Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
I Corinthians 12:4-7
Have you noticed that singing in harmony is so much more interesting and beautiful than singing in unison? I was struck recently with the beauty of harmony as my wife Rita and I sang Happy Birthday to our granddaughter. I am something of a musical klutz so that the best I could manage was to sing melody. How much better it sounded when Rita joined in harmonizing to the melody. I was delighted hearing people say how good we sounded together, knowing it was because Rita harmonized with me. Yes, harmony is so much more beautiful than unison, as beauty comes not in the sameness, but in differences blending. This is true not only in music but also in life.
We learn what beauty and power of harmony there is in the Trinity, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit blend their differences together. The three Persons of the Godhead are different, and yet they are one. The three Persons are equal in divinity but different in how they relate to each other, to us, and to the world. Search the Scriptures and see the three Persons harmony in creating, redeeming, and completing. In boundless beauty the Trinity acts harmoniously, each uniquely.
So when Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created humanity in the divine image, we are made to act in harmony with each other. That is why the Body of Christ, the holy Church, is most beautiful making music together. The Church is not beautiful in sameness, but in God-endowed harmonizing differences. It is comparable to the soprano in the choir singing her part, and the bass singing his, both staying with it. Therein lies the beauty!
Harmony is the theme of today’s scripture as the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians. Paul knows they are missing out on the beauty of harmony among God’s people. They do not appreciate the differences among them, but are prone to cloning Christians the same. Notably in this passage, Paul emphasizes the diversity of believers, while at the same time emphasizing their God-given unity. Paul points to their own experience in that there are “varieties” of “gifts,” “services,” and “activities.”
Paul notes that the diversity among them comes from the diversity of God as “Spirit,” “Lord,” and “God” working “for the common good.” Paul knows well that fallen humanity is prone to sameness and monotonous monotone, while God works towards the beauty of harmony. While we might want other believers to think and act like us, God wants us to love and honor the different ‘voices’, callings, gifts, and life experiences in harmony.
From my experience of singing Happy Birthday that day, I have come to two takeaways:
- Each of us has a part to sing. Our different histories, temperaments, talents, and gifts are needed for making harmony in the Church and the world.
- While each of us has a part to sing, we must listen closely to the other parts, and appreciate them. That harmonizing together is God’s purpose for us. By this we will mirror to a broken world the beauty of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three Persons who are One!
How boring, monotone and non-impactful the Church would be if we were all alike!
A fellow traveler,