I wish you could see the small mountain church we attend. The stone tower over the front door houses the old bell. Each Sunday morning, it rings out the news that Sunday school is about to start, and then, one hour later, it announces the worship hour. About forty people gather together in this small, picturesque building. James, a thin, bent-over gentleman, reads the Scripture every Sunday. To be honest, his mountain dialect is hard for me to understand and I catch about one word in ten. Dorothy and Edna live with each other and come dressed in soft pastel colors that flatter their white hair. They are sweet, but they can hardly hear a word I say. Mattison stomps into church with the energy and feistiness of a two-year-old little girl. She tosses her blond hair and stares defiantly at anyone who suggests that she should go downstairs to the nursery. Slowly the congregation quiets as the Lector brings us to order and the choir sings the call to worship. I sit in my pew, wondering at the love and acceptance exhibited by everyone in our small church.
Mountain people are known for being rugged individuals with strong personalities. They value their odd characters and cherish their kinfolk. While they may gossip about each other and frown on choices made, they somehow manage to live at peace with one another. That does not mean that we do not have disagreements in our church—we have some doozies! Our church is made up of very strong-willed people who are not afraid to let their opinions be known. Along with other idiosyncrasies, our church relives history, repeating our order of worship each Sunday the way it has always been done.
My husband and I came to this church after sixteen years of serving as global workers. We have worshipped in jungle, provincial, and big-city churches. We have worked with some of the most independently-minded, strong-willed global workers that have ever walked this earth. Nevertheless, I have never before felt such brotherly love as I do toward my current church family. What is different?
Our mountains are full of music. The hammer dulcimer, the guitar, and the fiddle, along with voices blended in harmony, are all a part of life in our mountains. I have a friend who plays the hammer dulcimer beautifully. When she plays Amazing Grace, she often starts out using only one hammer, the melody ringing out sweet and true. Then, she picks up the other hammer and adds notes that bring the richness of harmony to the hymn. The instrument comes alive with tones that complement each other because they are different, as my friend intends that they should.
God reveals the desire of His heart for our relationships with fellow believers in I Peter 3:8, Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. While He gives several instructions on how we are to live with each other, He starts with the command for us to be harmonious. Our Heavenly Father is acknowledging that we are different, with different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, different perspectives and different opinions. You can only be harmonious if you are different. However, differences are often viewed as bad, especially when they come packaged in a person with whom we struggle to get along.
Through our lives, God is creating a musical masterpiece. Sometimes, but rarely, He has us sing a solo, all alone. Most of the time, though, He places us in a choir where our notes can blend with others’. Our tone is unique, and our part of God’s masterpiece is important. To produce the harmony God desires, we must accept and blend our differences. We must commit to sing from the same score. Instead, we sometimes look at each other and think, “I am not sure I want to sing with her, or sing the way she sings, or join her on the chorus.”
Those are the kinds of thoughts we need to put away. These verses command us to …live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. We are not to repay evil or insult with the same, but we are to give back a blessing. Why? Because we are called so that we can inherit a blessing. Study verses 10, 11, and 12: For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ The Lord is exposing His heart’s desire for us when He tells us how to live together. Did you notice that this Scripture says that when we live righteous lives the Lord’s ears are attentive to our prayers? If we do not keep our tongues from evil and our lips from deceitful speech, if we do evil and turn from doing good, if we do not seek peace and pursue it, then the Lord turns His face against us.
Those verses give us wonderful motivation to obey God and live in harmony with each other. Harmony. Two or more notes blended as one. Different yet perfect, incomplete without each other. A note by itself may sound a little flat or off-key, and it is only when it is sung with complementary notes that its beauty can be heard. Harmony, not melody, is God’s desire for us; it should be our goal.
In my mountain church, there are a few people who refuse to sing harmony. They are content blaring their single notes to the rooftops. I listen to them, and for the first time in my life, I can smile because finally, I really know that God is the composer. He knows all about wayward singers and notes that are off-key. With His baton directing us, He will bring order and harmony even where it appears impossible. My only job is to sing my part, to enjoy the notes He has given me to sing for Him. I do not have to worry about the off-key choirmate whose voice threatens to drown out my song. I sing to God, my eyes focused on Him. While I sing my assigned part, I wait on God, for Him to bring about the harmony I know He desires.