Many of you know Janet and I own two English bulldogs. They get along well, playing for hours on end. Like parents of little children, we have to pick up toys all the time because they scatter them all over the house.
Bulldogs are a mess. They don’t share well. If one of them picks up a toy, even with 4 or five other toys in the room, the other only wants the toy the first one picks up. So, a tug of war ensues. We only have toys that pet stores describe as indestructible. Indestructible means they might last a month.
Soon after the tug of war begins, jaws locked and feet planted, the noise starts. If you were listening, being an outsider, you would think a horrible dogfight is about to begin. Deep-chested dogs, the rumble is low, guttural, and ominous. This may go on for 3-4 minutes until one decides another toy looks more promising, then they each race for the next toy to bicker over.
I’ve figured out fighting is not about the particular toy, it is more about the nature of the animal. They just like to challenge each other for dominance.
In my role as a minister and therapist, I’ve noticed the same thing about people. Usually the issue folks are growling about is not the real problem. The toilet seat up or down, the color of a living room wall, or which program to watch on TV isn’t usually the real issue. More often than not, the issue is the attitude and demeanor of the couple.
In Scripture there is one conflict addressed by Paul that has always intrigued me. Speaking to two women in a congregation, he says, “2 I ask Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord.3 And I ask you, my faithful friend, to help these women.” (Phillipians 4:2-3)
These two didn’t get along well. They fought. Paul doesn’t say who is right or wrong, because it isn’t the issue, their character is. It is their nature to fight. Paul says for them to agree, and for others to help them.
We may always need someone to help us agree, but our task is to be agreeable. We cannot afford to be like a pair of bulldogs.