Principles of Design 7: Harmony and Unity

This is the final installment in a series on the Principles of Design used in Creation. God the Designer and Creator invites us to use these principles in our lives also. Whether intentional or not, we are always creating—memories, impressions, relationships, patterns of thinking and feeling, and legacies.

The seventh and eighth design principles are Harmony and Unity. Harmony in art involves combining similar design elements—related or comparable colors, textures or shapes—for a pleasing, satisfying effect. The opposite of harmony is dissonance, which can be quite jarring. Musicians make harmony by adding tones above or below the melody to support or enhance the melody. Adding different harmonies to a melody line can change the tone or mood of the entire piece.

Unity in art occurs when every element in the design supports a single idea or message. Unity is not uniformity, not identical sameness. Instead, unity involves combining different elements so that they work together visually to create a single whole. All the other design principles—dominance, balance, contrast, gradation, repetition, variation and harmony—may be used to work toward a single unified goal or whole. For example, in the photo below, taken after a hurricane, the photographer uses repetition and variation (the wood scraps), dominance (the young boy’s central position), and contrast (pointed, straight, chaotic, lines of broken wood contrasting with the dark, rounded, smiling young boy) to convey a message of hope in the aftermath of disaster.

Starting with the Garden of Eden, we see harmony and unity throughout God’s Creation. Humans were to name and care for the plants and animals, which in turn provided food, meaningful work, and companionship for them. Creation was a harmonious, unified, well-balanced whole, an expression of the nature of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, as evil and sin such as self-centeredness and greed entered the world, harmony and unity decreased. No longer did all living things work together to glorify God. Chaos, fighting, jealousy, and murder ensued.

Throughout human history as recorded in Scripture, God’s sole message has been one of redeeming, transforming, never-ending, pursuing, faithful, covenant love. This single unified theme, “for God so loved the world,” has been served by all God made and makes and all God did, does, and will do. God also desires harmony and unity for humanity, in particular for his people. The Hebrew word “shalom,” most often translated “peace,” as in “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6), means harmony, wholeness or completeness. Jesus brought peace and gave His peace to us (Jn 14:27). He wanted his followers to “live in harmony with one another” (Rom 12:16)and to “be brought to complete unity” (Jn 17:23).

Only God creates harmony and unity in our lives. However, Scripture tells us how we can cooperate with God in this. He must be the melody, the single, unchanging message, theme, or goal of our lives. We harmonize with Him and with each other by loving Him and each other. We must “bear with each other and forgive one another” and “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:13-14). We must be willing to humbly submit to one another, to “associate with people of low position” (Rom 12:16), and to be and abide in God while allowing Christ to live in us (Jn 17:21-23).

Unity does not mean uniformity, which is illustrated by the metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, with many different parts but only one Head, with “varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, varieties of service but the same Lord” (1 Cor 12:4-5). We each have a part to play as we join God in loving the world, but the masterpiece God is creating with us is greater than the sum of its parts. By keeping our eyes focused on God, our ears trained on God, and our hearts turned toward God we stay in harmony with Him and each other, and our lives serve God’s purpose for His Creation.

Reflect and journal on the following questions as we complete this series on Principles of Design: How can your life harmonize more with God’s purposes for the church and for the world? What do you need to live more in unity with God? With the church? How can you bring the parts of your life together to serve the single theme or purpose God has for you?Prin

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