Pachebel’s “Canon” is one of my favorite pieces of music. 
My wife, Debbie, and I used it as the prelude at our wedding, which, for me, gives it additional affective power.

Early in my days at a church I pastored in Ohio, I shared this with my church organist. He countered that it was one of his least favorite pieces of music and asked that he never be asked to play it in worship.

Not many weeks after that, he shared with me that his wife played the accordion. I confessed to him that the accordion was my least favorite instrument and asked that his wife never play it in a worship service.

These were two issues on which we were never going to find common ground, but it was healthy to get them out in the open early in our work together.

Several weeks later, he brought to me a cassette recording with 12 different renderings of Pachebel’s “Canon” and suggested to me that I could listen to it whenever I wished and thereby get my fill of the piece.

In response, I suggested that his wife could play her accordion in worship when I was on vacation.

I wore out the tape over the years, and his wife played her accordion each year during my summer vacation. We never agreed about Pachebel and accordions, but we did work together in harmony.

Agreement and harmony are not the same thing. We sometimes make that mistake.

We think that harmony in our various communities – home, church and civil society – necessitates agreement; it does not. We can live in harmony with people with whom we disagree.

In Colossians 3:12-15, Paul writes: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love,” Paul continues, “which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

Paul writes about “bearing one another” in the same breath with “perfect harmony.” The word translated “bear” means forbear, endure or put up with.

It does not mean agree with one another on everything. He describes a reciprocal arrangement: I put up with you, and you put up with me.

Harmony springs from a common purpose and mutual core commitments. It is fed by mutual concern and a desire to seek the well being of the other. It is a sign that we have taken the peace of Christ to heart in our living.

Harmony is possible amid our disagreements. We don’t have to agree on everything to live in harmony. We do have to bear with one another. That is what Paul is saying; he wants something deeper for us than simple agreement. 

We seek agreement as a substitute for harmony because it is simpler, easier, faster and asks less of us. Harmony, on the other hand, involves forgiveness and love. In other words, it is labor intensive.

One of the core values of the ABC-New York region is connectedness. Forbearance that leads to harmony is a central feature of this connectedness.

Jim Kelsey is executive minister of the American Baptist Churches-New York State. A version of this article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.

Share This