Summary: Qualities needed to get along with others, especially within our church families.
MAKING HEALTY HARMONY
In a “Peanuts” cartoon, Lucy says to Snoopy: “There are times when you really bug me, but I must admit there are also times when I feel like giving you a big hug.” Snoopy replies: “That’s the way I am . . . huggable and buggable.”
And so it is with us and our relationships. We need each other, yet we annoy each other. We are like the two porcupines that were huddled close together on a cold, cold night in the mountains. They needed to be close to each other to stay warm, but when they did their quills pricked each other. They needed each other, but they also needled each other.
Peter says to a congregation of believers: Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another. (1 Peter 3:8 NIV) “All of you” pretty much covers everyone, doesn’t it? No one can say I’m exempt. Or it doesn’t apply to me. This instruction applies to all of us because conflict is inevitable for all of us, even Christians. Even the disciples, who walked in Jesus’ shadow and learned at his feet got into disputes.
When two or more people come together the potential for friction is heightened. Too much friction causes heat. Too much heat results in fire. Fire brings about destruction.
Ironically, The people we are the closest to are the people with whom we have the greatest conflict. In friendships, it seems that we are off again and on again. In marriage, it seems that before marriage opposites attract each other, but after marriage opposites attack each other. Church life can get messy and divisive.
So effort, adjustment, correction and work goes into minimizing friction and maximizing harmony. It is not easy. Our sanctuary choir and instrumentalists work hard each week so that our worship music will be in harmony. Making healthy harmony takes maturity. In fact, nothing tests your personal maturity like conflict. Intensity shows our true colors.
So, how do you eliminate fatal friction and make healthy harmony. Fortunately, Peter elaborates on this very topic in the verses that follow to show the acts and attitudes needed.
SYMPATHY …be sympathetic
When we are sympathetic we seek to understand where people are coming from, their background, their temperament and the circumstances that have shaped them. It is not the last step to resolution and harmony, but it is often the first. In Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
When we are sympathetic, we see folks differently. Rather than seeing your neighbor as the grumpy man down the street, we see him as the product of someone with no friends. Rather than see the troublemaking teenager, we see the young man who has grown up without a father or a strong father figure. Rather than seeing a cheap tightwad, we see someone who grew up in poverty and is insecure about ever having enough. Rather than seeing a no-good addict, we sympathize with one who has given control of his life to an outside substance.
Sympathy does not that we validate their actions or ideas, but their feelings. Again, this is a beachhead to move toward harmony. Francis of Assisi’s familiar prayer includes the words, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. . . . O Divine Master, grant that I may . . . not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
We may not know all the reasons why conflict has arisen, but trying to understand the roots of it is the first step in diffusing it.
FAMILY LOVE …love as brothers…
We might think of fighting like brothers. But Peter is writing to Christians and reminds them that we are brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. Thus, we are on the same team, in the same family. And God’s design is not for families to compete with each other but to cooperate.
A friend of mine from another church in our community said something I like about congregations working together: We ain’t fighting anyone but the devil. That is good to remember because on eof Satan’s most successful tactics is to get Christians fighting one another, thus pointing our attention inwardly rather than out to how we are to impact the community around us.
Remember, that this love is designed to be the characteristic that defines us as followers of Jesus. For Jesus said, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 NIV
COMPASSION …be compassionate…
Other translations use kind-hearted or tender hearted. Compassion says, “Let’s not just talk about loving each other, and let’s demonstrate that love by what we say to each other and how we act toward each other.” Jesus’ compassion led Him to minister to the multitudes. The Good Samaritan’s compassion on the wounded traveler inspired him to come to the aid of the man. The father of the Prodigal Son saw his dirty and broken son heading toward home and was so filled with compassion he ran and met him, washed the boy up, put clean closes on him, and threw a big welcome home party.