The author of Hebrews is writing to churches which were under attack. The greatest danger they faced was false teaching directed at undermining the person and work of Jesus Christ. So its no surprise that contentious arguments were taking place. We can only imagine the angry exchanges that must have erupted when some were charging that Jesus was not the divine Son of God (Heb 1:5-14) or that He couldnt be the Messiah because the true Messiah would never suffer and die (Heb 2:9-18) or that returning to a Judaism without Jesus was perfectly acceptable to God (Heb 2:1-4). And its in the middle of this storm that the author gently says, Pursue peace with all
. He certainly wasnt telling believers to passively allow false teachings to go unchallenged, most of his letter is a correction to false teaching, but he did want the debate to remain respectful and calm. He wanted his readers to respond to those with whom they differed in the same manner as Paul instructed Timothy when he said, The Lords bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all
patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition
(2Ti 2:24-26). Paul had already told Timothy to confront false teaching and correct it (1Ti 1:3, 4) and even discipline people when necessary (1Ti 1:20), but through it all he wanted him to maintain a gentle spirit (1Ti 6:11). And there are some very important reasons for this which we need to understand. Because if these early believers needed to be told to pursue peace, how much more do we need to hear these words today.
1) Gods plan to win the world is focused on the community of His people, not isolated individuals.
a) Individuals are effective insofar as they are an extension of a healthy community
b) The devil does all he can to prevent a healthy church
2) The devil uses only a few basic weapons generation after generation to weaken the church:
a) False doctrine (deception)
b) Immorality (temptation)
c) Greed (fear, ambition)
d) Strife (division)
e) Individualism (isolation)
f) Persecution (incarceration, death)
B. Results of Division
The author writes the words, pursue peace to all of us. He wants us to be at peace with other believers, but he also wants us to be at peace with non-believers as well. Heres why:
Division (strife between people):
1) Lifts the anointing: loss of power to heal and save (Ps 133)
a) The presence of the Spirit dries up personally and corporately
b) Ephesians 4:1-6
c) Colossians 3:12-15
d) 1 Thessalonians 5:13, 14
e) 1 Timothy 6:11
f) Galatians 6:1
2) Breaks the proper functioning of the Body: loss of harmony as an interdependent team (Eph 4:15, 16)
3) Destroys the faith of the weak: bitter attitudes toward God and others spreads like a disease
a) Its contagious and often its the lambs who are wounded. Disillusioned and confused, they drop away.
b) Verse 15: Carefully watch
lest any troubling bitter root grow up and by this many be defiled (stained).
c) Resist the human tendency to garner support when offended (come hate them with me).
4) Brings physical disease through stress and sorrow: the loss of spiritual relationships are as painful as a divorce.
Bitter roots will always spring up even without anyone knowingly doing anything wrong.
The devil works to confuse, insert thoughts (disagree with vs. disappointed by).
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood
He looks for wounded areas in us. These are the responsive spots. We hear a distorted voice.
When we spot division we must take the healing steps Jesus has taught us. Doing so transforms a potential victory to the enemy into a situation which the Holy Spirit works together for good (Ro 8:28) and leaves us and the Lords church stronger. Here are some basic steps to removing division:
1) Obey the Word: Do what you do by faith expecting Gods blessing for your obedience.
a) Mt 5:23, 24 if
your brother has something against you
b) Mk 11:25 forgive if you have anything against anyone
2. Learn how to reconcile: its a skill we must learn.
a) You take the first step
b) Stay peaceful, refuse to get angry
c) Stay focused: your goal is to restore the relationship, not win an argument.
d) Remember, real peace is based on truth not you taking all the blame (speaking the truth in love
e) Apologize for the sin you recognize in yourself. Dont demand that they reciprocate.
f) Clarify false impressions in their minds as much as you can. Dont ignore a lie, it has a demonic energy that will cause it to grow.
g) Listen long enough for them to tell their story once. They need to know you understand the pain they have suffered. Reconciliation cant take place until this happens first.
h) Remember, it takes two to truly heal a relationship, and if they refuse theres nothing you can do. But still remain calm and respectful.
i) Close with prayer, if possible.
3) Never forget the value of that person to God.
4) Maintain a forgiving heart when you cant reconcile.
5) Keep the door open for that person to return.
a) The Holy Spirit will continue to use that event to speak to their heart. They may call you years later.
b) Joseph and his brothers (Ge 50:15-26)
As believers we are called to be kind and gentle (peaceful) with everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. And theres good reason for this: it breaks one of the devils primary weapons against the church and one of his primary barriers to prevent unbelievers from coming to Christ. For most of us being peaceful and gentle isnt natural. Its a skill we have to learn and keep learning the rest of our lives. But isnt it worth it if afterwords, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11).
1) Describe a time when you reached out to reconcile with someone. Was is successful?
2) Which of the practical steps of reconciliation (section C) is the most difficult for you? Why?
3) Why is it so hard to maintain a forgiving heart when you cant reconcile with a person?