Love overcomes evil by doing good, and one of the marks of genuine love is that it is generous. Paul spells out what this looks like in Romans 12:9-21: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not...
Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).
There could hardly be a simpler verse of Scripture. Harmony, as all the musicians know, is a pleasing arrangement of different parts. You get harmony when different notes are joined together in such a way that one note enriches and complements another.
Harmony is not unison. You don’t get harmony by everyone playing the same note. You get harmony when different notes are brought together. Harmony does not mean that everyone thinks the same, does the same, or is the same. Harmony is not discord either. Discord is when notes are brought together in such a way that one note diminishes and distorts another.
Christians are Called to Harmonious Relationships
“Live in harmony with one another” means that believers should live in such a way that we enrich and complement each other. By joining together, we are more than any of us would be on our own. There is a display of beauty that comes from taking what is distinct and different and making it one.
This is at the heart of marriage: God makes the man and the woman. The two are different, but in marriage they become one. There is a beautiful complementarity in which, like two notes in a chord, they are more together than either of them could be on their own.
You see this in the nature of God Himself. There is one God, and He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one in nature, one in purpose, and one in love. There is a unique beauty, glory, peace, joy, blessing, and harmony that we see in God and that flows from God.
God speaks about the same thing here to His church: “Live in harmony with one another.” Who is the “one another?” We are to live in harmony with our Christian brothers and sisters, redeemed by Christ, and brought together in the family of God. Harmonious living is the distinct calling that we have as Christians.
Is there anything that is more desperately needed in our world and in our country today than harmony? People everywhere are tired of polarization, of division, of conflict over race and religion and money and on and on. The world desperately needs to see something different, and God says, “This is your calling. Let harmony be seen in my church!”
Now here is the question: What stops us? The command of God is crystal clear, so what holds us back? Why do we find it so hard to live in harmony?
There is one answer, and it is right here in the second half of Romans 12:16. PRIDE.
“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:16).
Self-focused Pride is the Enemy of Harmony
Thoughtful Christians find themselves wondering what God is doing in this troubling season of our national life. I don’t have the answer to that question.
But one thing is surely clear: we can learn to hate pride. Viewing others with haughty eyes and claiming to be wise in your own sight are being paraded before us day after day to the point where vast numbers of people are saying, “Switch off the TV. I can’t watch anymore.” Perhaps we are now at a moment when we can learn to hate one of our own worst sins.
Perhaps even today God will bring us to a place of saying, “Lord, deliver me from having haughty eyes. May I never look down on another person. Lord, may I never be wise in my own sight. Make me humble, so that I’m in a position to be taught by you and by others.”
Cross-centered Humility is the Friend of Harmony
The gospel cuts pride to shreds, because it casts all of us on the mercy of God. The truth of the gospel is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). What do you have that you did not receive? Every good gift comes from above.
The gospel moved the apostle Paul from seeing himself as the cream of the crop to the chief of sinners. That’s a big change! He went from saying, “As to righteousness under the law, [I was] blameless” (Phil. 3:6), to saying “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). If Christ could transform Paul’s pride, then what becomes of our boasting? Do we have anything to brag about?
In the gospel, our proud claims are cancelled (Rom. 3:27) because God destroys all worldly pretentions. He abolishes all earthly distinctions. There is one way to peace with God for those who are far and for those who are near, one hope for those who are rich and poor, one sacrifice for the sins of Jews and Gentiles, and one Savior whose arms are open to all who will humble themselves in faith and repentance and come to Him. Thinking we can have peace with God by our own efforts is eliminated on the basis of faith.
Believer, do not be overtaken by the pride and arrogance around you. And learn to hate the pride within you, which is the enemy of your harmonious relationships with other Christians. Do not be haughty, and never be wise in your own eyes. May we “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14), so that, in the light of God’s mercy, we may live in harmony with one another. May we sing better, together, of how Christ has changed us at the cross:
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.1
1. Isaac Watts, from the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” 1707.