by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Non-denominational Reformed

Text: Romans 12:16-18: "Be of the same mind toward one another... If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."

One translation states it, "Live in harmony with each other." We get our English word "arm" from the same Greek root as "h-a-r-m-o-n-y." The stem word is harmos, which means "joint." Just as your "arm" is connected to your shoulder at its "joint." They work together, work in harmony. In a similar fashion, when you gather together a soprano, a tenor, a bass, and an alto, all singing their notes correctly, their voices "join" together to create a single sound, one song. If everyone sang the same notes and in the same tone it would just be one boring sound. In a committed relationship, you have what we'll call a “bass” and an “alto.” In other words, you have two different people with two different backgrounds and two completely different ways of viewing things. One has the mind of a man, one has the mind of a woman. In this there will never be a boring "monotone," but there should be no repeated discord either. There are at least three ways we can respond when difficulties or disagreements come our way. Let's have a look:

1. Refusing to Talk.
We have an example of this with King Ahab in 1 Kings 21. When he didn't get his way he wandered about all silent and pouty. Too often we play these kinds of games with each other. We send out a host of non-verbal signals hoping our other half will "get the point." We mope around, pouting, wanting our partner to feel guilty expecting they should come to us, to draw it out of us, expecting them to be the one who gives in.

2. Blow Our Top.
A good place to look for an example on this is 1 Kings 19 and the culprit is Jezebel. Elijah was not the first man, nor will he be the last, to run away from an angry woman. Blowing our top, or losing our temper - getting loud, angry, and having vicious arguments – is unproductive, no, more than that, these things are destructive. Lost tempers, which often result in unfiltered arguments, can harm a relationship faster than many other things. When we lose our temper and start spewing out venom we are inflicting emotional wounds onto the other person.

3. Wise Up.
Back to 1 Kings. 1 Kings 3 to be precise. Here we see Solomon pleading with God for wisdom to handle the disputes of the people. Out of this wisdom, Solomon penned the book of Proverbs. Proverbs offers great tidbits of wisdom to follow and memorize.

Taking Action:
So, how can we learn to live in harmony? How do we apply all of this to our lives? I've come up with eight suggestions:

1. Purposefully decide to keep your anger under control (Prov. 29:11).

2. Learn to take a "time-out." When things escalate it's easy for them to get out of control. One is much better off if they take a break, back off, and cool down.

3. Say you're sorry. Once you realize you need to apologize, do it.

4. Don't let things continue to fester. Have the maturity to sit down and talk about things openly, and make sure to listen.

5. There is no reason to say everything you think of. Bite your tongue. Don't think it's necessary to have the "last word." Proverbs 29:11 says, "A fool uttereth all his mind." Elizabeth Elliot also offers some great advice, "Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut."

6. Learn to agree to disagree. Think about this, "If two people agree on everything, they double their chances of being wrong."

7. Read Christian books on relationships and get some help from Christian counselors if needed. Trained professionals can be a great help in overcoming relational issues.

8. Keep close to God. Often times our struggles with people vertically stem from a struggle we may be having horizontally. In other words, if we aren't in a right relationship with God chances are we aren't in right relationships with people. Why was Ahab so bitter toward Naboth? Why was Jezebel so angry with Elijah? Because in both cases their hearts were not right with God. Make sure you have regular "tune up" sessions with God.

In our relationships, we are either going to harm or harmonize. Those are the two possibilities. If we are going to enjoy healthy, productive relationships, we can't refuse to talk or blow our top. We must wise up so we can iron out our differences without getting burned.

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