I am no musician…but like most people I listen to music…a lot.
But I have long been fascinated with what is called Polyphony.
In it there are two distinct melodies rather than one and the harmony comes in the way that the melodies interact with each other.
They are not the same, but they make one beautiful song.
One reason I became interested in these is that my personal choice for the most beautiful song ever written is a polyphony by Bach.
The English title of the song is “Sleeper awake.”
Relational harmony is polyphony.
It occurs when multiple people act together for common purposes and with common values.
Like musical harmony…the people don’t have to be identical…it in fact it is interesting and beautiful when they are not.
Like a great song where distinct melodies go together to make music and not noise…relational harmony is when distinct personalities live together for a common cause.
The common cause for those who follow Christ is the glory of God.
God empowers very different people to come together as one church.
The church is unique in the world in many ways, but one of the more evident ways is how a group of diverse people can operate in ongoing harmony.
It is not surprising to me that there are problems among believers; it is surprising that there is such harmony among people who are so different from one another.
It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.
This belief fails to take into account the many ways in which people are different from one another.
You may be of a different race than someone else and yet have much in common with them, such as personality, preferences, economics, hobbies, and the like.
You may be of the same race as someone and yet totally different from them in most other ways.
The fact is, each individual here represents a unique “inner culture.”
For any two people to live in harmony it requires that they consider more than their own needs, interests, and perspectives.
They must find a common cause and a common point of interest.
If you are a Christ follower, your fundamental life purpose is to glorify God.
A very practical way this happens is when you put the interest of others ahead of your own.
When two people are putting the interests of each other ahead of their own…you will always find harmony there.
Our lives together are shaped by what we believe (as revealed in the Bible) and what we value.
Beliefs must shape values that then shape behaviors.
If belief is divorced from values…then they do not show up in behaviors.
Its possible to have a set of beliefs that go one direction and set of behaviors that go a different direction.
This is what James addressed when he said that faith (what you say you believe) must show up in what you do.
The values…that we allow to settle in our hearts are what keeps our belief tethered to behavior.
So Jesus would often say “you have heard it said…but I say.”
Like…”You heard it said love your neighbor, I say love your enemy.”
They had turned the command to love all (everyone is a neighbor) into an excuse to love some.
He would go after his listener’s hearts…because often their beliefs were not truly shaping their behaviors…because they didn’t understand the things God had given them to believe were intended to shape their hearts(values, affections) in ways that would lead to love for God and others.
Instead, ironically and tragically…beliefs had become tools to use against people and as pathways to personal pride.
We have 7 Biblical Heart attitudes in our church that distill some key biblical principles that are essential to shaping our lives together in community.
They are on the front page of our website, we all ask members to commit to these…because they shape a biblical community.
- Participate in the ministry of River
- Demonstrate an open and honest life
- Maintain clear relationships
- Put the success of others ahead of your own
- Submit to leadership within Scriptural limits
- Support the work of River financially
- Give and receive spiritual correction
Online you can find the Scriptures these are drawn from.
These seven are not exhaustive for our life together…but they are representative.
They flow from some basic principles that are essential for ongoing relationship harmony.
In principle these are essential for a family, church, sports team, an army, you name it to function in harmony to accomplish their purposes.
These heart attitudes(when practiced) build community because they speak to important principles that are essential for relational harmony…for example.
- Privilege/responsibility balance
- Privilege without responsibility leads to relationship dysfunction and breakdown
-Over and over when people want and get a privilege (freedom) without taking responsibility then dysfunction and loss of freedom follows.
-Privilege of money without responsibility of work, or sex without marriage, or input into a life without shouldering their burden.
- Responsibility without privilege leads to discouragement.
-When people in a relationship are taking responsibility for their role but are not given freedoms and privilege that should go with their investment they become demoralized.
“Taxation without representation”…is a classic example of “responsibility without privilege”.
American Colonists had to pay taxes but could not represent themselves in Parliament.
Heart attitudes are biblical principles that help align priv/resp in relationships in the church church.
Another example is:
- Your heart follows your investments…time, talents, treasure
-People get a heart for what they invest in…it can be baffling and very sad when relationships breakdown…but what almost always happened is that one or both stopped making their best investments in one another.
-People fall in love with jobs, hobbies, objects, other people…you can always trace this to investment.
Scripture gives key attitudes (values) that are to shape our lives together so that we can express God’s glory and experience God’s goodness in our lives together.
We aren’t going to get these perfectly…but when we aim for biblical values…truth applied first to the heart and then to the habits…we will experience harmony.
These attitudes/values are designed to empower the church to live in Harmony with one another.
Not to be the same, or to look the same, or even play the same notes or instruments…but to play in harmony.
Harmony is difficult…it is not for the faint of heart or for the hard of heart.
How we see issues, ourselves, each other…is very difficult to “give room on.”
There has to be something larger than our own perspective and drive to be “right” in order to maintain harmony.
Most of the time, most people…have some kind of “fear” as background noise in their lives.
