From death to life (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Cherimoya_sprouts_emergingThis is the sermon that I preached on Sunday morning, July 1, at the Upstate, New York District campgrounds in Brooktondale, New York, near Ithaca.The occasion was the first Sunday of the Family Camp. It’s a place 300 Nazarenes and friends gather annually, a quiet corner tucked away in the Catskills where cell phone signals are weak but God’s moving is strong. We all need Brooktondales in our lives, locations to get away from the daily noise and tune-in to His voice.


 

I. INTRODUCTION

“Dead” – It’s a word nobody likes.

If I were a teacher of writing, I would have advised Paul against starting the second movement of his letter to the Ephesians in such a morbid way. Yet, there it is in Ephesians 2:1 –

And you were dead…

II.  DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL DEATH

What is Paul doing? In Ephesians 2:1-3, he holds up a mirror to the face of every individual who lives as if God is not. It’s not a pretty picture.

“You were dead.” How so? First, you and I walked in “trespasses and sins” (v.2). This is no exception to the rule; it is the rule. Note the word “walking.” These are patterns, habits; it’s a way of life without God.

According to recent surveys, 39% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, when asked about their religious affiliation, give themselves the label of “none.” With that figure comes consequences. The word “sin” is becoming an antiquated word in our language, and yet it is a necessary word, a word closely akin to “evil.” This week, a man walked into a newspaper office in Baltimore, Maryland and systematically targeted five employees, executing them on the spot. If we cannot talk about evil, if we cannot talk about sin, then what vocabularly shall we use to describe such heinous actions?

Sin takes many forms, but at its root, it is disobedience to the laws of God. It is doing what God forbids us to do or neglecting to do what God commands. Sin always operates both vertically and horizontally. It is rebellion against God but also a trespass in some way against others.

nuclear

Paul continues. Spiritual death is the outcome of death-inducing habits. Verse 3 mentions the passions of our “flesh.” Passion can be like nuclear power. If contained, it can be positive, but as soon as the reaction escapes the boundary of the reactor, there’s negative fallout. Passion brings husband and wife together, and often, children are the good result. But when passion is misdirected outside the bounds of marriage prescribed by God – whether through adultery or even the viewing of pornography – damage occurs. What should bring life instead produces death.

death

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Working on book # 5

My wife sometimes reminds me:

You can’t edit a blank page.

As is often the case, she’s absolutely right.

Such maxims have encouraged me in the past and helped me move from “some day” to “now.” My doctoral thesis on prevenient grace was published in 2010. Next came a short book about hell, appearing in 2013. In 2014, I published a daily devotional book in French, then followed that up in 2016 with a book on the church’s mission. In case you’ve noticed, that puts me (more-or-less) on an every three years schedule for the writing of a new book. So, since 2018 is already half gone, here’s to kicking off the 2019 project:

Excellent Generosity: Ten Principles for Giving Living

The book is based on a Clergy Development seminar that I’ve given three times in Africa (Zimbabwe, Angola, and Kenya). All three times, it was very well-received. So, my intention is to expand each of the principles into one chapter of the book, with (of course) an introduction and conclusion to-boot. I hope to end up with something in the range of 100-110 pages, which is about what people seem willing to read these days.

As in the past, this blog will serve as the platform. Writing a chapter seems daunting; writing a blog post, less so. Here goes!

 

 

 

The Jesus question

768px-Circle-question-blue.svgThere are many intriguing questions in Christian theology, but one matters most. It’s the question Jesus asked his disciples:

Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15, NIV).

Simon Peter replied that Jesus is the “Messiah,” the “Son of the living God” (v. 15, NLT). This simple fisherman saw in Jesus of Nazareth the One anointed by God, the Christ. This confession of faith – Jesus as the Son of God – is the rock upon which Christ builds his church (v. 18).

It’s the Jesus question.

In math class, our teacher taught us to simplify fractions. Instead of 4/8 – she patiently explained – find the largest whole number that divides into both the numerator and the denominator. The anwer is 4, and when divided by that number, 4/8 becomes 1/2. It’s easier to work with simplified fractions.

What is true for fractions is true for theology. The Jesus question keeps us from getting lost in a maze of valid but ultimately less important questions; it simplifies things.

The Jesus question is helpful both corporately and individually:

Corporately — It’s a church, but is it a Christian church? Look past more complicated issues and determine what they think about Jesus. If a given church teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, if they believe that he is the Savior of the world and is himself God, that he died for our sins and rose again to reconcile us to God, then they clear the minimum bar. But if Jesus is in some way demoted or held to be a great teacher or prophet but not himself God, that church may be many things, but it is not Christian.

