Harmony. Our very beings crave it. We crave the predictability of the sunrise, and the assurance that it will also set, often in grand fashion. We hear it in the crashing of the waves of every body of water on the planet. Our souls crave structure, we crave rest; and when we have that rest, we are often the very best versions of ourselves.
Harmony in music is universally adored. When at it’s best, a piece of music highlighting harmonizing tones, can stop all of us in our tracks. It is a sweet sound to our ears, and when lyrically relevant to our lives, a balm for weary souls. It can make us dance, or tap our foot and sing along- because harmony is beautiful, and humans crave beauty. Harmony drowns out a noisy world that can often be described as clashing symbols, sounds that are unsettling and stirs up confusion and unrest. We crave harmony.
In a continuance of his letter to the Romans, Paul uses almost the entire chapter (12) to teach them how they can live in harmony; how they can cultivate harmony- how they can maintain harmony. The verse we highlight here is verse 18-“For as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men”. The word “peace” here is the Greek word for “harmony”. So, Paul was telling them, for as much as it possibly was within their reach to live in beautiful harmony with all men.
There are so many reasons this is almost an impossible task. The least of which is others don’t often share this desire—to live a peace, or in harmony-with those around them. Some people absolutely thrive off of conflict, and for those of us who avoid it at all cost, it can be difficult to live in harmony with those people. And then all that is within us that craves harmony cries out, often in a deafening silence, for peace, sweet peace. We want what can only be described the absence of conflict.
Paul wasn’t writing to a group of people constantly connected by social media where they could hide behind computers in their hands-where opinions are as prevalent as humanly possible. He wasn’t speaking to a group of people as different as they were the same. He was speaking to a group of people, who, presumably, at their best, wanted to live a peace with each other. Yet, Paul spends this entire chapter telling them how to live at peace with each other. And even though we could argue that it is, perhaps, more difficult to live a peace with each other in our connected world, we still have the same commandment to do so; so how do we do this, how do we live at peace with those around us, especially those who have no desire to live at peace with us?
- He encouraged them to love with sincerity (v9). He encouraged them to hate evil and cling to good.
- He encouraged them to remain devoted to one another, and to honor others above our selves. (v10)
- He encouraged them to remain zealous- keeping fervor for the things of God. (v11)
- He encouraged them to remain joyful in hope; patient in affliction and faithful in prayer (v12)
- He encouraged them to bless those that persecute. (v14)
- He encouraged them to rejoice with those that rejoice, and to mourn with those that mourn (v15)
- He encouraged them to live at harmony with all men by not being proud and willing to associate with those that they may have deemed “lesser” than they. (v16)
- He encouraged them not to keep record of wrong doings. Not to repay evil with evil. (v17)
And then–the verse –“as much as it is possible, live a peace with all men”. On the surface, it does seem impossible to live at peace (or in harmony) with those around us. Because we all have people in our lives that almost thrive off of conflict. But Paul outlined for them ways for them succeed in living in harmony with all of those around them.
I love passages of scripture like this. I envision a trip to the beach and a bucket full of sand with beautiful seashells mixed in the sand. In order to separate the beautiful shells from the sand (noise) it is necessary to run it through a screen, a screen that separates out the two. I think if we were to follow Paul’s advice outlined in Romans chapter 12, we would stand a great chance of succeeding in living in harmony, or a peace with those around us, if we took the time to filter out the noise, so often clothed in conflict of insincere love, lack of zeal or pride. If we were to commit to living a life that is dedicated to screening out the noise, we would find that we are able to live in harmony with those around us and it is much easier than we think. The question is this: do we want to live at harmony with those around us?
That may seem like a question that is obvious. But, the reality is, if we can place “blame” on others then we do not have to be accountable to our own relationships with both God and people. It is always easier to blame others. But if we want our Jesus to be highlighted in a world that is nothing in the hemisphere of harmonious, we have to lay down our pride. We have to seek peace with those around us.
So, for as much as it is within you, today, live at peace with those around you. And when you do that, you will be able to focus on the Perfect Peace that keeps our minds and hearts quiet, and our focus on the ultimate Peace Maker. And let’s not forget the price that was paid so that we can live in peace, and worship the One who gives it to us when we don’t deserve it.
This peace is pending your obedience.