Sermon on Hebrews 12:14 – “Striving for Peace Among Men”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, March 3, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text

[Heb 12:14 ESV] 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 

Introduction

 

Peace.

 

Jesus said he came not to bring peace but the sword. (Matthew 10:34) This is true. We are told that there will be division, even within families, over Jesus.

 

But at the same time Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. He brings peace between God and man. In that way we have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

 

And then there is a third way in which PEACE is used in the teachings of the New Testament. That is “peace among men.”

 

So we should’t expect peace between truth and the world.

We have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

And we must work for peace with all men. It is this third understanding of peace that I’ll focus on this evening. Peace among men. Striving for peace among men.

 

The author of the letter to the Hebrews says:

 

[Heb 12:14 ESV] 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 

This is a command, a directive that is harder in some ways in our world than in times past.

 

Centuries ago people lived in communities of people mostly like themselves. There were arguments between people of course, but there was much common ground.

 

Now, the diversification of our world has brought people various religions (or lack of them), ethnicities, political views, and temperaments all to live in the same place.

 

And no doubt there are many people with whom we disagree vehemently. There can be no compromise with the evil views promoted in the world. Yet, despite all of this, we are to “strive for peace with everyone.”

 

This is not just “everyone” in the church, but everyone-everyone.

 

You are to

Love your neighbor.

Even
Love your enemy.

 

That is the command, but how do we accomplish it? How are we to strive for peace?

 

1. Well, actually strive for it.

 

Well, actually strive for it.

 

That is the first part of our verse. STRIVE for peace with everyone.

 

We are to keep peace as an objective. Try. Work hard at it. Strive.

 

That is to be your goal. You want peace, not war. And you need to work for it.

 

We must recognize that peace requires effort, it doesn’t just happen.

It really isn’t the default. It has to be worked at.

 

If you do nothing, that is neglectful.

 

The neighbor who doesn’t rake his leaves. He does nothing. The leaves blow into other neighbors yards and the peace in the neighborhood is threatened.

 

The company that neglects its customers, soon finds out that peace and good relations require work.

 

So we are to strive for peace.

 

I want us to consider this question:

 

Are you depending on others to be peaceful to you? Does it require THEY do the work? If so, you are in sin.

 

Peace is not “when everyone else gets it right.” Peace is YOUR responsibility! Peace starts with me, and it starts with you.

 

Christians, WE are to to do the work. We are not to be difficult, requiring others to bend so as to keep peace with us. Rather, we are to strive for peace.

 

2. The Involvement of Holiness

 

Then there is the second part of our verse. Strive for peace with everyone, AND for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 

Holiness is involved in the striving for peace.

 

If you are holy, you will tend to achieve peace.

You are strive for holiness which helps towards peace.

 

A rotten nasty person causes disputes and raises tempers.

A holy person mitigates and softens disputes and keeps a cool head.

 

Holiness is that separateness to which we are called. To be different from the sinful world. The sinful world all to easily resorts to war, to animosity, to competition and vitriol between people. We are called to be holy, separate, different. We are call to peace. We strive for peace, and we strive NOT for discord, disharmony, or distress.

 

Be ye separate. That is what it says in 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Come out from them and be separate.” We are not to participate in the sin of the world, the sin of combativeness, instigation, hatred, and discord.

 

So we have it said:

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

 

It is important to figure out what this means, “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” A quick reading of it might lead you to think that there’s some level of holiness that you must achieve or your in deep trouble. As if you need to be 67% holy. “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” There are quite a few verses in Scripture that if you read them wrong can sound like “works righteousness,” straight up Pelagianism. But fortunately the whole of Scripture teaches otherwise, and works righteousness is an affront to God, for it is not we who make ourselves righteous, but Christ who imputes to us his righteous.

 

So it is important to understand this part of the verse right.

 

“the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

It is not that our holiness causes our salvation, but God who has saved us also leads us into sanctification, making us holy; his saved people. Those who have not sanctification not have justification, and they know not the Lord.

 

Now, since the text for the sermon is just one verse, it will be valuable to add in and combine it with similar texts. Let’s look that at some insights from other scriptures.

 

3. Insights from other Scriptures:

 

A. [Rom 12:18 ESV] 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 

We again have the command “live peaceably with all.” Clearly we should strive for it.

 

But this verse adds an important angle. It says “So far as possible.”

 

We must obey God rather than man. But where it is not against God, we are to seek peace with others. On subject where another person is an enemy of God, we absolutely cannot go along with them. Divisions may result. That is the division Christ speaks about when he says “I came not to bring peace but the sword.” But in all other cases we are to live peaceably with all.

