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Without fail, I hear the word harmony and my mind goes right back to me at nine years old: I'm standing in front of our TV, watching Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder bumbling along in the back of a wagon, lip-synching their hit song, "Ebony and Ivory."
In the song, Paul and Stevie lament that ebony and ivory can "live together in perfect harmony" on a piano keyboard, but ask, "Oh, Lord, why can't we?"
It's a fair enough question—with a pretty easy answer. Consider that keyboard: the black and white keys don't necessarily live in perfect harmony. Yes, the F-sharp and G will sit there nicely, causing no trouble—until they're agitated. Play them at the same time and it's not harmony you'll hear. Instead you'll hear a creepy, dissonant sounding clank.
It's the same with us. We can get along fine until one of us opens our mouths, expresses an idea, or reveals a background, bias, or point of view that differs from our own. Suddenly that person is a little too close, a little too different, and things get clanky.
And yet, as Christians, the call is clear: "Live in harmony with each other," Romans 12:16 says.
It's a lovely and difficult proposition, in music and in life. "How wonderful and pleasant it is," David wrote, "when brothers live together in harmony!"(Psalm 133:1). To truly live in harmony means our differences must play together nicely. In music, this means notes need intervals—space in between them. In life, this means we give one another space too. Space to be who we are. Space to live as God created us. Space to see and value—not clank and bicker about—the God-given and God-reflecting differences in one another. But this space isn't about distance or separation. This harmony creating space is otherwise known as grace.
Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer, speaker, and regular contributor to Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog, and a former editor for Christianity Today's magazines. An author of several books, her most recent release is Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God's Abundance (InterVarsity Press, April 2014). When Caryn's not writing, you can find her behind the mic and helping produce Moody Radio's "Midday Connection," a daytime radio program focusing on topics especially relevant to women.