Work at living in peace with everyone,
and work at living a holy life,
for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Look after each other
so that none of you fails
to receive the grace of God.
Watch out that
no poisonous root of bitterness
grows up to trouble you,
My plan was to write about this second verse that I put in the visual. But I can’t write about it divorced from the first verse!
It talks about living a holy life…and being holy. For some of us, that isn’t a problem at all, or so we think. For others of us, it is one giant burden! Somehow, the word “holy” is something we know doesn’t describe us. If we are moms of small kids, we run into the truth of our NOT being holy every day! But the rest of us aren’t immune either…believe me!
The meaning of the word holy is simply “separate.” In terms of GOD, He is separate from His creation (that is why we don’t believe in pantheism that GOD is in everything like the rocks, plants, animals, etc.) and He is separate from sin and any imperfection! He is totally and completely morally pure!
Of course, He is not calling us to that. We will never be that. We aren’t GOD. But in Christ, judicially, we are declared holy because we are holy based on the perfect life He lived on earth that He traded with our sinful one. We did nothing to merit it. It is based totally on His grace to us. It costs us nothing.
And that is the hard part for many of us. We have that beholden feeling. We feel like we owe Him. We do! But it is a debt we cannot repay! Ever! Not in a million lifetimes! The debt we owe has been forgiven. We aren’t beholden.
So here we are in Christ. Judicially, we are holy based on His record, not ours. But in reality, we know what a mess we are day to day!
Work at living a holy life
Don’t you imagine that is why He is telling us in the words of the author of Hebrews, that we need to work at living a holy life? It is not in our nature. It can only come from Jesus…as we abide in Him!
That involves a close linking with Him in His Word and in prayer. Talk to Him as you live your life throughout the day. Technically, that is prayer, but I think of it as a running conversation. As you fold clothes, what are you thinking abot the people you are folding clothes for? Since He hears it, you might as well direct your thoughts to Him.
Yes, we are in His family. But we don’t “not sin.” We just have a great savior who forgives. We are told to “work at” living a holy, set apart life that is against our nature.
Look after each other to receive GOD’s grace
Then, he wisely reminds us to look after each other. So that each of us is living a holy life? NO! That isn’t the emphasis here. Holy on the outside is easy to fake. I’ve lived in communities like that. Oh my! So not fun! So not even pleasant places to live!
We are to look after each other so we aren’t failing to receive GOD’s grace. WOW! How am I helping you learn to receive GOD’s grace as you live the Christian life? That can be downright exciting as we together are finding ways to discover the depths of GOD’s grace together.
There is no finger pointing. There is no shock when someone fails…because I know it could easily be me! I know I am in a hospital not a country club when I go to church…when I live in a church community. As I get to know the warts of others, I’m not surprised anymore like I once was. I realize we are all sinners. We are all a mess.
But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ—
by grace you have been saved—
Yes, we are new creatures in Christ. That means that we can now do good with good motives mixed in. That is amazing all by itself! It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, GOD works out a good action in me and some of my motivation has a glimmer of goodness to it. That is from GOD. It isn’t natural!
I try not to look too closely. He can sort out the motives, the actions, and deal with the mess. I just know that anyone near me that that has sinned isn’t any worse than I am. She may have some awful consequeces, but I could easily be in her spot myself. I need to give GOD’s grace to her as it was given to me…richly!
Don’t allow a poisonous root of bitterness to grow up among you
The final warning from this section is the one I planned to talk about most. The one about not allowing a poisonous root of bitterness to grow up among you.
Just realizing how poisonous a root of bitterness is, is something for us all to be aware of. Bitter comments, attitudes, are just that…poison! They will kill your group and harm your church fast than anything I can name. We underestimate how quickly they spread and grow and kill the Spirit’s work.
It is not just the individual who must nip them in the bud…often she is unaware of how bitter she is becoming. We as her friends, fellow worshipers, co-Bible study-ers, c0-workers, etc. need to speak to her words when they are out of her mouth. No, not with harshness, but with love and grace as we would want to be treated.
Because often bitterness comes from being ignored or hurt by someone in power or authority. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We must be willing to help her, pray with her, go with her to the person she is struggling with to deal with the problem.
That’s what community is about. Being with people during hard times. I write these words and think of how I have failed some close friends even in the last few years. I feel hypocritical writing this. But it is still true…even though I personally have failed in this very point myself. GOD doesn’t fail us. He won’t let us down. Even when we are weak and frail.
His grace is still strong and good…and rich.
Which do you focus on more…the richness of GOD’s mercy to you?
or the irritants that cause bitterness to grow?