Individually — The Jesus question confronts each of us. Jesus wasn’t content to just know what the crowds were saying about him. He turned to his disciples and to us:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” (v. 15, NIV)

We must decide who exactly this Jesus is, not only for others, but for us. Peter concluded: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then he moved beyond words to action. He continued to follow Christ. For many of us, to respond positively won’t be a continuation of a journey but the beginning of a new one. To us and to all, Jesus says: “Follow me.”

Christian theology asks many questions. Theologians offer a wide variety of answers, but on the question of Jesus, voices unite. Only he is God’s eternal Son, God’s anointed, our hope for this life and the life to come. How have you answered the Jesus question?


 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sayings broken beyond repair

penWhen I was a boy and something broke, I’d take it to my dad. In my mind, he could fix anything. We’d go down in the basement to his work bench where we’d poke around in some of the boxes and containers. One tube of epoxy glue, one vice and 24 hours of patience later, whatever had been broken was as good as new.

Sometimes it’s not just objects that are broken. Sayings can be broken, too. Sometimes they can be fixed; other times, they’re beyond repair.

One of Israel’s favorite proverbs was broken and could not be fixed:

What do you mean by this proverb of yours about the land of Israel: ‘When parents eat unripe grapes, the children’s teeth suffer’? As surely as I live, says the LORD God, no longer will you use this proverb in Israel! (Ezekiel 18:2-3, CEB).

The proverb had become an excuse to shift blame. The rest of chapter 18 drives home the point that we must not blame our sins on those who came before us. Each of us is morally responsible before God as individuals.

Could what was true in Ezekiel’s day be true in ours? Is God asking us to jettison some sayings that have become counterproductive? Here are two that – like a dusty can of corn whose expiration date has passed – should be tossed in the trash, no longer fit for human consumption.

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”

God’s grace is an amazing thing! Without it, we would be lost (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11). But in practice, we don’t read all the way to the end of the sentence. We get bogged down in the first four words, putting a full-stop where it doesn’t belong: “I’m just a sinner.”

The result is a sinning religion, a Christianity full of forgiveness but devoid of Christlikeness. We “get saved,” meaning that we’ve tucked our ticket for heaven in our wallet or purse for safekeeping. Now – so we think – we can do what we please. In theological terms, we may have been justified but we’ve stopped short of sanctification. The summit of the mountain lies ahead, but we’re satisified to camp out in the foothills.

Yet God invites us to climb higher. The lowlands of sin are behind us and there’s no turning back. Paul reminds the Corinthians that – while sin was a part of their past – it is no longer what they are about (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). And because of this, Peter insists: “You will be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, CEB). 

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace” can be an entry ramp to the highway of spiritual compromise. It’s the travel companion of similar sayings like “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” It rationalizes our sinful ways by conditioning us to live with a divided heart, forgetting that those who are double-minded are “unstable in all their ways” (James 1:8, CEB). Yet Christ calls us to a deeper life, one characterized by joyfully living into the ways of God. John Wesley called it “holiness of heart and life,” understanding that the very essence of holiness is love for God and others (Mark 12:28-34).

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

If love is the very essence of holiness, then we must address a second saying that claims to be loving. But is it?

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

The saying at a certain level sounds like Paul: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9, NIV). But can we ignore the repulsive effect that the “hate the sin, love the sinner” proverb has upon listeners? It is often in social media conversations around sexuality that well-intentioned Christians trot out the proverb, thinking all the while that they’re being graceful in doing so. But any communication has two parties, a transmitter and a receiver. Effective communication only happens when the message transmitted is accurately decoded by the listener in the way that the sender intended.  And it is here that the breakdown occurs. The first phrase – “Hate the sin” – begins with the imperative, “Hate.” Like a flash-bang grenade tossed into the conversation, it deafens the listener to any words that follow. They never hear “love the sinner” because the only message they’ve received is that they are “the sinner” who is hated. If our objective is an evangelistic conversation, has the door just slammed shut? 

Some have suggested reversing the words so that the saying becomes: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” At least we then lead with love, not judgment. This seems closer to Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). First, he pronounced words of love to her: “Neither do I condemn you” (11a, CEB). Then, he instructed her to abandon her wrongdoing: “Go, and from now on, don’t sin any more” (11b). 

