Summary: We will not live in harmony with one another until we learn humility.
Harmony missing in marriages, families, and churches.
The Big Idea: We will not live in harmony with one another until we learn HUMILITY.
1. Harmony is ESSENTIAL for believers.
“Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16a). “Be of the same mind one toward another” (KJV).
The NT emphasizes the importance of harmony among believers:
• Jesus’ goal is that “there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
• Jesus prayed for all future believers “that all of them may be one” (John 17:21).
• Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).
• Paul urged the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
• Paul told the Ephesians that Christians are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and that the Lord gives gifts to the church “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
• Paul can command the church to live in unity because there already is an actual spiritual unity in Christ which exists among genuine believers. He says, “There is one body…” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
• And though the body of Christ consists of many members, those members are all “one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-26).
• Paul encouraged the Philippians, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:2).
The NT writers give strong warnings against those who cause divisions:
• “I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites” (Romans 16:17-18a).
• Paul apposed Peter to his face because he separated from Gentile Christians and began eating only with Jewish Christians (Galatians 2:11-14).
• Those who promote “discord…dissension, factions…shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21).
• Consistent with this NT emphasis on the unity of believers is the fact that the direct commands to separate from other people are always commands to separate from unbelievers, not from Christians with whom one disagrees. When Paul says, “Therefore come out from them, and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17), it is in support of his opening command of that section, “Do not be yoked together [mismatched] with unbelievers” (v. 14).
• Of course, there is a kind of church discipline that requires separation from an individual who is causing trouble within the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13), and there may be other reasons for which Christians conclude that separation is required, but there are no direct NT commands to separate from Christians with whom one has doctrinal difficulties (unless those differences involve such serious heresy that the Christian faith itself is denied).
2. The greatest enemy of harmony is PRIDE.
“Do not be proud [Mind not high things (KJV)], but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16b).
Basketball coach Pat Riley in his book The Winner Within tells about the 1980 World Championship Los Angeles Lakers. They won the NBA Championship that year, and they were recognized as the best basketball team in the world. They began their 1980-81 season considered likely to win back-to-back championships. But within weeks of the season opener, Magic Johnson tore a cartilage in his knee and would be out for three months. The team and the fans rallied, and the remaining players played their hearts out. They determined to make it through that period without losing their rankings. They were winning seventy percent of their games when the time began to draw near for Magic Johnson to return to action.
As his return grew closer, the publicity surrounding him increased. During timeouts at the games, the public address announcer would always say, “And don’t forget to mark your calendars from February 27. Magic Johnson returns to the lineup of your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers!” During that announcement, the other players would complain, “What’s so great about February 27? We’re winning now.” As the day approached, fewer and fewer things were written or said about the players who were putting out so much effort. All the media attention was focused on the one player who hadn’t been doing a thing. Finally the 27th came, and as they clicked through the turnstiles every one of the 17,500 ticket holders was handed a button that said, “The Magic Is Back!” At least fifty press photographers crowded onto the floor while the players were introduced. Normally only the starters were introduced, and Magic Johnson was going to be on the bench when the game began. But he was nevertheless included in the introductions. At the mention of his name, the arena rocked with a standing ovation. Flashbulbs went off like popcorn. Magic Johnson was like a retuning god to the crowd that night.