You would think that the Apostle Paul was writing to a church in 21st century, Anytown, not one in Rome over two thousand years ago. These verses in Romans 12, about living the transformed life don’t get any easier as the weeks go by. I’m just glad we’re taking them one-by-one, because they almost can’t be handled in one sitting. It’s too painful!
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be wiling to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.*
Maybe 1st century Romans had problems with living in harmony, but surely not modern-day folk. Right?
Yes, I know you’re laughing right there with me. What could be harder to swallow these days.
Live in harmony with one another.
Well, at least Paul was talking only to the church. We can easily get along with our fellow congregant.
How’s that working for you? I know I have my days.
Actually, most American church goers have found a great solution to this struggle — just start another church! We’re so good at changing and moving out when the harmony is broken. Christians don’t like conflict, or at least we haven’t learned to deal with it, even though Jesus gives us clear instructions on how to handle it.* But that’s for another day.
Here, Paul is letting us know that if we’re claiming the transformation that only Christ can bring, then we should be practicing harmonious living. Yes, first and foremost, it must be with our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, “they will know we are Christians by our love,” right?
The harmony found in diverse groups of people, called the church, is what draws others to Jesus. Really, it does. We just have to practice it.
So, how does that happen? Paul let’s us know with the second sentence. It’s a three-step process:
- Do not be proud.
- Be willing to associate with people of low position.
- Do not be conceited.
Do you see the two negatives and one positive there? Basically, he’s saying: Get over yourself, and be nice to everyone, even those you think are beneath you. I think that’s why he has to say it twice — don’t be proud and don’t be conceited. They’re the same thing really. They both are focused on self.
Harmony only really happens, when we willingly put self aside and associate with others, knowing that Christ did the same for us.
Did that sting? It should. Think about it. Christ gave up his place in Heaven at the side of God the Father, to willingly humble himself and associate with us, created beings of extremely low position in relation to his heavenly glory.
Chew on that a bit. Once you do, I think you’ll find harmony an easier pill to swallow, as long as you’ve already swallowed your pride and conceit first.
The amazing thing is that once you’ve got the harmony down pat with like-minded believers, you can more easily practice it with those still “in the world.” It’s called learning to live at peace with all men.
Ultimately, remember harmonized voices sound so much better than flat unison — to the ears of God, that is.
Grace and Peace
*Romans 12:16 (NIV).