Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrews 12.14, ESV
Peace is an elusive, hard-won, state of affairs.
One party may feel at peace while another is ramping up efforts to overturn it. World leaders made flowery overtures about how they longed for lasting peace after World War I. Unfortunately, their desire to humiliate the Germans via reparations payments simply set the stage for another world war.
These past several years have been anything but peaceful, and the past few weeks have been downright nuts. I don’t care where you stand politically—both sides are behaving like sugar-hyped, bickering siblings.
The above verse popped up in my YouVersion app the other day, and it was so apropos to the current state of affairs, I had to share it with you.
“Strive for peace”
The above phrase implies two things: 1) conflict exists, and 2) peace is not always possible.
In order to strive for peace, we have to set our minds and hearts toward peacemaking. We ought to approach all people lovingly, sincerely, and with genuine humility. In order to achieve peace, we have to exercise complete forgiveness with no hint of bitterness or vengeance.
“Strive for… holiness”
The verse says to strive for peace and holiness. “Holy” by definition means “set apart” for God, consecrated, sacred. Just as with peace, this phrase implies we must actively seek to set ourselves apart from this world, to be more like God in whose image we were created, to be pure in heart, uncommon.
Being set apart for God will set us against the world.
A Balanced Command
This command to strive for both peace and holiness is not contradictory, but balanced.
The world loves a good knock-down, drag out fight. Instead of trying to work with opposite sides to achieve mutual benefit, we dig in our heels to get more than the other guy. We make a lot of bluster about things being “fair,” but just like children, “fair” is only considered so if it benefits self.
The Christian must be willing to turn the other cheek, forgive, and sacrifice. That is how we work for peace.
The Christian must also take a firm stand for the Lord. We don’t sacrifice what is right for what is peaceful. This means a willingness to be unpopular, to fight necessary battles, to stand up against evil.
Paul implies this very thing when he says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12.18)
Peacemaking and Pacifism are not the same.
Pacifists don’t want to fight. Period.
Peacemakers will step into the fray to achieve peace. Sometimes that means absorbing a few knocks and sometimes that means doling them out.
Does this sound contradictory? I’m sure it does, but consider.
I have three children. One of my kids can be a bit overbearing at times and my other children—not wanting to fight—will succumb. Every once in awhile, however, they get fed up and a fight breaks out.
Guess who gets to be “the peacemaker”?
There are times I must intervene to keep my home from becoming a war zone. If I took a pacifist posture, sitting on the sidelines saying, “hey y’all, give peace a chance,” they’d just continue the fight without so much as pausing to blink. But I’m not a pacifist in my home. I’m a peacemaker. So I step in and get the stories. I dole out punishment to make peace. I try to avoid stepping in immediately to give them the opportunity to make peace on their own. As long as we live in this world, there will be conflict.
Being a peacemaker is rarely pleasant, but often necessary.
We strive for peace. Sometimes that means stepping in, sometimes it means staying out. Sometimes it means fighting back, other times it means suffering wrong.
Our choices must always be considered in light of the Christ’s example. It comes with wisdom, time, and experience.
Strive for peace and holiness in your social media use.
Strive for peace and holiness in the way you treat the people around you.
Strive for peace and holiness in your home.
Strive for peace and holiness in the church.
Remember the goal my friends. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.