, trust and prayer – and experience God’s peace – then what problem among ourselves can we not work out?