Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14, HCSB)
We’re called to pursue (sometimes translated as hunt) holiness and peace because neither is our natural bent as humans. Cain discovered that when he murdered his brother and God reminded him: Genesis 4:7 (HCSB) “If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
In other words, it is possible to live in peace with others and avoid sin – but it isn’t easy. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, because without his help it would be impossible. The Bible has always tied the Spirit of God to holiness (hence his name). In the Hebrew and Greek the word holy carries the idea of being set apart.
Maybe, like me, you’ve known “holy,” set apart folks in that you didn’t find that attractive. In my case, it might be my own lack of holiness or that these folks were a bit sanctimonious for my tastes. Holy or not, I didn’t want to be around them. But I’ve also known folks that were truly holy. When you’re around them you’re not impressed by their goodness or their saintliness. When you’re around them, you’re impressed by their authentic, even imperfect, walk with God. They are moving forward and enjoying it. And in the process, they encourage you.
Jesus had that attractive kind of holiness. That’s why Matthew and Peter and even Judas followed him. John Sherrill describes it as a holiness that builds up and heals others. In fact, the words whole, holy, and health all come from the same old English word hael which means “complete.” Sometimes, in the church, we call that sanctification.
Pursuing holiness, then, isn’t trying to be better. It isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts, can’ts and shouldn’ts. Rather, it is letting the Holy Spirit complete his work in us. When we allow him to heal what needs healing and complete what needs completing we are pursuing holiness. It is a guaranteed way to see the Lord.