What does Hebrews 12:14 mean: “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”?
“Follow peace with all men.” A strong word is used here – “pursue.” The previous section dealt with the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in our own lives as a result of learning from His patient correction and discipline in order to share in His own character of righteousness and peace. He is “the God of peace,” and we should seek, above all, to know true compatibility with Him in all our attitudes and behavior. Now we are to endeavor to accomplish the same beneficial atmosphere in our relationships with fellow saints, and even with all people.
Some of us are more naturally inclined to peacefulness, both internally, and in relationships, while others are much more ready for combat at the slightest provocation. It should be an obvious aim in all our relationships – in the assembly, with our families, and amongst neighbors. A good question to ask ourselves is, “Is it worth fighting over?” or, “Is this going to be important a year, five years, or 10 years from now?” It is vital to prevent, if possible, any relationship from degenerating into a constant battleground, carrying grudges from feud to feud.
In the phrase “and holiness, without which no man will see the Lord,” it is also important to see the complementary reality of the need for holiness in our lives and relationships. Peace by itself can be corrupted into compromise, and accommodation of evil. This is guarded against by the requirement for holiness – separation from evil. It is certainly essential in our continued relationship with the Lord. It would be better to lose all of our friends than to compromise our relationship with the Lord. We cannot experience the beauty of His manifested presence, the joy of companionship with Him, while playing with sin of any kind. As demonstrated in the previous section, the goal of His chastening hand in our lives is to bring us to share more and more of His holy character. Holiness is integral to the Christian life; no one has the right to expect fellowship with God now, or a place in His presence forever, without it. The Lord Jesus uttered a parallel blessing in Matthew 5:8 (KJV). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Grace from God has been manifested to overcome sin, not to give licence for its continuance in our lives. Rejection of or despising the goal of grace implies a denial and rejection of God Himself. This sobering warning is given in the following two verses, and implies that such a person identifies himself as an enemy of God, even as Esau did by his profane and immoral life.