“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 4:1 ESV)
A pastor is not a good pastor who simply loves well, as much as some may admire him. Good pastoring requires leading, and to lead well means to set a direction, to admonish—occasionally say the hard word. Good shepherds have the rod and the staff for a reason.
We see Paul using that rod and staff in this text. He exhorts them, in light of this glorious resurrection and eternal life, “Stand firm! Don’t give up. Don’t retreat!” All leaders must exhort the team. We get it. But notice the next verse; it’s one of my favorites. Pastor Steve, if only we could get back to New Testament Christianity, then everybody would love each other and get along great and always agree on everything. If only the Apostle Paul was our pastor, then we’d really feel the love all the time. Really? You haven’t read the New Testament. Guess what first century Christians were like? A lot like us.
“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2)
This may surprise you, but there were two women in this Philippian church who once were friends but at this time they were not getting along! Who ever heard of such a thing? Two women on the outs with each other. They used to be BFFs but now….
Even the New Testament church with all that apostolic love and miracles, struggled to get along. Philippi is Lydia. Philippi is the earthquake and the Philippian jailer. Philippi is the famous letter about joy and rejoicing. In spite of all of that, there were two women on the outs with each other, everybody knew it, and they were called out by name. Their spat was documented in Holy Scripture. In heaven people meet Syntyche and say, “You and Euodia still not getting along?”
What’s the point? Good shepherds love well. Good sheep do too. Good shepherds lead well and strive for the unity of the church. Good sheep do as well. This side of glory there are no perfect shepherds, no perfect sheep, and no perfect churches. Yet we must strive for it.
Sometimes the brokenness of the church only serves to highlight the glory of Christ—the one true and faithful shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. All the Euodias and Syntyches in the church, all the spats about this, that, and the other, all the imperfections we may see in shepherds, all of it points us to our future. There we will not only live in perfect unity, but we will know the love of the great Shepherd of our souls, Jesus. “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
All the love and affections between good shepherds and good sheep on earth are little reflections of what we really want, to be with Christ and to experience his love in all its eternal fullness.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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