Believers are to learn the skills of compatibility. The classic definition is “to be able to exist harmoniously.” The word is used in a dozen different fields, from agriculture to zoology. But the particular area we are to look at is the “spiritual.”
The Holy Spirit is the prime teacher. The same Spirit that holds me is holding you as well. As a result we connect in a way that is profound. This is all done supernaturally, and it is one of best arguments for the existence of God I know of. The world is full of discord. It is fractious and divided. But believers can walk in harmony and love.
I was just 17 when I enlisted in the Army. It truly was a learning experience. One of the basic principles is conforming by adaptation. We all wore the same clothes. Wore the same boots. We ate together, and developed military skills together. We also marched together in both large and small formations, keeping in step as a group. We did lots and lots of marching, hours and hours a day. It had a definite purpose.
Compatibility is learned; but it also is supernaturally given. A piano player may play Mozart, because the gift lies within. But that same musician must practice. You could say what they have is both a talent and a skill. In the very same way, the agreement I have with you is supernaturally easy—and physically hard. However it is a skill to be learned. Once we learn to do this, it will become easier and easier.
The essential foundation for this is the “Word of God.” We can’t walk with a brother who is clearly at odds with the Bible’s teachings. But we all know that sin is at epidemic levels, and we are all affected. I suppose “humility” plays a huge part of staying in step with another saint. The Lord is so gentle with the strugglers, can’t I do the same?
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8, ESV
Nevertheless (even with this in mind) we must be committed to the Word—first and foremost. Everything must proceed from this common point. Loving someone else will almost always involve servanthood. Washing someone elses feet will almost always develop compatibility.
In Bible college I had a running feud with a fellow student. He seemed to me to be incredibly arrogant. Things came to an ugly head and the animosity was thick. One day in prayer I heard the Holy Spirit speak. “Go to your brother and wash his feet.” I charged into his dorm room and became a servant. I became connected to him in a profound way.
Being compatible does not mean we all do the same things. We share the same Spirit but we don’t have the same gifts. My theory is we are all designed with certain strengths, and proscribed weaknesses. These make us vulnerable and open to another. In Nehemiah 4, we read of men who built, and men who guarded. Both were necessary.
The main issue for us is learning compatibility—and all the skills that enable us to practice unity. We must understand, we are already connected in an amazing way. But we must “practice” it.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Phil. 2:3, ESV