This is true in how we relate to one another…and explains how quickly things can go bad in relationships.
Fear leads to self-protection…self-love.
Love for God and love for one another…must trump “self love” in our lives…if we are to enjoy harmony.
And harmony is a joy…to hear, to see, to live.
Psa. 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity!
This year we are looking at closing the gap in faith and love…faith expressing itself in love.
This spring season we are looking at 8 “one anothers” from Scripture.
Today’s passage is Romans 12:9-21
We looked at this passage in depth last September 24th; you can go back and listen to it if you would like to get a fuller explanation of this passage.
Today we are going to focus on a few verses as they apply to the theme of “Living in Harmony with one another”
- The priority of the heart in Harmony
- The necessity of humility in Harmony
- The reality and the tragedy of broken Harmony and how to move forward from it.
- The priority of the heart in Harmony
Rom. 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Sincere love: love that “unfaked, real”
-A heart where love for others is not a show, it is a reality
-When we look in the mirror and there is no one to impress…do we love people?
-Truly this is a heart issue.
Hatred for evil, cling to good:
-A heart that has developing a distaste for what is evil and is resolutely glued to the good.
Devoted to one another
-A heart that has tender affection for others revealed in a genuine concern and care for them.
Honor one another above yourself
-Honor is to “value” “esteem”…not to put yourself down, but a heart that is centered on more than your own needs.
*Sometimes when people have done things that lead to public embarrassment…they are afraid to go out in public.
-This is understandable and it can go on for many years…even a lifetime.
-Everywhere they go they are thinking others are thinking about them…when in fact, no one is…not anymore.
-The reality is, most of us are thinking mostly about ourselves most of the time.
-They are not thinking about what is most prominent in your mind…you.
-They are thinking about what is most prominent in their minds…them.
The call here is to act against this basic reality…and to intentionally esteem others, consider others…not just you and yours…but to consider others.
To think of them, to train your mind to walk around thinking of the needs of others…not just consumed with your own.
These heart attitudes show up in life actions…but the priority, the first place to go in considering harmony with others is your own heart.
It can be surprising how absolutely and resolutely we trust ourselves…and how much of a barrier to harmony this fact can be.
Often two friends or family members separate and throw away harmony and relationship because they both trust themselves so much.
For each one it is crystal clear as to what the problem really is and there is no room for compromise on the issue at hand…the other must concede, or there can be no harmony.
It is foolish to trust your self to this extent.
It has been my experience that people will say they are open to counsel and they do trust others…until the issue is something that is very important to them and/or something they are convinced they are right about.
This is true for me as well, though I an trying to act against this impulse…because it is a hallmark of a fool…to trust yourself to this degree
So, what this means is…the times when accountability is really needed (we are confident of our position) is when we are least likely to listen to it (because we are confident of our position)
The times when we should most distrust ourselves (because we are convinced we are right) is when we are most likely to absolutely trust ourselves.(we are convinced we are right)
The place to begin if you truly desire a life of harmony in relationships is in your own heart.
Is my love for others “sincere”? Do I truly value them more than my opinion of myself?
Do I hate evil and cling to good?
What if the evil is in me? What if my attitude, my perspective is poisoned?
What if the good is to let go of my own desire to win, to persuade, to judge, to be right?
Am I open to input when I am convinced I’m right? (and you may be, but harmony requires openness to the possibility of being wrong)
It is one thing to externally put on a show of serving others…but in my own heart, have I embraced the power and the beauty of “esteeming others above myself?”
How do I know if my heart is there or even heading there?
Do you think about these things? Do you seek to close the gap?
How do I respond emotionally when others fail to recognize my efforts, my service, or agree with me on a matter?…do I struggle, but in the end…do I choose to trust God and love others?
How do I feel when others misunderstand me, attack me, or ignore me when I was trying to help or serve?…do I struggle, but in the end…choose to trust God and love others?
Again this is a high bar…but the goal is Christlikeness…its not to fee good about where are…but to close the gap on where we could be.
We could set the bar on the ground and we could all step over it and believe we deserve a gold medal…but we need to be honest with ourselves.
The bar is set high, because he is inviting us in to his joy…and his joy is tied to his character…and his character…well its awesome…it is set high.
It was for the joy set before him that Christ endured the cross and scorned its shame.
That is the bar that is set for you and for me.
When others not only disregard our service but misunderstand it…and we find joy in being faithful…then we are getting closer to the goal.
No doubt most of us are far from there, at least most of the time…but that is the goal…and it is a great goal.
We will get discuss situations where the lack of harmony truly is beyond your ability to change.
But that is not the healthy place to begin.
Begin with an honest evaluation of your own heart.
Am I making life primarily about me or about others?
I can make it about self, and probably most people do…but most people are also enormously unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives.
What is it that we really want for our lives?
We will return to this question shortly.
- The necessity of humility in Harmony
Rom. 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Life in harmony…is relationships where people are playing different instruments and different notes and yet it isn’t noise…its music.
The music is the gospel…Jesus Christ laid down his life for us and we should lay down our lives for one another…he humbled himself.
