“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to think the same thing in the Lord.” Philippians 4:2
This verse is pivotal when we discuss women’s roles in the bible, in the organized church, and in Christian leadership. A good friend of mine, Dr. Walter Lumpkin a professor at Houston Baptist University, shared with me before his death that the majority of Paul’s home churches were actually pastored by women. Euodia and Syntyche were church leaders at Paul’s church plant in Philippi.
Were they arguing? Was that the reason Paul called them to unity? Many traditional theologians think so; mainly because women were not highly respected in bible times and really aren’t respected very much in many traditional churches today.
Other theologians believe Paul was merely calling the women leaders to unity because there were so many divisive conversations occurring in the early church. Who knows? Paul. Paul and God. Paul and God know. Well, and Euodia and Syntyche know. I’ll ask them when I meet them in Heaven.
I don’t think the purpose of the verse is to point out women argue although I’ve listened to full sermons on how women argue according to this one verse. Still, women do argue. We must be realistic in observing that women fell behind the educational and professional curve for many generations due to misconceived teachings coming out of churches. There has been an ongoing effort (and fear) to squelch the power women willingly display when it comes to their passion for Christ. Women can be intimidating when they find their voice in Jesus. Believe me…I know.
Men have problems communicating in most relationships while women still struggle in the professional realm and traditional spiritual circles. That’s a general statement and I am well aware there are exceptions to the rule. Women often willingly allow themselves to be pitted against one another for really dumb reasons: Should we be skinny or be happy with who we are regardless of the scale? Should we work or stay home once we have children? Should we be smart and let the secret out when we are smart OR play dumb to get a man? Should we ask for drugs during childbirth? Is there something wrong with us each month prior to a period? See….dumb arguments.
I am at a severe disadvantage when it comes to interacting with the majority of females still willing to play the dumb games and take on a “mean girl” attitude. I’m not convinced the mean girl syndrome of middle and high school years completely disappear with adulthood. I think some of us allow society to convince us that the only way we can get ahead is to put somebody else down on our way up.
My mother is a strong and confident Christian woman. She did not compare me and my sisters to one another, other women, or herself. We were encouraged to seek and discover who we are in Christ living out our specific calling. I am probably the one that struggled the most with my calling because my sisters, as nurses, chose “acceptable” professions for women. I, on the other hand, have the gift of preaching and, well, you already know that story.
I’m nearly 60 years old and am terribly ill-equipped in a society where mean girl tactics are still employed. I am not saying I am perfect. I am certainly not saying I've never been mean. I am confident, however, that I never formed secret circles or supported closed cliques set up to keep someone else out.
What do I categorize as mean girl behavior?
Intentionally leaving other women/girls out as a third wheel in social settings; most especially, continuing to do so when it is brought to our attention and we are aware the other person feels left out.
Judging and comparing figures, facial features or friendship groups according to discriminating standards set up by limited minds.
Refusing to allow other women to be different from those in our inner circle regardless of age, race or religious beliefs.
The desire to dominate as opposed to communicate.
I have a twelve-year-old granddaughter who just completed her 6th grade year in middle school. Many times I want to take her in my arms and say, “Be who you are and be proud of it! Anyone who judges and condemns you is most likely insecure with themselves.”
Problem is most of us still operate under the mean girl rules so it’s really hard to convince our daughters and granddaughters to break free from the chains we created.
Someday we will talk about the recent biblical linguistic and historical studies that suggest that Priscilla* just may have been a ghost writer for the Book of Hebrews. I hesitate because I’m not sure we’re ready for that, yet. I don't want to be too smart. <wink>
*Unfortunately, I went off memory and originally typed Phoebe, which is incorrect. I need to remember that I don't remember well anymore. <smile>