 

There are limits. One of the best courses I ever took was in Business School on “Negotiations.”

I learned for one, that negotiation is not about being a tough guy. It is about having options and understanding when to walk away. Because, you see, sometimes the deal can’t be made, and shouldn’t be made. If it is not possible for to make a good deal, then don’t make a deal at all.

 

There is some similarity here with peace with our neighbors; we are to do our part, but this doesn’t mean we will always succeed. Sometimes we have to know when peace is impossible. If they don’t want peace, and harden their hearts, its going to be hard. But so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. In such cases we can still pray for them, and we may have to avoid them so that hostilities don’t become worse.

 

[Rom 12:18 ESV] 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 

Then the next verse in the Romans text tell us some of HOW to live at peace with others.

 

[Rom 12:19 ESV] 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

 

Fighting begets fighting. Retaliation begets retaliation.

Peace ends the fight. Let us be at peace, and the Lord will repay and set things right in His time.

 

We are to strive for peace and we are to live peaceably with all.

 

Then another verse:

 

B. [Rom 14:19 ESV] 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

 

Peace is good for us, and it is good for others. It results in mutual upbuilding.

 

This verse repeats what we said before. We are to STRIVE for peace. Now, it says we are to PURSUE what makes for peace. There is much overlap.

 

I do find the difference interesting though. Pursuing WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE. It is not directly seeking peace, but keeping peace as an end goal, while PURSUING WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE, all those things that keep the peace. Kindness, gentleness, self-control. Pursue these things and peace is likely to result.

 

Then, we have from the sermon on the mount:

 

C. [Mat 5:9 ESV] 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 

Who else would be a peacemaker? If not Christians, then whom?

 

Christianity is peaceful. Other religions, other cultures are happy to be friends within their own communities. But Christian pray even for “enemies.” and seek peace with ALL.

 

This really was a shocking element of the Christian faith in its early days. The Gentiles were grafted in. It was not just a religion of the Jews, but of all people.

 

We are called to be peacemakers. Jesus says in Matthew 5:9 – blessed are the peacemakers. It is a great and honorable and blessed thing to be the one who works for peace. We certainly don’t need more people being warlike or hostile in our society. We need peacemakers.

 

Matthew Henry says: “the children of God are the peace-makers, the quiet in the land.” That is speaking my language. The quiet minister. The quiet man. He doesn’t stir up others, but stabilizes them.

 

4. Practicing Peace

 

Let’s look then at “practicing peace.” How do we make peace our practice?

 

First, we are to rely on God, recognizing that a peaceful demeanor comes from the Holy Spirit of God working in us. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.

 

Then, let us avoid those selfish ways which destroy peace. As Christians, we must realize that our strength and confidence in the Lord. You don’t need to “defend your honor” and “prove something” by being a tough guy and cause animosity. WE are to be peacemakers, striving for it, so far as it is possible.

 

Then, let grievances slide. They’re not worth it. Don’t make peace with other dependent on people agreeing with you. Let grievances go. Forgive others. Seek peace.

 

Be peaceful even with drivers on the road. You know we often think of others as anonymous when they are behind a windshield. But we are to be peaceful with all, even strangers who we’ll never see again.

 

Don’t “get into it” with other people. It’s not usually worth arguing. Often it can be avoided entirely.

 

One more example, and I’m not so keen on speaking each week on this subject, but I find it comes up especially in these times. In recent years it has been fashionable to demand that others use your “preferred pronouns.” A he might say “call me she.” But like that sermon I gave recently on “attending weddings,” we are to “live not by lies.” So we don’t call a he a she. But the subject is changed this evening. We seek peace with all men. So what do we do? The antagonistic person will say “HE” directly to the face of a person who wants to be called “SHE.” I don’t think we need to do this. There is a solution, I don’t know if it clever or not, but maybe we can call it a clever solution. Just use their first names. That’s what I do with hikers guests. Call them by their first name or by their trailname. Avoid causing issue. There might be another time and a better way to speak to them about their error when it comes to pronouns.

 

Now, ultimately, in our practice of peace, and we’ll end with this, We must rely on the Lord. Christ is the prince of peace. Peace is a fruit of the spirit. If we are going to be peacemakers, and if we are going to strive for peace with others (many of whom can be extremely difficult people) we need the Lord to work in us. Knowing His peace, knowing that we are reconciled to God and there is peace between us and God, that is a strong base from which to go out and say “I (with the Lord’s help) can be at peace with all men.”

 

Let us pray that we so strive. Strive for peace. Let us pray.