Euodia and Syntyche: Women at Odds

There are many feel-good stories in the Bible. This week’s episode of All God’s Women is not one of those. Today we look at Euodia and Syntyche, two women at odds with each other.

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Backstory

The name Euodia means fragrant. The name Syntyche means fortunate. They are mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. He calls them out in Philippians 4:2, but before we get to that, let’s backtrack a bit to put it in perspective.

As you’ll recall, Paul had a vision calling him to preach in Macedonia. Macedonia was in Europe, and Paul had never been there, but he and Timothy sailed there then traveled another nine miles to the city of Philippi  because it was the foremost city.

There was no synagogue in Philippi, but they learned that there was a group of women who gathered for prayer each Sabbath at the riverside. Paul and Timothy joined the women by the riverside, praying with them and teaching them. Lydia, one of the women, was saved along with her household, and as a result opened her home to Paul and Timothy and other believers. A church fellowship was formed.

Paul ended up returning to Philippi multiple times to teach and encourage the believers there. Then, while he was imprisoned in Rome, he sent his letter to the Philippians.

The theme of the Philippians letter is joy, but he also touches on unity and humility. And then, almost as an afterthought, he calls out Euodia and Syntyche.

Their Story

Euodia and Syntyche were two women involved in the building of the church in Philippi. They could have been part of that group of women who met at the river to pray that Paul met when he first arrived in Philippi (Acts 16:13-15). Or maybe they came along after that. The Bible provides us no background on them. All we know is what we find in Philippians 4:2-3.

“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” Philippians 4:2-3 (NKJV)

So what does this tell us about these two women? First, they worked together in the past, but something happened, and now these two friends were at odds with each other. Also, though they were fighting, he wants to make it clear that they women are Christians with their names written in the Book of Life.

Now, everyone has their disagreements, but this one was obviously more than just a little tift. It was such that it was affecting the rest of the church, and word of their problems had reached all the way from Philippi to Rome.

The Rest of the Story

It breaks your heart, doesn’t it? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we’re not going to have disagreements with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like we’re the worst. Someone does or says something we disagree with, and we feel morally obligated to set them straight. Only they don’t see things the same way we do. They see things their way. We lock horns. We try to prove why we’re right and they’re wrong. We get other people involved. Before we know it, it’s a big mess and everyone’s unhappy, and no one knows how to make it right.

I’m sure what’s where Euodia and Syntyche were. They never intended for their little disagreement to get out of hand, but it had, and now it was affecting their entire church. The problem was that it’s hard to fix a problem when you’re part of the problem.

Fortunately for everyone, Paul found out and reached out. Although there is much in his letter, I feel like he’s following the common tactic of delivering bad news. You start off positive, you mention the problem, then you close with encouragement.

Paul opens his letter talking about peace and joy. He lets the church know how much he appreciates them. Then he goes into unity through humility.

In Philippians 1:27, he says, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

In Philippians 2:2, he says, “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

In 2:3, “… in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

In chapter 3 verse 16 he says again for them to be of the same mind.

And then in chapter 4 verses 6 and 7, after he has admonished Euodia and Syntyche, he reminds them, “ Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”

Paul knew that until they were back working together in one accord, none of them would have that peace which surpasses all understanding. He also knew how hard it is to humble ourselves and work out our differences with those who were once close but who have said or done something to offend us. It’s not easy! But it’s necessary.

Your Story

Is there someone in your life who was once dear to you but now you’re at odds? If so, have you humbled yourself, asking God if the problem lies with you, and if so, to help you make it right? It may be that you’re right, but being right can be lonely if you lord it over others. Whatever your role in the situation, take it to Him to help you sort it out and reach a reconciliation.

In these days of so much conflict, we need to stand together with our sisters in Christ. We need to work together for the good of our Lord. Then, and only then, can we find that peace that we’re seeking.

Prayer

Lord God, humble our hearts today.  Forgive us for all that we’re doing that is hindering Your work. Open our eyes to all that’s causing division among our fellow believers. Remove those boulders that we’ve put up between us and others. Draw us together, working in unity for Your glory. Guide us. Direct us. Show us how to do better. Thank You for loving us even when we fail. Thank You for not expecting perfection from us. Thank You for your mercy and forgiveness. We love You so very much. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Tune in next week when we look at Eunice and Lois and the powerful influence of a godly mother or grandmother.

Euodia and Syntyche All God's Women Bible study

Bible Study

Scripture Background

Backstory: Philippians 1-3
Their Story: Philippians 4:2-3

Bible Study Review

  1. Who were Euodia and Syntyche?
  2. Why did Paul mention them?
  3. What did Paul tell them to do?

Thoughts to Ponder

  1. How do the earlier chapters of Philippians apply?
  2. Why should they be of one mind?
  3. How could the others help?

Personal Reflection

  1. Are you in a smilar situation?
  2. What can you do to make things right?
  3. How can you help others who are at odds?

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Euodia and Syntyche - An All God's Women podcast Bible study about disharmony in the church
Euodia and Syntyche - An All God's Women podcast Bible study about disharmony in the church
Euodia and Syntyche - An All God's Women podcast Bible study about disharmony in the church

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