But I still wonder if the saying is beyond repair. Even if we lead with love by frontloading the words “love the sinner,” the proverb still has a whiff of smug judgmentalism about it. Phylicia Masonheimer asks:

Do we actually hate sin, or do we simply love judgment?

In “hate the sin, love the sinner,” the couplet “the sinner” comes across as clinical, like a medical journal article discussing “the patient.” It’s cold, aloof, and off-putting, like when a man talks publicly about “the wife.” What listener wants to have the verbal label “the sinner” taped on their chest? While it is theologically correct as a description of those who have not yet come to Christ (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:10), we need God’s wisdom to know when is the right time as a relationship develops to speak of sin and its meaning. In our social media interactions, we forget that often we have not yet earned the right to speak at that deeper level, that many of our readers are still ripening to God through the action of prevenient grace. Our words will either stir up that grace or douse it. Experience tells us that whatever our intentions, the “hate the sin, love the sinner” proverb pushes people away.  Isn’t it time for it to go?

Summing it all up

My dad was gifted at fixing broken objects. Sometimes when sayings are broken, they, too, can be mended. But there are other times when it’s best to just throw them out. The expressions “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” and “Hate the sin, love the sinner” are two such popular sayings, well-intended but counteproductive. May the Holy Spirit help us to be sensitive to these and other sayings that produce negative effects.

 

 

When you’re the minority

eggsIt’s known as the country of hospitality, and for good reason. Living for 4 1/2 years (1999-2003) in the welcoming but scorching and malaria-ridden African nation of Benin was simultaneously a joy and a monumental challenge. We’ll forever be grateful that they took-in an American missionary family and – despite our failings – opened their hearts to us and loved us. We will always have Beninese soil in our shoes!

For all the positive memories of Benin that I treasure, one negative memory was a phrase we heard too many times to count:

Yovo, yovo, bon soir. Ça va? Cadeau!

Translation: “White person, white person, good evening. How are you? Give me a gift!”

It was a little sing-song that parents taught their children, what they apparently thought was a harmless ice-breaker. Every day Monday through Friday, I’d arrive at the church office to the enthusiastic greetings of a small group of neighborhood children. “Yovo, yovo, bon soir!” I knew they meant well, so I’d shake their hands and tell them:

It’s true, my skin is white, but I have a name. It’s Pastor Crofford. What is your name?

I’m a teacher, so I was confident I could gradually teach a proper greeting to a group of little boys and girls, and they responded well. No longer was I “yovo.” Little-by-little, they called me “Pastor.” But around town was a different story. Outside of restaurants? “Yovo, yovo, bon soir!” Walking down the street? “Yovo, yovo, bon soir!” Arriving at one of our new churches? “Yovo, yovo, bon soir!” And it wasn’t always just children; sometimes adults also called you “yovo.” I’d remind myself that it didn’t matter, not to be so sensitive. But when it’s happening for the 10th time in one day, it’s like a grain of sand in your shoe on a long walk. It might be small, but it starts to grate you. You begin to wonder: 

Is the only thing about me that’s worth mentioning…my skin color?

Somewhere down in my soul, a seed of resentment quietly sprouted and took root. “You’re a Christian, a missionary no less!” I would preach at myself, but like fighting the Borg, resistance seemed futile.

One Sunday night we had a Bible study. Missionaries from various churches gathered at the house of an American diplomat. We always supsected that high-ranking U.S. Embassy personnel like “Rick” (not his name) lived in an involuntary bubble, but Rick confirmed our suspicions. He’d already lived in Cotonou for over a year. A week earlier, he’d been drafted to run in a 5k, representing the U.S. mission. We asked him how he’d done. He’d run well, but many had called out to him from the sides of the route, so he asked us:

What’s with this “yovo” thing?

We burst into laughter. We’d known about it since our first day in the country.

My wife, Amy, had a chance to chat with her adult English students, a dozen or so upper-class and well-connected Beninese. “What do you think of Benin?” they asked. She complimented them on the many things we liked, but got brave. “There is something you should change,” she remarked. “Get rid of the ‘yovo, yovo, bon soir’ chant. Ex-pats hate it.” It was an eye-opening moment for them. They thought the chant was welcoming; we saw it as a nuisance, a constant reminder that we were “other.”

Before we left the country a year later, we noticed fewer children were chanting it. When I visited Cotonou again four years later, the chant was gone!

Living in two West African nations for nine years forced me into a skin-color role reversal I never would have otherwise known.

