The Pursuit of Peace
Peace is the absence of hostility. Peace seems to be an evasive goal. It is something almost everyone wants, but many do not have. Isn’t that strange? Were I to ask you if you desired to be at peace with all men, undoubtedly you would say yes. We desire peace. We do not appreciate conflict. We hate violence and fighting, as we should. The Bible teaches us that peace is a pursuit worthy of our attention. In Hebrews 12:14 the writer commands, “Pursue peace with all men.”
We should pursue peace with all men, because that is what God desires of all of us, a cessation of conflict, an elimination of opposition. But I’m suspicious that if Jesus were to ask us the question “Are you at peace with all men?” most of us, if not all of us, would respond with a resounding “NO!” Why is that?
It is funny isn’t it? The overwhelming population of mankind desires peace with one another. God commands us to pursue peace with every person; He desires us to have peace as well. If everyone wants it, why don’t we have it? I can’t answer that question. At least not in a specific way. There are far too many possibilities for one “catch-all” answer.
Maybe I don’t have peace because I lose my temper and thereby create strife. Even though I desire peace, an out of control temper will lead me into an abundance of conflict. People at peace have a good temperament. According to Proverbs 15:18, “The slow to anger calms a dispute.”
Maybe I don’t have peace because I’m bitter. Hebrews 12:15 teaches us to, “see to it... that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble.” When problems are left unresolved and transgressions left unforgiven bitterness gestates in our hearts. Even those issues which seem minor can grow into divisive disputes threatening our peace. To have peace, I must be willing to forgive and cleanse out of my life any root of bitterness.
Maybe I don’t have peace because I’m too proud to admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness. When I’ve made a mistake inciting men to anger, I must have the humility to see my fault and request forgiveness. That is the pathway to peace. Proverbs 28:25 warns us, “An arrogant man stirs up strife.”
Maybe I don’t have peace because I fail to demonstrate the selfless kind of love called for in I Corinthians 13. We are called to have a love that bears all things and believes all things, a love that does not take into account a wrong suffered. Maybe peace eludes me because I refuse to love in the way I Corinthians 13 demands.
If you are not at peace with all men I can’t tell you exactly why that is. There is a vast multitude of possible explanations. It could be my fault. It could the fault of another. What we do know is that it is my responsibility to pursue peace (Hebrews 12:14). We ought to be running after it, chasing it down and constantly striving to have it in our grasp. Although, sometimes no matter how hard I try, it will elude me. Some are not willing to do what is necessary to have it. Some would rather be angry and bitter. Some would rather cut you out of their life and prolong contention than join in the pursuit with you. Regardless, my job is the same. I should pursue. I should do everything in my power to achieve peace with all men.
And what a marvelous example we have in our savior Jesus Christ, who Himself is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). He, because of His love, left heaven to do the Father’s will. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, so that we could be forgiven of our sins. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit did everything in their power to bring peace between God and man. That was what Jesus accomplished with His sacrifice on the cross. That was what Jesus proved with His resurrection from the dead. That was the example Jesus left for us to follow. Paul writes to us in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”