So there I was, standing in a school staff room and I happened to be looking at a poster advertising ‘harmony day’. Now there’s enough people out there being negative at the moment, so I don’t want to add to that but I have to admit I realised something. The word ‘harmony’ of course has a musical flavour to it and as I reflected on that I realised that harmonies don’t and can’t exist without a melody underneath them to anchor them to.
You can’t have harmony without a melody. Harmony has to be anchored to something, something objective. We exist in a society constantly where its favourite words are harmony, equality, unity and the like. And yet, political correctness hamstrings us. People are so easily offended. Civil liberties are under threat.
I wonder if what folks aren’t seeing is if you start out with ‘harmony’ and equality as your goal without a ‘melody’ or, thought thru boundaries, you’re going to end up creating them anyway. Not only that, but because you haven’t thought it thru, they’ll end up being unreasonable and strangely contradict your central message.
Don’t believe me? So I have a blog site and congratulations for finding it and reading it, but some time ago, the top border changed from staight black to rainbow for a while. I didn’t put that there. WordPress did. In the interest of appearing to the rest of the corporate world as inclusive and all about equality, it has altered customers’ web pages to reflect that……without one single notice, let alone asking permission. So there I was in the hilarious position of having to allow their political agenda in order to continue that on-line ministry. But now I’m having a crack at WordPress on a WordPress site….how deliciously subversive!
Anyway, let me tell you something that you can bank on. What happens on the internet today, is what will be happening on the street corner tomorrow. For Jesus followers, if you haven’t already, you will have to wrestle with how you are going to share Christ and minister in this new atmosphere. Don’t think “I’ll be long gone before this becomes an issue.” It’s happening now.
I want to reference Paul’s words in: 1 Cor 12:12-26
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it
Here’s why I think this has taken on a new level of relevance: because in the new atmosphere, possibly one of the greatest points of difference that Churches are going to have is the existence of true diversity and harmony among those of differing backgrounds, cultures and political views. Can I add; just like in the first and second centuries A.D.
You see, as we have a peek at Paul’s words you notice that true unity in diversity happens if and when you begin with the melody, that is, you begin with the objective that under-girds everything.
Verse 12 says: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. Verse 18 then says: But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. Basically, Paul is saying that the whole thing is all about Jesus (and reflecting him) and thus the whole thing is arranged by God. It’s no accident you’re here, now.
Now why does he do this? As usual, the best pastoral master-classes come from the most epic of problems. So what’s the problem here in Corinth? Well there’s a few, but simply put, everyone wanted to be the brain, heart or soul. Moreover; whichever they were, they wanted to receive the honour for it. They had adopted a competitive spirituality. There’s word we have for when cells in a body start competing against each other; Cancer. Folks were too busy trying to be top dog that they failed to notice the unity of the church was in disarray. Don’t think it was that bad? Feel free to read the chapter before.
So the question really becomes: “Ok, so how do we live as a witness for true biblical diversity in a fractured world?” How can we redeem maybe the two most hijacked words of our time; ‘community’ and ‘family’? Well, let me pull out a few things that I notice in Paul’s analogy of the body. Here’s the top tools for unity.
- Remember the melody that anchors the harmony.
Our song is the gospel. That is the melody that undergirds our harmony. Everyone’s got their theological hobby horse but everything outside of the creation, fall, redemption, eternal salvation grand narrative of Scripture is secondary. The centre piece of the gospel is of course Christ. It’s the body of Christ. It’s not the body of high-end philosophical discussion. It’s not the body of non-profit care givers. It’s not the body dream-builders and entrepreneurs. It’s not the body of traditional values. It’s not the body of innovation. It’s not the body of social commentary and it’s not the body of silent contemplation. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but none of them can be the melody. None can be the central song.
And yet, the sad thing is that they all have been at some stage of church history and any time they have….it hasn’t worked. So number 1 is keep the main thing the main thing because otherwise, like WordPress, we’ll invent a new main thing.
- Be willing to have a go at being the foot or even the toe.
Talking to a person this week, and they referenced the tasks for our carols event. They made this statement “I looked for what was probably the worst job; I figured it was cleaning the toilets, so I thought I’ll do that.” That’s what I’m talking about. When people in this building say things like that to me, I think “we’re going to be just fine.” Paul makes it clear that if no one was ok with being a foot, there would be chaos. Maybe the ‘foot’ looks different for different people.
- Re-define greatness
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” Jesus himself said: Matt 23:11-12 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. You can serve thru any gift, but maybe the greatest gift is the desire to serve. You only really get that if you know Jesus and if and when you see him washing your feet.
Every biblical character who lived under pagan rule; be it Joseph, Moses, Daniel whoever they were willing to be obscure to the culture around them. We have to be ready to look weird. When you measure greatness in the same way as surrounding culture, you’ll never be comfortable with looking bizarre. I sometimes wonder if the greatest hindrance to our evangelism is an obsession with looking cool.
4. Re-define need.
Verse 22 says: “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” …Anyone who is or wants to be a ministry leaders take note, you’re only as good as your team.
Not if but when the heat really goes on, and it will, we’re going need each other. Like soldiers under fire, we need each other now.
- Surround yourself with people that challenge you.
Verse 25-26: “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Nothing will challenge you like hearing and responding to a concern that someone has. The most valuable people in my own development are those that will push back on my ‘ internal dialogue come external monologue. The more secure you are in Jesus, the more ‘ok’ you are going to be with surrounding yourself with people that will challenge you. Meanwhile the more important Jesus is to you, the more you’ll elevate the needs of his body over and above your own.
During the week, I flicked over to a T.V. show where some people had decided to overcome their fear of sharks. So they suited up and went swimming with penguins? No. Sharks! The best way to shake a fear of feedback is not to swim with sharks, but to pursue people who you can trust but whom will challenge you, because friends that’s Jesus speaking.
No one, will love you and shake you to your core like Jesus. And he often does it thru his body as well as the Holy Spirit.
So there it is:
- Remember the melody that anchors the harmony.
- Be willing to have a go at being the foot
- Re-define greatness
- Re-define need
- Surround yourself with people who challenge you.
The funny thing is, you could just about sum up the disciples 3 years following Jesus around first century Palestine in these five ways. Look at what they managed to end up doing in a pagan atmosphere!
That’s the real; good different.