Harmony requires humility.
Arrogance separates, humility empowers relationship.
People of low position here refers most likely to the “down and out”
But what is interesting is that it is possible to look down on just about anybody.
Anyone who is “out” of my chosen circle.
The “haughty poor” can look down on the rich.
One kind of rich can look down on another kind of rich.
The cool can look down on the uncool (as I perceive cool to be)
Being willing to associate with people of “low position” applies universally…and it requires that we avoid the trap of conceit.
Conceit here means to be “wise in your own eyes.”
In this context it is coming to conclusions about people around you…judging them, and distrusting them…while believing how you see things is always right.
Conceit is regards to relationships is common.
God is calling us to here to think and live in uncommon ways…ways that validate the gospel.
Conceit drives people to come to unshakeable conclusions that lead to a lack of harmony.
Even if the conclusions are warranted by some action on the part of another…the inability to give grace and to let people change, to make mistakes and be different is a blockade for harmony.
Heart and Humility are vital for harmony: How are these different? Isn’t humility a heart issue?
Of course it is, but my point in separating these into two points is this.
Harmony starts with an honest look at my own heart first…am I moving towards a heart that has sincere love for others?
So the point in the priority of the heart in harmony…is not to begin by looking at the failures of others towards us…but to start with an honest look at our own hearts.
This is always the path to real change…start with my own heart…an honest look.
To look to external factors first, will never lead to true internal (heart) change.
Then as we take an honest look at our own hearts (so important in relationship harmony)
We can see how we are not dealing with others in humility and what really needs to change.
Again the question is “What do I really want?”
Do I want to experience the increasing freedom of humility and harmony…or the bondage of conceit?
When we see the world through the lens pride and conceit…others become our tools, or barriers, or insiders and outsiders to what really matters to me…me.
We become the sun that everyone and everything rotates around…this is an enormously unhappy way to live.
If you have tried it…you know…and all of us at least dabble in trying to be the center of our own solar systems.
If you are fully immersed in it…then you are fully miserable right now.
If you haven’t discovered why you are so miserable (you are probably thinking it is because of the failures of others around you)…but it is because Jesus is the sun that we all rotate around…none of us can live well attempting to have that much gravity.
We cannot be the center.
But what if my heart is moving the right direction…not perfect but it is moving.
What if I am aware and repenting of my pride as best I know how.
And yet, there is a lack of harmony between me and someone else.
Am I to just do whatever someone wants in an attempt to have harmony?
No…because if someone is dead set against harmony…you will not have it.
And if you keep trying, by appeasement…they can pull you into their own unhealthy orbit.
Harmony is not always possible…faithfulness always is.
- The reality and the tragedy of broken harmony and how to move forward from it.
It takes two to make a relationship; it takes one to break it.
Harmony is always outside your ability to control…it requires two or more to have a harmony.
Faithfulness is always within your ability to control…it only requires one to be found faithful.
You are only responsible for the choices you have not the choices you don’t have.
Rom. 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone
This is not a checklist…but it is a list of thoughts that might be helpful in this complex topic.
- Have you started with your own heart? Don’t play games here, be honest.
- As best you can, have you tried to make peace? Have you dealt with your part?
-Full responsibility for your role in this?
- Don’t hold a grudge, leave them to God.
Rom. 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
This doesn’t mean you wish God’s wrath on others…it means, God ultimately is in charge of justice.
- Bless them when you have opportunity
Rom. 12:20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
The burning coals is not punish them by serving them…but convict them in hopes they will change.
Do it by service to them…when and how it is appropriate to do so.
*On of the more helpful ways of knowing if you have forgiven someone is to ask the question: “If I had the opportunity to bring them some harm would I do it?” “Would I, if appropriate, help them?”
*Not by doing what they want (that may be something foolish) but by doing what they need.
- Let God and time do their work
There is no set timetable for harmony…don’t try to force it.
- Monitor your own heart. Continual evaluation: Be honest with yourself and others about what is truly “right column”
Rom. 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Harmony is beautiful and harmony is difficult.
So, what do you want?
The Bible says relational harmony is valuable…absolutely valuable, meaning…is valuable to God.
What he values, is valuable…if we see as he sees we would always agree.
But what he values, we don’t always.
What do you want?
Who do you really want?
John 1:36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
Surely Jesus knew what they wanted…but he asked them…because they needed to ask the question of themselves.
They, like most of us…don’t take the time to ask…”What do I really want?”
Is the life I am living going to get me there or not?
They had followed John, then they followed Jesus…they probably thought they wanted the truth, to follow God…but did they really?
-Many would follow Jesus then leave when their expectations were not met.
What do you want for your life and in your relationships?
Do you want to value what is valuable?
Then you will need to close the gap on death to self in relationships
If you value self above all else…then you will miss much of what could have been yours in life.
Both in relationship to others and to God.
What do you want?
Is the way you are living in regards to God and others getting you there
I believe Jesus is asking us that question still…what do you want?