The Harmony of One Voice

1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 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. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Ro 15:1–7). ESV.
 
Harmony, that elusive sense of unity. We often lack harmony in many aspects of our lives whether at work, home, gym, in traffic, etc. and unfortunately even in the church. But what is the cause of our disunity? Why do we not have harmony in our lives with others? The Scriptures tells us the reason we fight and quarrel is because we care more about our own desire for pleasure (whatever benefits us) than we do about other people. (James 4:1-3) Paul addresses the same issue in the passage above. The first three verses tell us we have an obligation, a duty in simple terms, to put up with “the failings of the weak.”(v1) But what does this mean? First what it does not mean. It does not mean that as you are reading this that you are to call to mind all those “weak” brothers and sisters that just drive you crazy because they just don’t seem to understand the Scriptures. What it does mean is that we are all someone’s weaker brother or sister. Jesus’ words concerning specks, planks and eyes reminds us of this. (Matt 7:1-5) Therefore, we are to please and build up our neighbor for their good. (v2) Now if the passage stopped there then our response, “Well you don’t know my neighbor” might be valid, but God knows the human heart. For this reason, the Scriptures remind us that any reproach (hatred, shame, scorn, taunts, disdain, disgrace) that comes at us is actually laid on Jesus Himself. (v3) Thus if we feel hatred, scorn, disdain, etc. against a fellow brother or sister in Christ it too is being laid on our Lord. This ought to shake us to the core…no wonder the Scriptures tell us, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (Jas 3:7–10) For this reason, Paul tells us that the whole of Scriptures is meant to instruct us. (v4) This instruction is not meant to be a onetime fact gathering expedition, but rather a lifelong event. Too often Christians think that they have heard all there is to know about the Scriptures, but this is self-deceptive foolishness. (2 Pet 1:5-9) This lifelong instruction comes to us “through endurance”. Endurance in the sense that we are to be steadfast in our devotion to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Endurance in that no matter the circumstance we continue to praise God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Endurance in the sense that in this life we will have tribulation but Jesus tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world and its troubles, hurts, disappointments, frustrations, illness, and sin. (John 16:33) Paul also tells us that the Scriptures are to encourage us so “we might have hope.” Hope in knowing that God who is unchanging and cannot lie will see us through our difficulties. Hope in knowing that Christ lived the life we could not and died the death that we should of. Hope in knowing the Holy Spirit is active and working in our lives to bring about God’s will for our lives. So in this obligation concerning our neighbor, Paul presents us with two things endurance and encouragement according to the Scriptures. Paul then prays that we would live in harmony by receiving endurance and encouragement from God who IS the source of all endurance and all encouragement. (v5) This life of harmony is to be in accord or in the same way as our harmony with Jesus, that is to say we have peace with God. (Rom 5:1) This allows us to glorify God with one voice. (v6) For this reason God says, “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Is 43:5–7) No wonder Paul comes to this conclusion “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (v7) If we focus on glorifying God, rather than on the short comings of our fellow believers, then we will find common ground, unity, and harmony in that most central of all purposes, the glory of God.