There was so much in this week’s lesson from Sue Edwards’ 1 Peter: Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times. The passage was 1 Peter 3:8-12, and our discussion centered around the necessity of having a solid, unified community of believers. There were several points of discussion related to a unified church body, but my favorite point was the first one, based on the first phrase of the first verse in our focal passage.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 1 Peter 3:8 (emphasis mine)
Naturally, the instruction to be harmonious hearkens back to a musical foundation. Harmony occurs when different “voices,” whether human or instrumental, come together to create a sound that blends beautifully. The truest, most beautiful form of harmony is seen when all of the voices come together to produce a new sound that would be incomplete – and possibly not even pleasant – without the blending. Each individual sound is integral to the whole, and without one sound, something is missing. Yet, when all of the voices are combined together, it can sometimes seem impossible to distinguish one from the other because of the way they blend and rely upon each other.
If we are called to be harmonious as a church body, that is how we should appear to those who observe us. We should be integral to one another, blending in such a way as to fully rely on one another to produce what God expects of us.
Unfortunately, that is not how we as churches tend to exist. Instead, we show up in many other forms.
At worst, we are discordant. Each voice produces its own sound, and that sound clashes with the other sounds in our church family.
Most of our churches are not truly that discordant, however. The next level is independent, but not clashing. I can’t help but think of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It’s almost as if two songs are being sung to the same music. The voices are very individual, and identities are maintained. At certain points, the voices merge and sing together in a unified manner, but they don’t have to have each other.
Other times, there might at least be true duets. Two people coming together to sing something that blends and flows. But, often our even duets can be sung alone if need be. As Doug and I were preparing for our wedding, a particular country duet was popular on the radio, and we wanted to include it in our wedding. The problem was that one of the artists also released a solo version of the song. That was the version that was available as a single, and it was actually rather hard to find the duet version without buying the whole album. The song wasn’t the same as a solo, but it still worked. In our churches, we hang on to the flexibility to turn our duets into solos if need be, clinging to that individualism.
There are other times, though, when small harmonious groups are formed. Downhere is one of our current favorite Christian bands, and many of their songs simply cannot be sung properly with just one voice. They have to have the interplay between at least two voices. We do see that in churches. We have groups here and there, maybe of two or three, maybe of many more, that really have become intertwined. It might not be the whole congregation in unity, but there are at least smaller clumps of members who know they cannot function without one another.
As individuals, you and I cannot force others in our church family into harmony. But, there are a few things we can do. We can refuse to be discordant. We can also refuse to be satisfied with independent blending melodies. We can instead strive to need one another. Even if it just starts with one other person, we can determine that we cannot thrive as individuals. We can bond together with another in our church body form inseparable harmony. Others will begin to notice and hunger for what we have, and we can add them to the harmony. Before we know it, the orchestra will grow. It might not spread throughout the entire church. We do still exist in a sinful world, after all. But, that should not stop us from striving to live harmoniously, not just ceasing to clash with one another, but discovering we can’t truly live the way we are called to without one another.
This study was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my participation in this graduated blog tour. I am not required to respond positively to the study.