D.A. Carson properly observed the following:
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well-behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel please. Basics for Believers, an exposition of Philippians, pp.12-13.
Listen, there may be big relationship problems in our churches, but I can assure you the gospel can handle it. You may have big problems, but you have a bigger gospel!
Four things strike me in conclusion:
- Remember who this is ultimately about. If God means to get glory through the reconciliation of believers, then we should not avoid the process. This is selfishly dealing with selfishness. Doing so reveals a contemptible lack of love for our brothers and sisters, and disregard for the glory of God.
- Relationships are critical for mission. One of the reasons why Paul is so insistent here is the fact that the mission appears to be hindered by this squabble. If you have issues with another brother or sister, you need to see that is is hindering the mission; salute the gospel flag and work it out!
- Mature people falter too. You’ll notice that these women are very dear to Paul. He indicates that they have labored side by side with him. It appears though, that they have taken their eyes off the ball. While the situation is regrettable we can be encouraged that Paul called these mature believers back to the gospel for renewal.
- Unity is precious. We see this by Paul’s example as he is writing from prison. He loves what the gospel has brought and he prizes it being demonstrated. The fact that Paul basically says, “Hey, we have issues but we have a bigger gospel; let’s work it out,” should instruct us to do the same. Never let issues mount, but instead, put the gospel to work.
Learn from Paul’s priority here with these two dear female saints. We must raise high the gospel flag. Put it to the top of the flag pole. Let it be above every other earthly interest and pursuit. He basically says, ”Raise it high and salute it sisters.” Then, once we have done that, we will see the priority of the gospel and how it shapes everything else. We do indeed have a big gospel!