Living in Harmony with One Another

by Steven Chan
16 January 2011

One of the major challenges in life is the ability to live in harmony with one another. From the day sin entered the world it became a challenge for man to live in harmony with one another. Adam blamed his sin on his wife, Eve who had (perhaps lovingly but nonetheless wrongfully) shared with him the fruit that God had said that they were not to eat of it (Gen 3:6,12). Soon after, Cain whose offerings were rejected by God murdered his brother Abel out of envy and jealousy because Abel’s offerings were accepted by God (Gen 4:4-5). “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”(Gen 4:9). By his answer to God, Cain demonstrated a lack of interest in the well-being of his brother.

The Bible in Phil 2:1-7 encourages Christians to live in harmony with one another and to look out for the interests of others:

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…”

There will always be brethren who have differing opinions on various matters because each has his own preferences on what to do and how to do them. So long as these matters are in the category of “permitted optional matters” and not “required or forbidden matters”, we should grant each liberty to do as he or she pleases subject only to the requirement that it be not inexpedient or being unloving (Rom 14:13-15; I Cor 8:12; 10:23,31).

The Bible says: As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions… We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”(Rom 14:1; 15:1-6)

Rom 12:16-19: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Perhaps the story of the porcupine may be helpful to us all (the story was contributed by Sis Lydia Teh who received it via the email):-

Fable of the porcupine
It was the coldest winter ever – many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together.  This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other. After awhile they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

Moral of the story:
The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.