Strive For Peace With Everyone – Hebrews 12:14
In studying this passage, the word here translated "strive" is said to occur some 44 times in the NT and is translated in the KJ as 'persecute' 28 of those times (see definitions at end of article). Such conjures up a picture of the modern despot that forces people to be at 'peace' with him or suffer violence from his hand. No one can rightfully argue that Hitler or his like were striving for peace. We, as Christians, are to be different.
Although the word is translated 'persecute', in passages like Hebrews 12:14 it retains the idea of pursuing, seeking after, and earnestly endeavoring to acquire peace. Hence the ESV and RSV use 'strive for'; while the NASB and NRSV use 'pursue'.
Paul stated it similarly saying: “As much as lies in you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Obviously, there are some who are enemies of the very principles that we as Christians live by. They hate the very foundation of our beliefs. Some hate the concept of God and are ‘angry, militant atheists’ who have their course in life set to destroy faith in God. With such, we find it extremely difficult to be at peace with for they make no allowance for such.
While we cannot change another’s disposition and mindset, we are responsible for our own. WE must strive for peace even with those who hate us. Again, Paul said that we are to love our enemies, and do good to those who treat us with evil. We are to overcome such evil by doing good (Rom. 12:19-21).
It is hard to want to be at peace with those who have intentionally treated us unjustly. We didn’t deserve such evil treatment (hence I said ‘unjustly’) and such treatment usually produces anger, rage, and a desire for vengeance. It is precisely at this point that this verse comes into play. It is easy to be at peace when everyone treats you right; the challenge is when you are treated unjustly. NOW how do we respond?
In ‘striving for’ such peace, we are by definition to pursue it, to seek after it eagerly, to earnestly endeavor to acquire it. Instead of vengeance, we desire to forgive. Instead of rage and anger, we produce love, goodness, and generosity. Instead of waiting for THEM to come with peace offerings, we pursue THEM seeking peace.
Peter described the Lord’s doing of this by telling us: "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1Pet. 2:23). Having been unjustly arrested, wrongly condemned, beaten, mocked, reviled, and crucified; he looked down from the cross and prayed for their forgiveness!
Peter applied this example to us saying: "Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1Pet. 3:9). Again Peter made application of this saying: "Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1Pet. 4:19).
Peter introduced this idea by telling servants to be subject to their masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust (1Pet. 2:18). He then explains: "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1P. 2:19-21).
The way of peace is difficult. Because of this, I like the translation “strive after peace”. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:9).