The author of Hebrews considers peace and holiness important. In fact, these two nouns are so critical that the writer uses a forceful word of command in connection—strive. Interestingly, many English translations display the Greek word for strive differently. The King James Version uses follow while the New American Standard Bible uses pursue. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds it’s insight by defining strive as, “to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing.” It presents the word as an object running after a target. In my mind I picture a dog chasing after a jackrabbit, the hare just inches ahead of the barking pursuer. There are two things to pursue and strive all out to reach: peace with everyone and holiness.
First: peace with everyone. Is that a vain and empty pursuit? The point of the verse is not to create disillusionment, but urgency. Like the hound that never gives up on chasing the hare, never give up on making peace with everyone. Obnoxious people are easy to quit on. Someone upsets us and we’ll avoid contact with the person. Paul writes in Romans 12, verse 18:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
It’s like Paul expects us to initiate resolutions. He actually seems to believe we ought to at least try to live peaceably with all! Mix that together with Hebrews 12, verse 14 and the idea of pursuing peace sounds like a hound chasing a hare—it’s a real adventure. Strive for peace with everyone means even those we find most disagreeable to be around.
Second: strive after holiness. Initially, you might think of holiness as purity of conduct and righteous living. In the case of Hebrews 12, verse 14, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, holiness is most accurately represented by the English word sanctification. It embraces the idea of a person being in separation to God. This is not so much the action of a person’s performance as it is behavior resulting from devotion. It’s the hare inviting the hound to chase so to speak.
Thinking of holiness as activities of “doing good” is easy, natural. But the thought is much deeper. It’s the idea of behavior coming out of devoted pursuit—as the hound focuses on the hare. We chase after holiness out of the pure devotion and focus of discovering the Living God. We know Him personally and that makes a difference in our behavior. F.B. Meyer put it:
“Holy souls see God amid the ordinary commonplaces of earth, and find everywhere an open vision.” – F.B. Meyer
The idea is that holy souls are happening all the time. This is the striving for holiness that finds existence from a 24/7 devotion. According to F.B. Meyer, that devotion is not something tucked away and hidden in seclusion. Holiness is the soul pursuing God amid the ordinary commonplaces of earth! Without pursuing this type of devotion no man will see the Lord.
In conclusion, here are two things to be in hot pursuit of, like a hound running swiftly after the hare: strive for peace with everyone, and holiness!
J. Robert Hanson