We are always free to make choices. But our real freedom is revealed in our willingness to be responsible for the known, as well as the unforeseen consequences of our choices, or in our responses to the choices of others as they affect us.
Life is difficult. It is difficult because we are never free of the responsibility of making choices and enduring their consequences, or the consequences of the choices of others. We are always free to make choices. But our real freedom is revealed in our willingness to be responsible for the known, as well as the unforeseen consequences of our choices, or in our responses to the choices of others as they affect us.
The Letter to the Hebrews is very specific here about how we ought to conduct ourselves at all times. It is both a warning and an encouragement offered to us by the Holy Spirit. The first point made in this section of chapter 12 is that we are all to, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone.” (verse 14) This, we know, is not easy. Peace is a two way street. We have no control over other people’s thoughts or actions. The control that we do have is over how we choose to act toward others on a regular basis. As Christians, we are responsible for choosing to live in peace with everyone. This is difficult when others attack us verbally, or insult us for the faith, or attempt to do us harm. But that is what God wants of us, self-control, and faith in his graces. We are called by God to be the instruments of peace in a broken world. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to live in accord with the very essence of our Christianity, that is, we are to be forgiving, merciful, and loving. How are we to do this? We are to become “holy.” (verse 14)
Because we are Christian brothers and sisters, we are to care enough for one another to, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble.” If we are holy, this care for one another, this desire to prevent a brother or sister from falling short of grace, will always come from a wholly natural, kind, and encouraging attitude. There will be no selfishness in it. It will not arise from any sense of superiority. There will be no ego involved, only love for the other.
Because the Letter to the Hebrews is directed to Jewish Christian communities, the author uses references that would be familiar to them to make his case. They are reminded of how Esau, “who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” (verse 16) As a result, when the time came to receive his inheritance, he was rejected. Even his tears could not change the results of his earlier choice. This is how important it is for us to make every effort to live in peace with everybody, and to be holy. We are to make this our life’s purpose, not just for our own sake, but for the love of God and our neighbor. It is this attitude of love that will enable us to care for one another enough to challenge and to encourage one another when we are on the verge of failing in grace. This is a matter of Christian love. It is the proper submission of a Christian to the love and the generous graces of God.
Lord, give us the faith to know your will more intimately, the hope to live it more perfectly, and an ever deepening love for one another, our neighbors, even our enemies, so that we can more freely and consistently choose to challenge and to encourage one another when we are tempted to fall short of God’s grace. We pray this in the holy name of Jesus. Amen!
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