In the New York state Erie Canal town where I attended school as a youth, African-American students – or “Negroes” as was commonly said then- were rare. Likewise, the college and seminary where I studied were almost entirely white. After seminary, I pastored a church in a Midwestern town that until 1948 had maintained two hospitals, one a well-equipped facility for white citizens and a separate (and inferior) hospital for black citizens. Our ministerial association had only white pastors, though there were some small all-black churches on the “other side of the tracks,” far away from our all-white churches.

My experiences in life until age 30 had been as a white person living in a white world. I had zero experience being in the minority. It’s hardly surprising then that I had no way to interpret the seemingly over-the-top comment of an African-American pastor who guest lectured in class one day. The only black man in the room speaking to a room full of white seminarians, he bravely observed (paraphrased):

Whether you acknowledge it or not, everyone in this room is at least somewhat racist. You can’t help it; that is the way you’ve been shaped by your white culture.

That was until I lived in West Africa. Only then, as a white raft adrift in a sea of black, did I have some appreciation of what it means to be perceived through the narrow lens of skin color. One of my Ivorian students admitted: “When we were little, our parents told us that when white people sleep, coins fall out of their ears.” I laughed! Maybe this was the tooth-fairy legend garbled? “No coins in my ears or on my pillow,” I assured him.

But when do seemingly harmless stereotypes mutate into something more sinister?

In the United States, white supremacist ideology is pernicious because it stubbornly rejects what God has revealed, that all human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). It thrives on discredited notions of eugenics, that there are superior “races” and inferior “races” rather than a single race, the human race. Contrary to the Apostle Paul, who taught that we are “one in Christ Jesus” no matter our gender, our nationality, or whether we are slave or free (Galatians 3:28), the twisted thinking of racism conditions children to fixate on the minor differences that divide us rather than celebrating the major similarities that unite us.

Sometimes the seeds of discrimination are planted subtly. When I was five or six, I’d sometimes watch public television. (It was “Sesame Street” or a similar educational program.) Three colorful round shapes appeared on the screen, and one square one. The catchy jingle?

One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

It’s only in retrospect that I’m appalled by the lesson since little boys and girls have no way to process it. How would I have felt if I were Bruce or his sister, Julie, the only two African-American students in my class of twenty-five at elementary school? The sub-text was clear: I’m not like the others, so I don’t belong. 

This was public television, but shouldn’t Christian churches do better?

I loved my childhood church. At church, I learned many good things, including what it means to love God, but it’s not all that I learned. One adult, “Steve,” (not his name) would tell jokes at church at the expense of black people. His prejudiced yarns drew nervous chuckles from his grown-up listeners, but no one challenged him publicly.

Or how about the pastor who a few years ago – after a missionary service where they’d responsed well to the report of our work in Africa – walked us to the parking lot. He advised us to turn right out of the parking lot and not left. Why? “You’ll want to avoid the ‘bad part of town.’ ” The pastor drove off, but when he was out of sight, we turned left anyways, driving into the “bad part of town.” (It looked fine to us). For an hour, we enjoyed a tasty meal at a restaurant, the only white customers yet welcomed by the smiles of two dozen African-Americans who seemed to enjoy the food as much as we did.

Once, my fellow bank-teller during a lull in the drive-thru lamented (in all seriousness) that black men were “out to sleep with white women.” I mumbled a half-hearted protest, but uncomfortable, changed the subject.

NileCrocodile

Racism is pernicious because – like a crocodile – it lurks just below the surface of the human heart. You never know when it’s going to surface, clamp down on a victim and drag them under. Like the person who sees the splinter in the eye of her sister, not realizing the board she has in her own (Matthew 7:5), we must constantly bring ourselves before the Lord and ask God to examine our hearts, to “see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:13, NIV). We must sing the old Methodist hymn: “It’s not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

When all your life you have been part of the majority group, it’s tough to put yourself in the shoes of the minority.

Yet if my experience in West Africa of being a minority teaches me anything, it reminds me that my “default” position should be to give credance to the complaints of minorities and not simply shrugging: “There they go again, playing the race card” or dismissing charges of prejudice out-of-hand as exaggerations.

Change came when the Beninese took our “yovo, yovo” complaint seriously, and started teaching their children a different way of interacting with expatriates. How about us, as white Americans? Are we willing to listen, to allow minorities to point out our blind spots, and to adjust our behavior accordingly? May we be willing to pray, as Jesus taught us: “Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others…” (Matthew 6:12, CEV). And once forgiven, may God grant that we become the Lord’s agents of reconciliation.


