October 20 – Prison Letters – Relational Harmony and Situational Peace

Read Philippians 4:2-9

Relational harmony and situational peace . . . all of us yearn for those two things.  And yet, as you probably realize, harmony and peace are often goals that we are pursuing and not always our current experience.  At any point in time, a relationship may be better described as tense rather than harmonious.  And given situations may seem to foster more anxiety than they do peace.  Exactly there is where Paul’s counsel applies.  Believers are not exempt from relational and situational challenges.  Instead, they are ones who, in the midst of those challenges, go the extra mile in pursuit of interpersonal unity and inner serenity.

I wonder if Paul’s “will-I-live-or-will-I-die” prison experience gave him a special vantage point from which to view both relationships and situations.

Did he reflect on his relational tension years earlier with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41) as he wrote about Euodia and Syntyche?  These two women had worked along with Paul for the cause of Christ.  And yet, it seems that the two could not get along with one another.  But Paul points out that relational harmony is worth pursuing.  It is important enough that it can merit outside help and mediation.  Would you describe your relationships as harmonious?

Did Paul draw from his own past prison experiences and anxiety evoking situations as he invited his readers to take their anxious thoughts and, in prayer, exchange them for the peace of God?  The promise that the apostle gives here is not one of a changed external situation but rather a promise of a changed orientation and attitude of peace in the midst of the situation.  Real situational peace is not so much a reflection of picture perfect circumstances as it is that of surrender and trust demonstrated towards the God of heaven.

Indeed, relational harmony and situational peace are worth pursuing.  Even if you would not currently use those terms to describe your relationships or circumstances, aim for the goal with the instruction that God provides.

Steve Kern

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