‘Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.’ – Romans 12:16-18, NET
Harmony and Balance, are not the same, nor do either mean, “The Same”, yet we use these words and labels to suggest they both mean, “The Same” and can be used interchangeably. It’s a mess. If this is confusing, try understanding how to apply this in relationships, in faith, and in the world.
My first lesson in balance might be one of the more painful memories of all time. You got it, the See-Saw. Using a few Simple Machines(The Lever, Wheel & Axle, Screw, Pulley, Wedge, Inclined Plane) and physics, the teeter-totter was a weapon of both joy and disappointment. The up and down was a simple experience of both gravitational forces(G Forces and Zero Gravity) and anticipation, but it usually evolved into a trial of balance and precision. “Could we balance it?”. Sometimes, however, it turned into a chance to suspend the other poor soul far above their comfort level, and then bail off the seat, letting the other person fall until they broke their fall on the very hard ground. The lesson learned was that unless everything was equal, it never worked.
The lesson of equality has been an interesting one. At first it was one of simplicity: The Same, means The Same. Dollar for dollar, time for time, cup for cup, and so on. There are times when equality requires unequal terms. The need for Educational accommodations, Physical Accommodations, Emotional Accommodations and even Cultural Accommodations should illustrate this challenge. At first glance it would appear to be objective, but when we look deeper at equality, the only thing that we might be able to say objectively about equality is, it’s completely subjective.
Imagine something so imperfectly imperfect that it’s beautiful, or sounds that are certainly not the same, yet when played together, result in a synergistic moment. This is harmony. Tension and dissonance being held together, without seeking a middle ground, because something new and powerful is created. It’s less about the “part” and all about the “whole”.
Paul invites his reader to embrace living as a whole, “For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.” He never suggests we are the same, just one, serving the same function-being the Body of Christ. Harmony isn’t agreeing that Amazing Grace is the greatest hymn of all time, harmony is agreeing that grace is amazing. Harmony is agreeing that when we confess Jesus Christ as Our Savior, God rejoices. Imagine, the body of Christ, like a choir. The altos are over here, or the tenors over there, the sopranos to the right, and the basses to the left, all singing different words and notes and beats of the same song, but you begin to tune with your ear, so that everyone became part of a beautiful harmony. The director says, “Pay attention to me, look at the music, but make sure you listen to each other.” Then somehow, what was once chaotic becomes transcendent.
We aren’t the same, but then again, God’s not done with us just yet either.