I will never understand the appeal of jigsaw puzzles. Who in the world thought up the idea of cutting up a picture and putting it back together again? If I take a picture that means a lot to me, and somebody comes and tears it to pieces and tells me to put it back together again, I’ll honestly be pretty mad. Yet for some reason, I’ve been told that some people actually enjoy jigsaw puzzles. Now I hope I haven’t offended the 5 of you that enjoy puzzles. If I have, let me offer an interesting fact. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, in Germany some 15,000 enthusiasts have come together in only five hours to assemble a 1,141,800 piece puzzle, forming a nearly 6,500-square foot (600-square meter) puzzle–setting the world record for the largest jigsaw puzzle. That is pretty incredible, but regardless of how incredible a 1,141,800 piece puzzle is, I am not impressed. In fact, I don’t even agree with this statistic. I think Guinness needs to check their records, and I will tell you why. I do not know the exact number, but there are several million members of the church of Christ. You might be asking, how does that relate to a jigsaw puzzle? 1 Corinthians 12:12 says that every Christian is an equal member of Christ’s body. Each member is a puzzle piece that makes up Christ’s body. Now, you may think a 1,141,800 piece puzzle is tough to put together, but try unifying several million Christians. Some would say it cannot be done, but I disagree. Some would say the conflict present in our church cannot be managed, but if we look at God’s word on the matter, perhaps we can find some reasons for unity.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is saturated with the idea of rejoicing. For this reason most people will assume that its main purpose and theme are to emphasize the necessity of a joy-filled life. Passages such as Philippians 4:13 and 4:4 are often given as evidence for this. While joy is certainly a theme of Philippians, I believe it would be a shame to not go deeper. It cannot be ignored that nearly all the verses in Paul’s letter seem to point to one purpose statement. In 4:2, Paul urges two women who were workers in the church to mend their broken relationship. It appears that their conflict is not a small matter, and that it is even affecting the church in Philippi. In 4:3, Paul urges the church to help them so that the conflict cannot get in the way of the church’s joy. Therefore, Philippians is not a book on how to merely have joy, it is more like a book on conflict management. In fact, every chapter seems to speak about different “joy-robbers” that come from the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche. Modern Christians therefore must look at the book of Philippians to see the importance of unity.
In chapter one, Paul speaks of joy through suffering. He does so by relaying his own situation to the church. Paul says in 1:12, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Being imprisoned would be a huge stumbling block to most people, but Paul saw it as an opportunity to spread the gospel. Paul knows that the church is going to go through persecution and conflict, but he still urges them to overcome any trial when he says in 1:27, “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The significance of this verse in regards to the conflict between the two women in the church comes later in the verse when Paul tells the church, “I will know that you stand firm in ONE spirit, contending as ONE man for the faith of the gospel.” Paul says that for the church to overcome persecution and suffering, they must stand together as one. If the church is going to stand as one, there can be no division. Euodia and Syntyche must overcome their dispute so the church can find joy in suffering.
Chapter two speaks of joy in serving. 2:1-4 speaks for itself when it says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being UNITED with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common SHARING in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being LIKE-MINDED, having the SAME love, being ONE in spirit and of ONE mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This same idea continues in later verses in chapter two, but obviously a church cannot serve joyfully when there is conflict. Paul asks why the church would spend time complaining and arguing(2:14) when they should spend time being a shining light to those around them(2:15). Euodia and Syntyche must overcome their dispute so the church can find joy in serving.
Chapter three speaks of joy in Godly living. In this chapter Paul again mentions the loss that he has overcame for Christ’s sake(3:7). In 3:17, Paul encourages the church to follow his example. In order to do so they must be unified in imitating Paul; one or two people cannot follow their own path of living. This might have been necessary considering the fact that the gospels might not have been in circulation yet to explain how to live Godly lives. Regardless, the Philippians were urged to live a life worthy of being imitated. Euodia and Syntyche must overcome their dispute so the church can find joy in Godly living.
Finally, in chapter four Paul speaks of the conflict between the two women. He says that instead of arguing, they must agree with each other. Then and only then can they truly have joy(4:2-4).
With all of this being said, are we as Christ’s body managing conflict in the way Paul speaks of? In order for the church to find joy in suffering, serving, Godly living, and many other aspects of our lives, we must be unified.
Jigsaw puzzles may be difficult to assemble, but the end result is often astonishing. How much more so would it be if the church could likewise be unified?