Pursuing Peace (1) - The Call of Peace and the Cause of Bitterness (Heb. 12:14)
Pursuing Peace (1): The Call of Peace and the Cause of Bitterness
Hebrews 12:13–17 - “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.”
The Call of Peace - Our text commands that we “pursue peace with all men” and contrasts this with having a “root of bitterness.” Like Romans 12:18-19, it moves from peace to revenge - “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE.” . . . Through Christ we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and the spiritual power to live at peace with others. The command is to “eagerly” strive or “track down” (Ps. 34:14) two parallel objects: peace and sanctification. The attached consequence of failing is profound: “without which no one will see the Lord.” A lack of relational peace and spiritual fruit is called “coming short of the grace of God” and a “root of bitterness springing up” (Dt. 29:18). If this happens, “by it many be defiled” (v15). The consequences of our lack of peace with others are thus not only severe for us (eternally), but also they affect many downstream. Are you willing to pursue peace at all costs?
The Case of Esau - The writer indicates the character of one who failed to have both peace and holiness. He speaks of Esau as “immoral” and “godless.” Esau was clearly profane and godless, but not explicitly immoral. “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). The writer reasons that selling “his own birthright for a single meal,” shows that his desires were corrupt and thus, “immoral” and “godless.” After losing his inheritance, Gen. 27:41 says, “So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Gen. 27:41). Though he pleaded with his father for a blessing, he did not repent of despising his birthright. Are you willing to repent instead of holding grudges?
The Cause of Bitterness - Like Esau we can create breaches of peace by the consequences that flow from our greedy desires and twisted values. Instead of repenting of evil within our own hearts, we can hold others responsible and nurse a root of bitterness, or a grudge, hatreds and even plot murder. This bitterness can be so ingrown that a person can’t even see it him/herself and yet it is dragging them to hell. But it did not taste bitter at the beginning. It was a wrong desire, lowly esteeming what is truly valuable (inheritance), an idolatry from greed. Then the blame-shifting begins. Finally, there is no recognition that the problems is inside, in the heart (not with someone else). As in the case of Esau, there is a point of no return. There is a lethal dose of bitterness from which there is no recovery. Are you ready to take responsibility for your bitterness?
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more