Music consists of three key components: melody, rhythm, and harmony. Melody and rhythm make music memorable, but the third element, harmony, can elevate a piece from ordinary and obvious to ambitious and sophisticated. Harmony is achieved when individual musical tones come together to form a cohesive sound. On their own, different musical instruments can play separate notes, but when the right notes are played together, harmony is created.
Harmony can be created in the church too. In fact, our text today commands that Christians “live in harmony with one another” (v. 16). Paul reminds the Romans that people will continue to persecute them (v. 14), but even while enduring persecution, they need to be mindful of each other (v. 15). This awareness of what others are going through is the first component to living in harmony.
Paul adds another element of living in harmony with one another: humility. Being humble and not proud is reflected in Romans 12:3: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” As C. S. Lewis states, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” When we think of ourselves less, we think more of others and see everyone as Jesus does, with immeasurable value. Christians are to include and interact with everyone.
The final component which builds harmony in the church is when people are not conceited (v. 16) but have a growth mindset. The last sentence of verse 16 could be translated “Never be wise in your own sight.” Paul encourages harmony through the posture of being able to learn from one another. Harmony in a church can be challenging, but a harmonious church is attractive, healthy, and God-honoring.
>> Professional musicians will tell you that harmony doesn’t happen overnight, it takes daily practice. How can you practice living in harmony today? To begin, try humbling yourself, thinking of others first, and be willing to learn.
It’s easier to practice humility, thoughtfulness, and lack of conceit when we receive the same from others. God, help us practice these virtues even toward those who never seem to reciprocate.