A Pathway to Healthy Relationships
“What are some verses that give you encouragement?” The following are a few of mine:
I find that these verses are often quoted, but few of us remember the context from which they are gleaned. All are in Philippians 4:2-9 and in that context Paul is writing to a much beloved church, and he is giving advice on how to deal with conflict that exists between two church members: Euodia and Syntyche (v 2). In eight short verses we find eight imperative verbs—commands that Paul gives to the two women and to the church! Let me call the passage A Pathway to Healthy Relationships.
I. Healthy Relationships Require Work (vs 2-3). Following Jesus’ general guidelines found in Matthew 18:15-17, Paul first exhorts the two ladies to come together in Christ and resolve their differences. He then immediately exhorts church members, expressly pointing to Clement whom we presume to be an elder in the church, to assist the ladies in their pursuit of peace.
II. Healthy Relationships Start with a Healthy Me (vs 4-7). Here Paul extends four imperatives. The first is that we are to be a person of joy—even in the midst of adversity. Secondly, he exhorts us to be known as a reasonable person—one with a forbearing spirit. Thirdly, Paul tells us to avoid anxiety—much like Jesus did in Matthew 6:25-34. Finally, he challenges us to have a prayer life filled with genuine gratitude. Just a few verses later in 4:11-13 Paul gave a personal witness to the impact these principles have had on how he lives his life: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”
III. Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Thoughts which Will Trigger Helpful Actions (vs 8-9). Here Paul exhorts us to meditate on the right things—“whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy.” Our challenge today is that our news sources, entertainment media, and the internet are filled with things that shouldn’t be heard, seen, nor done in polite company. His final exhortation is one that challenges me personally to the core: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do.” I’m not sure that I could say as Paul did that you should do as I do, because I am a man with feet of clay. But I do pray that you will do as the Bible says!
Within the passage, Paul twice provides us with encouragement. If you are willing to follow a Biblical path in your relationships with each other then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (v 7), and “the God of peace will be with you (v 9).
Let me close with a personal challenge. Select one relationship in your life that needs a little TLC. Begin to apply the principles Paul lays down in this passage. Be patient and persistent with that person, because there is a high probability that if you really change your heart and approach, they will get suspicious of your motivation. Remember, the genuine change will have to occur in you before you can expect it from others. Finally, know that even if they don’t change and you do, then the God of peace will be with you and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.
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