During a recent visit to my son’s school, the band was practicing a piece of classical music. The teacher, who was conducting the students, kept asking them to repeat one specific section of the piece. In the full orchestra of musicians, he could hear just one person continuing to play wrong notes. To his trained ear, it was a clash against the harmony; discord from the consensus of the music; opposition to the consistency of the melody. Bottom line: it was an ugly noise. (It’s still amazing to me that in a full band, he could pick out just one person playing differently!)
It was a disruption of unity.
We are living in a time when it seems like there’s a lot of unharmonious music playing. Our world can feel very divided, and the dissonance is loud and clanging throughout news outlets and social media. It isn’t a melodic symphony, and it screams the need for more unity in the midst of all the chaos.
But what does unity even look like? How can we go about harmonizing the discord?
Before we get to that, let’s begin by considering the difference between unity and uniformity. Unity results from oneness and harmony, while uniformity has consistency without any variable. They could overlap, but you could also certainly have unity without uniformity; meaning there could be differences that still work together toward common goals. It’s an important distinction, because there are three critical ways that believers should look different while we’re bringing people together.
First, we shouldn’t be enraged.
I realize “enraged” is a strong word, but have you seen all the hate and mud-slinging out there? My goodness! Yes, there are serious issues in this world causing great concern. Absolutely, there are differing perspectives, communication styles and approaches to solutions. No question, things (and people) feel really out of control, and let’s just go ahead and say it, downright crazy at times. And still, as believers, we are called to live peaceably and lovingly among them. We should bring kindness to the chaos by loving our neighbors, whether we share their same viewpoints or not. We should be peacemakers in heated situations, prioritizing people over opinions.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 ESV)
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35 NIV)
Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV)
Second, we shouldn’t be fearful.
We may or may not love our leaders, the direction of our country, the risk of a global pandemic or the massive shifts in culture and values. We may feel like the world is careening in a bad direction, but we need not fear. God has already overcome the world! He alone is sovereign. All throughout biblical history, God has allowed kings’ reigns, scary circumstances and seasons of chaos to ultimately show His glory and draw people closer for their protection. He is a trustworthy, loving Father; One in whom we can find peace, hope and rest. What a difference we could model when the daily headlines and events don’t cause us the same anxiety! We’ve already read the last page of the Bible. We know this world is not our home, and we can have confidence in His saving grace. Instead of fear mongering with everyone else, we should share the Good News of our hope.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28 NLT)
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28 ESV)
Thirdly, we shouldn’t conform to the world.
Things that are popular, trending and en vogue are rarely the same things that are timeless. And while God has us here for such a time as this, it’s only His Word that should serve as our unchanging, true north compass and guide. We should not cave to aggressive arguments, sway to crafty positioning or be compelled by nuanced reasoning. Truth solidly stands the test of time. Heck, the Truth of Jesus’ birth changed the whole system used globally to keep and record time! Since we stand on the firm foundation of this unchanging Truth, we should look different. We should be steadier, more joyful in spite of circumstances and able to lead others with sound judgment and enduring wisdom. If this sounds like a contrast to the current condition of our culture, it should. We should be a noticeable contrast to the conformity.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27 ESV)
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:11 ESV)
Isn’t it interesting how our differences (our non-uniformity) can be the very things to bring more unity? Our differences as believers don’t make us better, and we should have no pride or arrogance about it. Our faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, our different perspective can help us to be more peaceful, loving, hopeful and steady when our world needs those things more than ever. It makes me hope that people notice the different tune; that it’s literal music to their ears. May the harmonies lead them to Jesus.
Father, God, let our lives be Your instruments and our words, a melody of your goodness. Let it all be a sweet, sweet sound to Your ears, bringing glory to You and peace to our world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.