“Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:16
Why is it so difficult for believers to get along?
The Bible describes and alludes to many, many conflicts between believers. Paul and Silas couldn’t compromise (Acts 15:39), the Christians in Corinth were divided on a variety of issues (1 Cor. 1:10-12), Euodia and Syntyche could not get along in Philippi (Phil. 4:2,3) and the Apostle James needed to address the fights and quarrels in the 1st century church at large (Js. 4:1). Even the original disciples argued amongst themselves (Lk. 22:24).
What’s our problem?!
I surveyed some of my children this past weekend to again gauge their understanding of the depravity of man. My question was simple: Are we sinners because we are born sinful or because we sin? My thirdborn provided me with the best answer: “Both. We are born sinful and that makes us sinners, and we sin, which also makes us sinners.” Don’t you love it when you hear great theology from “the mouth of babes”?! Dayton is indeed correct! We are sinners because we are born in sin. When Adam fell in the Garden, we fell with him. Every human being is conceived with a sinful nature. Romans, chapter five, offers a great explanation of this reality. We are also sinners because we sin. We sin from the earliest of age, proving our condition, our nature. And as we grow, we sin more and more. We commit sins daily—sins of word, thought and deed. Our sins against God each day are too numerous to count, and we regularly sin against others. We even sin against ourselves!
One of the best books I have ever received is entitled The Valley of Vision. It is a collection of Puritan prayers written by believers who grasp both the fall of man and the grace of God. Here’s one of my favorite lines:
“My country, family, church fare worse because of my sins” (Self-Knowledge, p.69).
In other words, we are not God’s gift to the world (that title is reserved for Jesus)! In fact, because of our sin, we end up being more of a curse than a blessing to this planet! And our sins—conscious and unconscious—greatly affect those around us. That sin—that baggage—is carried with us into the community of saints. We take it with us to church. It is present within all our relationships. And that is why believers struggle to get along. That is why we need to be commanded to “live in harmony with one another.”
The word Paul chose to employ here that some translators render “harmony” is a Greek present, active participle. The sentiment being conveyed by the Apostle’s choice of grammar is one of lifestyle. Christians are to be of the same mind–moving as one on the essentials and making every effort to be charitable at all times.
As we were preparing for our wedding, Jodi and I began searching the Bible for some verses that we would challenge ourselves to live out daily. We settled on a passage from the book of Ephesians. Paul was writing to a group of believers who needed to be reminded to put others above themselves. We chose to memorize the verses from the Living Bible. It is easy to see why keeping these words before a church or a couple is important. May God help us all to live these out in His strength and for His glory.
“Be humble and gentle; be patient with one another making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another” (4:2,3).