by Nan Corbitt Allen
I love music. Always have and always will. My mother told me that I could hum the tune to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” before I could talk. Part of my affection for the art is hereditary (my dad sang in a gospel quartet) and the other part is just an inborn ability that I was encouraged to cultivate.
I remember singing hymns in “big church.” I still love and remember so many of those great, old songs. But we sang in Sunday School, too. Now every Sunday I sing a little tune I learned there, and the words that go like this:
Sunday morning/clear and cool, I meet my friends at Sunday School. Friends of mine/are friends of Jesus. He’s a friend to me.
I have no idea who wrote it, but it has been a part of my Sunday routine for over 60 years.
As I got a little older, I became a part of a children’s choir at my church. (Oh, that we would revive this tradition!) I learned there that when everyone sings the same note at the same time, it’s called unison. Then, as I got even older, unison meant that, yeah, we sang the same note, but the boys sang it an octave lower…ideally.
Next, I learned about harmony. First, it was alto. Someone sang the melody, the “lead,” and someone else sang another note below it. My dad taught me how to hear that alto note and sing it. Then, in youth choir, (again, that we would revive this tradition!) I started hearing “boy notes”—tenor and bass. Imagine, everyone singing a different note and it sounding beautiful. (Well, most of the time anyway.) When I got to college and sang in the university chorale, we added many more parts and it became down right heavenly.
All of this to say that it dawned on me recently that when we strive for unity in the world or in the church, that’s a good thing, even though men and women actually have different takes on that, just like in unison singing. Oh, that we would see things exactly the same way—what a world that would be!
However, just as wonderful would be to live in harmony. Each singing a different note, but blending and making an incredible sound. Why can’t we do that? Why not blend ideas and passions? Can we not hold our own pitches and let others do the same and together make beautiful…well, you know?
I don’t believe that unity in the world is feasible. There’s too much hate and deceit and influence of evil forces. It’ll never happen. But in the church, yes, it’s possible that we can have unity, especially about things that are irrefutable. Like the Truth.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8 ESV).
Some ideas are non-negotiable, like the truth of the Bible. We must be united in those things.
Though harmony might not be a reality in this diverse world, it is feasible, when it includes listening to each other and treating the other person, and his or her ideas, as valuable. Here’s the idea, especially in the church. Paul writes,
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12: 16-18 ESV).
A good word. And another from the same guy.
And above all…put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:14 -15 ESV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.
Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.
Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Join the conversation: Does your church struggle with unity? How are you dealing with that?
3 thoughts on “Unity Vs. Harmony”
Great insight. I never looked at the world like this. Thanks for the poignant truth. May we unite as believers and live in harmony with others in this world.
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I love the harmony perspective, Nan. I know Jesus prayed for unity (John 17) — which means it will happen eventually. Unity as He prayed, means the world will see something powerful and miraculous and know who He is. Unity means revival. Something to think about.
Beautifully written. Thank you for the insight of unity and harmony.