“Strive for peace with everyone; and for the holiness without which no one will see the LORD…”
Strive for peace. With everyone.
Strive for holiness. In everything.
Peace does not come naturally to mankind! I want my own way and think it’s the right way. You want your way and think it’s the right way. How then does lasting peace come?
Human peace will only come when those who disagree with me are correctly educated, chastised, or, if necessary, shamed to accept that my way is right. When you are enlightened; when you see the light – my light – then you will have peace with me. Or, I dismiss you and the frustrating problem that you are.
This is not real peace. This is not shalom.
Holiness also does not come naturally to mankind. I want to manage my own life (and yours) because I believe I know how to do it best. You want to run your own life (and mine) because you are certain you can do it better. How then does holiness come?
Human holiness will come to those who obey my self-appointed moral imperatives! When you worship the things that I worship – when you live according to my statues – then you will become more and more acceptable to God; to me; to your fellow man. If you do not accept my moral imperatives? Welp then, I just cast you off.
This is not true holiness. This is not shalom.
We cannot make peace with each other in our own strength. In the same way, we can’t become holier (than all the others) by holding fast to our own self-appointed, ever-changing, human morality. We are not the final say of everything, always.
The only human absolute since the beginning of time is that, like Eve, we think we know best! We know the difference between good and evil! We are as wise and holy as God! But true peace and holiness are the result of entrusting our lives to an unchanging God that has already done what is for mankind’s best.
God made peace with man, not through man’s own moral excellence and follow-through (insert eye-roll emoji here), but through the humble obedience and blood of his own son, Jesus.
Jesus followed through in every way that mankind could not.
Now God does not see us as enemies because of Jesus. God does not see us as shameful or disappointing, because of Jesus. God sees us as his own sons and daughters – he loves us as much as he loves Jesus – because of Jesus.
We are not repaid for our astonishing arrogance that we know better than God. Rather, the God of Peace repaid Jesus for our pride. He repaid Jesus’ faithfulness with nails and thorns and a cross. He repaid his son’s obedience with flogging, taunting, spitting, and shame. He repaid Christ’s absolute trust and love with refusing to rescue him from his distress.
Jesus paid for our shalom.
The God of Peace poured out on Jesus all that we deserve so that we might have peace with him forever. He knew we could not make a way ourselves. Will he not help us embody his kind of peace – his shalom – on earth?
Jesus left the shalom of heaven do do one thing: to enter the lost world and lay down his life for the souls of many. The Prince of Peace knew we could not save ourselves. Will his Spirit not help us to embody his kind of forgiveness – his shalom – today?
We resist striving for peace because we wonder what it will cost us. What will it cost me to forgive her that slight? What will it cost me to lay down this grudge? What will it cost me to trust God’s voice and direction today rather than my own?
Consider Jesus. Consider what it cost him to offer you a holy God’s reconciliation and peace. And know that it will never cost you that much.
We resist striving for holiness because we wonder what we will have to pay. What will happen if I am asked to give up these things that I hold so dear? How much will it cost me?
Consider Jesus. Consider how he was betrayed, abandoned, mocked, and denied. Consider him naked, thirsty, and pierced. Consider his loneliness and loss. Consider his grief – even his Heavenly Father turned his face away.
Will Christ now abandon those he suffered to save? Will he ever turn his face away? Will he not guard the hearts and minds of his people as they go with him into a world that hungers for shalom?
So walk in God’s wisdom and way in these difficult days. For you have a Helper; a Shepherd; an Advocate. Stay alert in the dark and listen for your Shepherd’s voice.
For one day soon, in a twinkling of an eye, we will hear a trumpet and see the Holy God of all creation – the God of all Peace – come to dwell forever with his people.
And Jesus will present a multitude – holy and blameless – in robes of righteousness. And he will say to his Father: “These are all yours. Not one has been lost. Look in your book, they are all recorded! They have trusted in you and also in me. They belong to you because I purchased them with my own blood. Prepare the feast! Pour the wine! Unlock the gates of heaven! They are home!”
And the hosts of heaven and every tribe and tongue will call out in agreement: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!” Won’t that be a great day? I can’t wait.
Peace to you and yours today, because of Jesus.
*Scripture from Hebrews 12 and 13.