Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
Decades before the Hebrew writer set his pen to parchment to write the book of Hebrews, his Lord and Savior had preached the following immortal words: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8-9). Christ’s guarantee that the pure in heart shall see God and that those who make peace will be considered God’s children takes on even more relevance when taken into account alongside the Hebrew author’s inspired promise that “no one will see the Lord” without “striv(ing) for peace with everyone” and “holiness.”
What does it mean to be a “peacemaker” who “strives for peace?” When you “strive” for something, you’re fighting for it. You’re pursuing it. You’re working hard to achieve it. Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes the person with whom you may be at odds is simply not interested in making peace with you. God understands that. All he wants is for you to do whatever is within your power to make and keep the peace. What can help towards that end?
The following passages from the Bible have greatly helped me:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).
How does one strive to become more holy and pure? It starts with continual, prayerful study of God’s Word with an honest and good heart (Psalm 1:1-3; Luke 8:15). It continues with the decision to obey the gospel one reads of in the Scriptures through whole-hearted faith, repentance, and baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 3:19; 2:38; 22:16). It continues on with continual study, instruction, and obedience to God’s Word (1 Peter 2:1-3).
And while you strive for peace and holiness, work hard to influence those around you to receive the benefits of God’s grace too. As Hebrews puts it, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (v. 15). There seems to be a growing apathy about the welfare of people’s souls in Christianity these days. This comes from more and more of us becoming increasingly distracted “by the cares and riches and pleasures of life” so that our “fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14). Less professed Christians spend daily time in the studying of God’s Word than those of a few generations ago. When one “sets their mind” on “things that are on earth” more than “on things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-2), one loses the sense of urgency about telling others the good news of Jesus and grace (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11). Want a sobering warning from God along these lines? Read Ezekiel 3:17-21.
Christians are also to “see to it” that “no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble” (Hebrews 12:15), for “by it many become defiled.” Lord willing, we will examine the dangers of this further by studying Esau, the Old Testament example put forth by the Hebrew author of what happens when a “root of bitterness” is allowed to spring up (vs. 16-17). Check out that study in the next post.