I remember a few months ago I was talking with a friend and I said something to the effect of, “I can’t get along with that guy.” My friend’s response was basically, “I know, right? I don’t think anyone gets along with him.” We both had conflicts with the person in question. So did others we knew. We left it there. If we all had conflicts with this gentleman, then it was this gentleman’s fault and it was his problem to fix. My friend and I were both wrong.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14, ESV
This verse is contextually in a set of commands about how we should act, how we should view God’s discipline, and what we should strive for. This list of command is set up with words like, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (v.2) and “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself,” (v. 3). Basically, the writer wanted to remind us that what we’re being asked to do is no greater than what Jesus already did. Therefore, we have no basis for a reasonable argument as to why we can’t obey.
Let’s go back to verse 14. It’s written to believers. It says, “Strive for peace.” That’s a command. We are to strive for peace. The onus is on us. The responsibility for action is not on the one we think has the problem. The responsibility is on the Christian who hears/reads the command. Who are to strive for peace with? We are to do so with “everyone.” Oh, boy. That’s why my friend and I were totally wrong.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t get along well with someone. It doesn’t matter if we completely disagree with their way of living or their occupation or the way they talk or the way they look or anything about them we happen to not like. We are to strive for peace. Striving for peace doesn’t mean that we have to agree. Striving for peace doesn’t mean anything goes. Striving for peace doesn’t mean we compromise our beliefs in Jesus Christ and what we understand from Scripture. Striving for peace doesn’t mean you let a wrong go when it hurts other people, when you can and should make it right. However, striving for peace also doesn’t mean we dump the responsibility to resolve differences on the other person. It doesn’t mean we can sit back and smugly say, “It’s their fault.” And it also doesn’t mean we go looking for an argument, wanting a fight, just to prove we’re right and they are wrong.
This is a hard teaching. That’s why the writer prefaced it with the fact that our example is Jesus Christ. This is a teaching that we’re going to struggle with. It’s hard to strive for peace when someone wants to get you upset and intentionally targets you with their venom and wrath. It’s hard to strive for peace when you come across someone who is diametrically opposed to you on so many things. However, we must struggle against the temptation to give up and not strive for the peace our Lord commands us to pursue. Let us strive for peace, even when it looks hopeless. Never give up on the Lord and what He can accomplish if we merely obey.