Summary: Beautiful harmony is not easy in music. Only the right combinations of notes are pleasing to the ear. The wrong combination is discordant noise. Beautiful harmony is not easy in the church either, and yet we are called to live in harmony with one another.
Live in Harmony with One Another
“Live in harmony with one another.” There are certain sounds in music, sounds necessary to make all but the most basic music, these sounds cannot be made by playing any single note. They can only be made when multiple notes or chords are played together. These pleasing musical textures are woven when different notes complement each other and work in conjunction with one another to create harmony. The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Eagles, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers built careers on harmony.
We are in a new series where we are looking at the various one another commands in the New Testament. The very phrase, “one another” contains the idea of togetherness. So, as we go through the “one another” passages, we should not be surprised to find encouragements to unity, to fellowship, to harmony.
Such is the case with Romans 12:16 where Paul urges us to, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Several other verses in the New Testament echo the same sentiment.
Such harmonious chords are not easy in music. There are numerous combinations of notes you can play on an instrument, and most of them make ear-grating noise. Only the right combination of specific notes can make a beautiful, pleasing harmony.
Harmony is not easy in the church either. It never has been. I told you last week about Paul and Barnabas who worked together on their first missionary journey. When it came time to head out again, they couldn’t agree on whether to take John Mark, who had bailed on them halfway through the first trip. Here’s what we read at the end of Acts 15.
They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left.
Later, Paul had to deal with two contentious women in the church at Philippi. Now these are two ladies that Paul says had contended by his side for the gospel. He calls them fellow workers. He says their names are in the book of life, but listen to Paul’s heartfelt urgency when he implores in Php. 4:2, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Can’t you two ladies please get along with each other? You both do so much for the kingdom, it doesn’t make any sense for you to be bitter and jealous and bickering with each other. Have you had any Eudias or Syntyches in your life?
Harmony is no easier in the church today. I could tell you true stories of churches that split over what color the carpet in the sanctuary should be. I could tell you of a congregation that had one half the roof shingled in one color while the other half was capped in a different color, because the board could not agree. On Sunday mornings, the congregation chose sides and sat under the color of their approval, though they could never see it. I could tell you of church worship teams where the musicians refused to play with each other. I could tell you about Sunday School classes who have sat outside worship services handing out leaflets to get the pastor fired. We could take all day and swap ridiculous stories we have all seen and heard of Christians not living in harmony, and its often over the stupidest things. Things that in the scope of the kingdom don’t really matter. Things that compared to the reality of people who don’t know Jesus and are going to hell, don’t matter at all. Things that compared to what we could accomplish together are completely insignificant.
But let’s make this a little more personal. What about me? What about you? With whom do you want to have nothing to do? Who is it that you try to avoid at all costs and why? How are you when it comes to dealing with elder grump, ministry chair crank, teacher talks a lot or member stone heart?
“Live in harmony with one another.” The problem with this verse is it’s too clear. Paul is unambiguous in his meaning. He gives no exceptions. He allows no outs. Paul doesn’t say live in harmony with those who have the same opinion as you. He doesn’t say, “Live in harmony with those who approach ministry the same way you do.” He simply says, “Live in harmony with one another.” There is an implied “You” here. “You, Dan, You Elder, You Teacher, You, Ministry Chair, You nursery volunteer, You, youth group member, You church member, All of you, live in harmony with one another. Not you just your favorites, not just your clique, not just your peer group, not just those who enjoy the same style of worship, but all of you live in harmony with all of each other. Paul doesn’t allow us to pick and choose who we get along with.