“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12:16, ESV)
In 1971, Coca-Cola aired a commercial with a jingle that went, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” They were trying to communicate that somehow Coca-Cola could break down the barriers that divide people and bring harmony. Thinking about those lyrics, I thought why not rephrase the jingle to sound like this, “I’d like to teach the church to be in perfect harmony.”
It is sad to say that disharmony exists in so many local congregations today. I have seen it with my own eyes. Obviously, disharmony means that there is discord between members of the church. This should never be! Yet, the discord is generally due to disagreement, which seems to be something quite normal in life. Paul gives us some hints as to how to maintain harmony in the midst of our many differences.
The KJV translates “Live in harmony with one another” as “Be of the same mind one toward another.” The KJV translation seems to hit the literal meaning of the verse a little better as the verb, “harmony,” has to do with the understanding of the mind and heart. This harmony that we are supposed to maintain, has to do with our attitudes towards one another. This includes our difference in backgrounds, status, giftings, and opinions.
Here, in this context, we see several key principles for living in harmony. We need to bless others, even those who persecute us (v14). We are to empathize with others in their ups and downs of life (v15). We must not be proud and look down on others for any reason but on the contrary we must regard other in high esteem (v16). Moreover, we are not to be so wise in our own eyes as to fail to listen and learn from others (v16). We must not retaliate, but always do what is honorable and edifying as it relates to others (v17) and thus do everything possible to live in peace with one another (v18).
It would be nice if we could bring harmony by doing something as simple as giving a person a Coca-Cola. And, perhaps that might be a good starting point. However, maintaining harmony in the church is a much more difficult thing than that. It requires effort. It requires Christlike love. Nothing else will do.