Holiness: Peaceful and Pure

Holiness: Peaceful and Pure

Holiness: Peaceful and Pure.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no root of bitterness grows up to cause trouble and the corruption of many.” (Hebrews 12:4).

PURSUE PEACE: Live in harmony with others; intentionally combine separate people into a unified whole; reconcile apparent differences with others; adjust yourself in order to fit together with others; be of the same mind with others; be agreeable and forgiving; join together with others in a unifying purpose; mutual understanding; a dependable sign of holiness and purity.

Peaceful and Holy. The author of Hebrews joins peace with holiness in the same breath. We can’t have one without the other, it seems. Evidently, peace with others is a sure sign of holiness before God. In this case, what is meant by holiness? To be holy here is to refer to how believers were sanctified, purified, in the liturgical sense of long ago. Faithful Jews would need to undergo a ritual cleansing in the baths outside the Temple. It was a sign of purification, setting them apart to worship God. The ritual bath cleansed the believer and symbolically separated them from impurity. So to be holy and purified in the New Testament sense was to harken back and remind the believers in Christ that they needed to be purified and cleansed in the successor to the ritual bath, Holy Baptism, in order to follow Jesus. They needed to be holy, and to grow in holiness. One sure way of becoming impure was to have fractured relationships, to live in unforgiveness and discord with fellow believers. Being at peace with others was a sign of purity and holiness. Harmony leads to holiness. Heartfelt reconciliation was a dependable sign of purity in the Christian community.

Peace and the Holy Kiss. Offering a holy kiss to brothers and sisters in Christ was encouraged in writing by both Peter and Paul. It was also called the kiss of peace, the sacred kiss, and the kiss of love. This sacred embrace was an important part of the liturgical tradition in the early Church during the worship service. This holy gesture signified that two people have forgiven each other, reconciled, and have forgotten any injury or wrong that might have happened between them. Peace was a sign of holiness in which two believers have joined together in Christian unity. The holy kiss was seen as a test of Christian maturity in the community, in which each person could offer an embrace in good conscience without any judgement or condemnation. The holy kiss was a sign of spiritual kinship, an expression of agape love, and the importance of peace. (refer to 2 Cor. 13:12; Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Peter 5:14; 1 Thess. 5:26).

A Question of Roots. The writer of Hebrews is offering advice as to how to keep the peace with others: If you let bitterness take root in your heart, peace will be impossible. In fact, the bitter root will grow underground and end up corrupting the community. Letting resentment take root in one’s life will cause discord in a relationship and will guarantee a lack of peace in a community. But there is hope. There is another Root, Jesus. He twice called Himself a Root of David in Revelation (5:5 and 22:16). Jesus here claims to be the original source of existence itself, and of spiritual nutrition and stability as well. We can ask that God tear out the root of bitterness, uproot the resentment in our heart, and replace it with the righteous Root of Jesus. We need to cooperate with God by confronting any bitterness we might have with someone else, confessing it, then reconciling with our neighbor. Let the Root provide what is needed to heal the bitterness and keep it from spreading strife and discord. Let the Prince of Peace grow deep roots of peace. “If the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16).

Kept Clean. When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13, Jesus made a striking remark, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” (13:8). Jesus is making a spiritual statement here, pointing to Holy Baptism, and that unless He has totally cleansed us, we are neither a part of His life nor a part of what He is doing. Through accepting Christ, and believing in His death and resurrection, Jesus has fully cleansed His followers. They have taken the ritual bath. As the Message translation puts it, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.” So those of us who have been purified through our Baptism and acceptance of Jesus, need for Him to keep washing our feet. We need to keep holy and pure as we follow Him. We need to keep ourselves clean and set apart for Him through His foot washings of repentance and confession. We need to grow in becoming “slaves to righteous living in order to become holy.” (Romans 6:19). For “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.” (1 Thess. 4:7). When believers repent of our sins and humbly confess allegiance to Christ, He is in effect washing our feet and keeping us holy and pure. Unless He continues to wash us, we will not grow in holiness.

Growing in Holiness. Unholiness succeeds in blocking our vision of God. Impurity blindfolds us in God’s presence. Just as those who didn’t immerse themselves in the ritual bath were not allowed to worship God in the Temple, we are not able to see God if we haven’t been purified in Jesus’ blood and made holy. Could there be a more profound goal in our lives than that of actually seeing God? In His beatitudes, Jesus stated, How fortunate you are, how blessed you are, when you have a pure heart! For then you can progressively see God! Your eyes will open to see more and more of God! (Matthew 5:8). Holiness, to be set apart to live in purity and to act accordingly, results in the greatest privilege one could imagine: to be able to see more and more of God, and to finally see Him face-to-face! As the Orthodox Bible puts it, “To be pure is to be unmixed with anything else. The pure in heart are devoted to the worship and service of God. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, they 1- practice all virtue, 2- are not conscious of any evil in themselves, and 3- live in temperance, a stage of spirituality attained by few in this life. When the soul is not dominated by sinful passions nor its energy dissipated by the things of this world, its only desire is God. Then the heart – holding fast to the new life in Christ ands contemplating the glory of God – shall see God through communion with His Son.” Is it any wonder we need for Jesus to daily wash our feet of impurity as we walk after Him? Is it any wonder we need to grow in holiness, to mature in our purity? “Beloved ones, with promises like these, and because of our deepest respect and worship of God, we must remove everything from our lives that contaminate body and spirit, and continue to complete the development of holiness within us.” (2 Cor. 7:1, TPT).

Holy Thoughts on Seeking Peace:

“Live peacefully with each other. Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for  He who calls you is faithful. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.” (1 Thess. 5:13, 23-27).  

“Now this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, TPT).

“Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss.” (2 Cor. 13:11-12).

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to associate with the lowly. Do not claim to be wiser than you are.” (Romans 12:16).

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” (Phil. 2:1-2).

“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19, NRSV).

“May God who gives patience and encouragement help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore accept each other as Christ has accepted you.” (Romans 15:5-7, NLT).