‘Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers and sisters, be compassionate and humble.’ 1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

Peter urges the readers of his first letter to ‘live in harmony with…’ What does ‘harmonious living’ look like?

Harmonious living is partly explained by Peter’s next phrases – being sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble – but is Eugene Peterson’s ‘Be agreeable’ sufficient?

Peace-keeping, peace-making, peace-building, assume that there are difficulties in the relationships which have to be resolved – they are about moving from painful hurtful relationships to ‘peace’ where violence (verbal and/or physical) is absent. However we struggle to have a positive constructive picture of what peace looks like.

In music different notes combine to produce a chord, a sound that is more than the sum of the individual notes. The notes fit together well, sounding pleasing to our ears, as opposed to being discordant, clashing with each other, sounding grating to our ears.

The key (sic!) to harmony is the difference between the notes and their uniqueness, each note is of value, each note contributes to the chord.

There is no harmony where some are valued more than others, where the contribution of some is considered detrimental and is therefore unwanted.

Consider the harmony that is produced by an orchestra when it plays, for example, a symphony. Here harmony can also refer to the working together of the players following the leadership of the conductor as well as the music itself and the sounds produced by the assortment of instruments. Another facet to harmony drawn from the analogy of the orchestra is that the harmony produced is not necessarily apparent to the individuals within it, an orchestral player doesn’t hear the symphony as a whole from where they are sitting playing their instrument.

So what does ‘living in harmony’ look like? … in marriage, in family life, in church, in work, in society, in divided societies? Foundational to it are: valuing each other for our differences; welcoming and receiving what others contribute when what they offer is surprising, unexpected, and even hard to accept; contributing what we want to and are able to graciously and patiently where we might expect what we offer not to be welcomed.

Can we imagine that we are participating in something (society, the Kingdom of God…) in which we play a role greater than we perceive? That is faith. The whole picture is God’s privilege.

And so we trust Him, and are excited about the way our lives fit into what God is doing.

Ethel White

Opinions expressed by p.s. contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Contemporary Christianity. Contributors are invited to freely express their opinions, whatever the issue, in order to encourage robust and respectful discussion.