Our culture celebrates diversity, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fact of the matter is that we are a diverse people. We have all kinds of differences among us, and some of them are worthy of celebration–for example, I enjoy celebrating my Scottish-Irish heritage, and I enjoy the (usually) good-natured rivalries over college football.
For some reason, however, once we get into the church, we find ourselves in conflicts over our diversity. We’re different in many ways: economically, educationally, spiritually, racially, musically, etc.; so perhaps some of the conflicts should be expected. However, if we can expect conflicts over differences, we also ought to prepare to deal with them. In Romans 12:16, Paul writes, “Live in harmony with one another.”
When we think of living in harmony, many understand that to mean “identical” in thought or practice. We cannot deny that there are areas in which we ought to be in agreement with each other–for example, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5 that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”–but we are also a body made up of individual parts, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12. While I’m not a musical expert, I know that notes that are in harmony with one another are not the same, but they are arranged in a consistent, orderly, and pleasing way.
This is how we ought to live within the church. We don’t all have to have the same interests, backgrounds, or abilities, but we do need to put some effort into being a consistent, orderly, and pleasing church body and using those differences to connect, grow, and serve as a healthy body. I have been in enough choirs to know that harmony sometimes takes a lot of hard work. Paul gives some examples of that work in Romans 12:10-21: honoring others above ourselves; being patient; sharing with others; practicing hospitality; blessing our persecutors; rejoicing and mourning with others; living at peace; not taking revenge; feeding our enemies. Ultimately, when it comes to living in harmony with those who are different from us, it’s a matter of overcoming evil with good. That’s what Jesus did for us; shouldn’t we try to do the same?