Pursue peace with all men, and sanctification
Hebrews 12:14-29 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
As believers we need to remember that these New Testament letters were written to the churches. It is not that unbelievers cannot gain insight or be given a revelation of Jesus, the Christ, in reading them. They are a testimony of Christ. The instructions though, and the exhortations are directed to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, those who have received Him as Lord and Savior. As believers then we should heed what scripture says and not think that we can require or expect unbelievers to reciprocate and also act according to scripture.
Today’s text says: Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. So we as believers are called to pursue peace. Peace is not something that comes easily or naturally. We will not have peace unless we are intentional to pursue it. In John 14:27 Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” In John 16:33 He says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The pursuit and the obtaining of peace in our lives is contingent upon and congruent with the pursuit and obtaining of the character of Christ in our lives. To pursue peace with all men then means that we view and relate to all men, all people as Christ does. Again we cannot expect that they will reciprocate. Jesus was rejected, mocked, beaten, abused and crucified at the hands of men. Yet through it all He pursued peace. He willingly went to the cross. On the cross He said: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) In Luke 6:27-31 Jesus says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Again it is not a reciprocal relationship we should expect. We are to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we are treated by them. In truth we are to treat others the way we have been treated by God, who: demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8) We are to pursue peace with all men.
The other half of that is: and sanctification. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy. This too we are to pursue, but again to realize that it is we ourselves who are to be sanctified, holy. We cannot expect that we can impose holiness on those who do not know, believe or follow Christ. We on the other hand are to pursue peace and sanctification, holiness. Why? Because without them, peace and holiness: no one will see the Lord. Isn’t that what we truly want, for the world to see and know the Lord? That’s what He has called us to, to be His witnesses, to live as He lived so that the world might see and believe that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) If we want people to see the Lord, we need to be people of peace and people of holiness, doing good works and being light in the darkness.
The text continues: See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. Again this is all on us. We are neither to cause offense nor are we ourselves to be offended. We are to treat others with the same grace we ourselves received from God. We are to forgive, not only if they say they are sorry, but as Jesus did, saying Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing. On the other hand is we have offended others we are to seek their forgiveness. In this too we need grace. It is not truly seeking forgiveness is we go with a heart to point out what they did to cause us to do what we did. Seeking forgiveness is not saying I’m sorry but, you… We all know that this world is full of sorry butts. There is the no place though, for sorry buts, in God’s kingdom, if we truly seek the forgiveness of others, if we truly desire that no root of bitterness springs up in ourselves or others. We defile ourselves when we hold onto bitterness, hurts and anger. Others are defiled when we cause them to do the same. We are not responsible for their actions or response, only for ourselves to see that no one comes short of the grace of God because of us.
The text says: See to it that there be no immoral or godless person… Again this is not something we can expect to impose on the world, to unbelievers, but within the church, within the fellowship of believers we should seek holiness, sanctification, morality and godliness. The text ends with this final exhortation to believers: See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, by Your grace may I live in a way that reveals Your grace to others and through the power of the cross and the resurrection may I be sanctified, holy in and through You. All so that others may see You. Amen