Making Big Issues with Little Things

As a high school teacher, whenever I see a crowd of people quickly gathering at a common location in the hallway, it’s never for a good reason.  Usually, tempers are heating up, and someone is about to fight.  I heard the yelling and the excitement, ran to the center of the group, and found two boys in each other’s faces.  It had been a stressful week for the whole school, and we had been trying to patch up the community after some recent disturbing events, so it didn’t come as a surprise that people were on edge.  I got one of the boys aside, while another teacher got the other, and he tried to explain to me what was happening and what the misunderstanding was.  I told him that it didn’t matter who said what or who was at fault; we are all going through a lot right now, and we need to just be patient and understanding.  It was more important as a community for us to heal, be whole, and focus on the bigger picture of our school.  He agreed, regrouped, and moved onward.  I can remember a similar message being spoken to me when my brother and I would fight in the back seat of the car on long car trips.  It didn’t matter who’s doing what: you’re brothers.  Just get along.  Sometimes, we focus too much on the pettiness of life and lose sight of the bigger picture.  However, I think we can all agree that life is too short to be overwhelmed by unimportance and to not sweat the small stuff.  In Philippians 4.2-3, Paul had a similar message to two women in the church who were having a conflict: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”  Paul is so concerned with this argument, that he calls these two women out by name in an open letter to the church, pleading with them to reconcile.  The matter of their disagreement is never mentioned, as Paul feels that it’s not even worth mentioning because it detracts from the larger issue and isn’t worth it.  Paul isn’t concerned with who said what first, whose fault it is, or who is continuing it.  His message: refocus and just get along.  Paul knew that the church and God were too great to be brought down by squabbling over the smaller, petty, selfish issues.  He could see what lay ahead for them and the church, and knew that this misdirection of energy was taking away from their purpose.  I was very saddened to learn that about a year or two ago, several people in the congregation I attend got into an argument over a doctrine of the church.  Apparently, words were said, disagreements were established, and lines were drawn.  As such, our church lost several members who decided to attend another church because of this issue.  If we are to heed Paul’s advice, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault, who said what, or who started it.  Our church and its people are too precious to be hung up on such a small issue (and everything is small compared to God’s plan).  For an argument to exist to the point that people leave indicates selfishness, a focus on pettiness, and a shift from the bigger picture.  As Christians, we need to focus on the bigger picture of Heaven and salvation and unite over that vision.  This week, find that person with whom you’ve been in conflict, remind yourself of the bigger picture, and just get along.  Amen.

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