Last month just prior to starting this blog, I spent 72 glorious hours on a journey called the Walk to Emmaus. I can’t recommend it enough! I chose to attend in Tennessee rather than here in Texas, as I only knew people who could sponsor me there. I’d love to tell you more, but I’m hoping you’ll attend…and it’s like trying to explain an amazing indoor theme park ride–one simply needs to enter and experience it for him or herself.
One difference I noticed during worship there in the South was that the women sing in harmony! This is becoming, sadly, a lost practice. As we’ve migrated to contemporary worship music, which I love also, our tendency has become one in which the entire congregation sings melody. But oh, the beauty of harmony–different voices singing one song simultaneously but hitting different notes in such a way that a beautiful vocal blend is produced. I enjoyed even the most simple choruses sung in three-part harmony.
But worship style isn’t really where I’m going with this post. Did you notice I brought up an issue that has become a dividing point among many churches and even denominations–contemporary worship. Some prefer hymns with organ and piano, while others enjoy contemporary songs with a band, and even some stick to a cappella (no instruments at all). This is just one dividing point. Other divisions which have come up have involved method and age of baptism, and still more discord regarding the role of women in the church These are three of many, many dividing issues found within the Body of Christ.
Last night I was reading my Bible and came to a passage that addresses such dividing issues, which go back all the way to early Church. There was, at the time Paul was writing his letter to the Romans, great debate as to whether believers were allowed to eat foods previously forbidden to the Jews. Basically, Paul tells the quarrelers to stop judging one another, because “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (14:17, ESV)
I’m convinced that the Church is in dire need of learning how to sing harmony. We won’t all interpret each Scripture the same, and we won’t practice exactly the same…but in those differences, beauty will arise. Guess what Paul said in 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another.” He didn’t tell us to live in unison. Harmony actually requires differences! In these differences, I’m not talking about doctrines that creep up that are contradictory to the Gospel. Addressing these, Paul warned the Church, “Avoid them.” (16:17)
Paul counters argumentative division with this beautiful truth: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Rom. 14:4) Regardless of how wrong we may believe others to be in their practice of Christian faith, we must remember that God is the one to whom they answer, and God is the one through whom they will stand. He is the one who works in him, and by the way, it is he who accomplishes any work done in us.