Paul warned Titus to be wary of contentious brethren, saying, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). It’s a hard hitting reminder that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the Christian life. Faith without works is dead (James 2). We will recognize the unbeliever by their fruits. An unbeliever will not desire true forgiveness and reconciliation.
But what’s the corrective when two believers have disagreements? Paul himself had a sharp disagreement with Barnabas on whether Mark should join them on a missionary journey (Acts 15:39). Though we don’t know exactly how they reconciled, it says in Colossians 4 that Mark the cousin of Barnabas was now with Paul and had been a comfort to him (Colossians 4:10-11). So we know they did make amends.
In order to understand how two brothers in Christ are to be reconciled, then, we must turn to other parts of Scripture. I believe we find the answer in Philippians where Paul deals with another division between two believers when he says, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
According to Paul, agreement in the Lord is based off of knowledge (or being of the same mind), for Paul tells the Philippians to “… complete [his] joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). He says in Philippians 1:9, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment.”
So then the appropriate question is: What knowledge would this be?
Ultimately the knowledge for one-mindedness and agreement in the Lord comes from the gospel, “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). For Paul begins the letter by telling the Philippians that he makes his prayer for them with joy because they have been partners for (and in) the gospel from the beginning, and he believes they are partakers of grace with him (Philippians 1:3, 7).
Paul’s present circumstance of being in prison is a cause for rejoicing because the gospel has gone out more powerfully. Paul knows that God, who began a good work in Philippi, would bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
So the common denominator between Paul and the Philippians is the gospel promise, and the joy of living in light of the gospel (Philippians 1:10-11, 2:12-13, 3:14). True Christianity does not lie dormant in the head but is rather a true knowledge, affecting the core of one’s being.
This true knowledge of the gospel promise, worked in us by the Spirit, produces the Spirit’s fruit of a joyful Christian life. Joy saturates the epistle of Philippians. So it is no surprise that soon after entreating Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Three verses later Paul says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Joy in the Lord leads to peace. Love to joy to peace to patience, as the list of spiritual fruits go. This is not simply peace in our consciences because of our righteousness in Christ which is ours by faith. This peace also manifests itself in real Christian agreement over difficulties and issues within the body of Christ between us and our Christian brothers, even if that means bearing in patience and kindness to one another, in love, for the sake of peace within the body. The more Christians think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4:8), the more the peripheral issues fall by the wayside; the more disagreements pale in comparison to God’s provision and love and constant supply of every need of ours “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
The peace and love of the body of Christ shows that we are children of God in a twisted and perverse generation among whom we shine as lights in the world, as we hold fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:15-16).
We should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Christians must follow Christ’s example of humility and “Do all things without grumbling or questioning” (Philippians 2:14), for to grumble would be against the joy that the Spirit gives to us.
As we love and bear with one another, we show the world that Christ has truly worked in us.
In all of this we must remember Paul’s focus on the mind. To think on, to have knowledge, and to be one-minded. The vague, dull spirituality of our times, with its intense focus on “the voluntary and emotional sides of religion” and indifference towards the Bible is nothing remotely close to the Christian faith (which is expounded in the Scriptures themselves anyway!). We are to sober-minded, preparing our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13). We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). The doctrine of Christianity naturally leads us to doxology– to the praise of God. Christianity is a thinking religion. Without the knowledge, we have a religion built on nothing, and therefore no real peace. Without knowledge we have joy that is a fraudulent joy. Without knowledge, God simply turns out to be the god of our imagination.
Author’s Note: There are worthy disagreements Christians are called to participate in. We are to hold to the teachings of the Scriptures, and be willing to take a stand and draw the line when the Bible speaks. When it is God’s truth in the balance, we are to fight for the doctrines of the faith. Those times call for godly wisdom and fear.