What Makes Peace Possible?
Peace is something worth striving for in any time, but it always seems so far away. It seems to be an abstract idea most of the time, rather than an element of reality. Yet we desire it with all of our hearts. How, then, are we to strive for it? What makes it possible?
We are given several hints in the verses before today’s verse from Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Hebrews. First, we are called, as always, to keep our eyes on Jesus for answers to questions like this. We are told that to strive for Christ’s peace involves suffering. In this case we are told that we must admit and struggle against our sins, those tendencies we have within us that cause us to defy the law of love, for our own immediate gratification. This struggle has a name; it is called, discipline, self-discipline.
Sin is often the result of bad habits that we have formed over time. They are most often a matter of the lack of self-discipline. The most effective way to struggle against a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Habits do not come into being in a single try. What is a habit then? It is an acquired pattern of behavior that, because of frequent repetition, has become so familiar, so ingrained that it is a part of who we are; we no longer have to think about it any more. Because of laziness, or indifference, or pride we can “fall” into habits of sinful behavior and this is dangerous to our eternal souls. Good habits, on the other hand, demand hard work, practice, and constant, conscientious attention. To build good, moral habits to take the place of old, sinful habits, takes time and effort, in other words, struggle. But this kind of struggle is worthy of a human being, a child of God.
The struggle for peace with everyone requires us to build the habits of holiness. What are the habits of holiness? They are many, but they are all, finally, rooted in love. They are habits like compassion, hospitality, mercy and forgiveness. They are the habits of recognizing and treating the other as a brother or sister, a fellow child of God. They are habits of moral character and of a mature faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the model of the holiness toward which we are called. And we are told that holiness is what is necessary for us to achieve our deepest desire, that is, to “see the Lord.” The habits of holiness are the virtues that God calls us to in Jesus Christ. Our job as believers is to turn away from our immature sinful habits and to struggle to develop the self-disciplined, mature, moral habits that will make us holy in the sight of God and others. We are told that Jesus, “For the sake of the joy set before him, endured the cross.” And, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (verses 2 & 4) This is a recognition of how hard this necessary struggle is. This is the kind of “striving” that we are challenged to take on as Christian believers. It is the struggle for holiness that is the way to the peace we desire, the peace of Christ.
Lord, give us strength to take on “the race marked out for us.” Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you, both as our primary example, and as our source of grace. Fill us with courage, so that we can endure the struggle we must undertake to strive toward peace and holiness with brave hearts, and firm commitments, sparked by faith, hope, and love. We pray these things in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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