But Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
How do we think of ourselves? It is an important question for if we get this wrong then we will fall short in many areas.
Living in harmony with one another is challenging for all sorts of reasons which I do not intend to detail here but it would perhaps be a helpful exercise before God to ask ourselves what it is that creates disharmony. Why do I find it difficult to relate to this person or that person? Is the problem them or with me? Is the lack of harmony a first order or a second order issue, by which I mean, is it related to the central and non-negotiable aspects of the gospel or is it something on which we can agree to differ without breaking a harmonious relationship? In either case there is really only one way forward and that is to sit together and be honest with each other. Not an easy thing to do but without such channels of communication such problems will only remain and spoil relationships.
I suspect, and I know I am guilty here, very often we don’t get to the root of the problem and end up living hypocritically, pretending that we are in harmony when in fact we are not.
Paul gets to the heart of the problem when he says ‘Do not be proud’, for we have nothing of which to be proud. There is nothing that makes us better than any other for we are all guilty sinners, and it is only the grace of God that we do not deserve but is ours through the death of Jesus, that makes us what we are?
So why is that precious harmony not evident in all of our relationships?
Is it not because we are too precious about ourselves, too conceited, thinking ourselves better than others when in practice we have nothing to boast about?
In writing today on this particular section of Paul’s list of ‘Marks of the true Christian’ I find it deeply challenging for harmony (all working together and in tune with each other) is surely essential for the forward movement of the gospel and joyful living together. Such living requires ‘give and take’ in second order matters which ought to be lovingly understood and accepted as marks of a gloriously diverse gathering of God’s people, and this requires from us honesty and humility which our passage calls for, and this can hard to realise in practice.
Let us each examine our hearts today and be those of whom the world can say “See how these Christians love one another!” seeking to take any actions in our relationships which will, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, make this realisable.