Lest we think everything was perfect with all the women in the early church, we must remember Euodia and Syntyche. These two ladies appear to have been at the center of the disunity that was harming the Philippian church.
Paul first visited Philippi on his second journey. It's where he met Lydia and the jailer; it's also where Paul planted a church. This church is specifically mentioned as gathering in Lydia's home to greet Paul and Silas before they departed.
Several years after this, when Paul is under house arrest in Rome, he wrote an epistle to his friends back in Philippi. The primary themes of this letter are joy and unity. Paul took great joy in his brothers and sisters in Philippi. He was also greatly concerned about the disunity he'd heard about within their church family.
In chapter 2:1-4, Paul provides a formula for unity. That formula is humility. It is putting others before self. Immediately following, in 2:5-11, Paul points to the ultimate example of humility: Jesus Christ. In this Christ Hymn, we see Christ display humility through his incarnation, servanthood, and crucifixion. Paul's hope is that the Philippian Christians will begin to show more unity through humility.
In chapter four we finally meet Euodia and Syntyche. Paul writes:
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3)
Three things are clear from these two verses. First, Euodia and Syntyche are followers of Christ; they don't need evangelizing. Second, they are in disagreement over something. Third, they need assistance from the broader church family to help them agree. Additionally, this must have been a significant disagreement in order for Paul to have written a letter to address it.
Quite simply, these two ladies were arguing and it was hurting the church. Paul wants them to knock it off. They'll accomplish this by thinking of others before themselves. Their brothers and sisters need to get involved. This is a body issue.
This is real world church life. We all know that disunity is a terrible thing in the life of any church family. We've probably all been a part of it. It's a nightmare.
I mention Euodia and Syntyche to bring some balance to this series on women in the New Testament. Like men, women are not perfect. Many ladies we encounter in scripture are described in a very positive fashion. However, there were also those who aren't. Euodia and Syntyche show us that Christians can harm the church. We're reminded by Paul that we all have responsibility to get involved when disunity strikes.