Image credits

Eggs — Keira Hamilton, on Linked-In

Crocodiles — CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66978

Cultivating curiosity

1024px-Curiosity_in_childrenJames writes that our life is but a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14). Life’s brevity means that we can’t experience everything, even if you give full-time to your “bucket list.”

There is so much to learn, and so little time.

While I’ve been able to experience some things in my life that others will never experience – such as living as a missionary in four different African nations – what one chooses necessarily precludes other choices. There are other paths unchosen that I’ll never walk, even if I had the aptitude early on to do so.

I will never…

-Pilot a 747, though as a boy I thought I would become a pilot and was fascinated by jets;

-Be a bank officer, though I’ve been a teller more than once and was eyed by management for promotion;

-Work as a medical doctor, though I was in the top 3 of my zoology class as a college freshman;

Obedience to God’s calling on my life has led me in a different direction. I married, went to seminary, pastored a church, had children, then went overseas as a missionary educator. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Yet one of the dangers of specialization is the death of a wider curiosity.

As a theological educator, most of my reading is given to religious topics. I can read entire books on theological subjects that fascinate me but that would seem esoteric to you. How many people, after all, care much about the soteriological implications of the eschaton? (Eschatology – the doctrine of “last things” – is high on my list, and I’ve even written a book about hell). Someone once defined doing doctoral research as “learning more and more about less and less.” There’s some truth to that!

With the advance of knowledge, specializaton seems unavoidable. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) had the reputation of being a “universal man.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was similar; both had broad interests, expertise, and accomplishments in multiple fields. But in the 21st century, it’s hard to find anyone who has an encyclopedic knowledge like theirs. Too many additional volumes are in the encyclopedia now, too many “hits” from a simple Google search.

The downside of specialization – no matter what your field of study – is that a kind of glaucoma can set in, an intellectual narrowing of the field of vision.

So while I can have a stimulating conversation at a meeting of a theological society, what do I say when I sit on a plane next to a fellow passenger who is a supply chain manager, a physical therapist, or a gay activist? We live in different worlds. Rather than engage the conversation, I might choose to watch a movie or read my book about John Wesley. It’s a safe choice, but there’s no connection. Community suffers.

Yet specialization need not mean the death of a broader curiosity. With a healthy curisoity comes the ability to interact fruitfully with people from various walks of life. To this day, I will sometimes read about airplanes, follow financial news, or learn something new about biology. Though I didn’t walk down the career path of pilot, banker, or medical doctor, when I need a break from theology, I’ll dip my toe in another pool.

Curiosity is the mother of learning. Here are a three practical ways to cultivate curiosity:

1. Get a liberal arts education. I’m part of a denomination that sponsors multiple liberal arts universities. (Full disclosure: I teach at one, Africa Nazarene University). Though I was a religion major in undergrad, Eastern Nazarene College required me to take a number of “core” courses including World Literature, Living Issues, Intro to Math, Arts and Music, and General Psychology. This helped me situate the “tree” of my own discipline (religion) within a broader “forest” of knowledge. Even if what I gained was just general knowledge about various subjects, I at least knew where to start if ever I wanted to dig deeper. Because of a liberal arts education, I’m more likely to ask good questions from specialists if I want to know more. That makes for human connection.

2.  Listen to others with opposing viewpoints. One of my life’s guiding principles is this:

The first duty of love is to listen.

512px-Ear

 

Are you pro-choice? Read a pro-life website. Are you a Republican? Read a Democratic friendly news weekly.

You may not be convinced by the other side, but the discipline of curiously probing why others draw different conclusions than you do will help us avoid demonizing the “other.” Curiosity helps us co-exist, even if sometimes we must “agree to disagree.”

3. Read a book outside your discipline. During this “staycation,” I’m reading Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Accelerations (2016). It was a gift from a friend who knows you can’t hammer out good theology if you don’t understand the context in which you’re theologizing.

Ours is a world of specialization. While mostly a blessing, let us not become so narrow that broad-based curiosity dies. Let us keep cultivating a healthy curiosity so that – while we may never totally agree with one another – at least we can understand each other. Then maybe, just maybe, we can live together in peace.


 

Image credits

Big brother and baby: By Vitold Muratov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons;

Human ear: By David Benbennick (took this photograph today) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Followers of the Prince of Peace?

640px-Collared_DoveJesus is all about peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) foretold his birth, predicting the coming of one who would bear four exalted titles: 1) Wonderful Counselor; 2) Mighty God; 3) Everlasting Father, and 4) Prince of Peace.

When the Messiah arrived, his message included this important, peaceful strand. The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in both Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6:20-49, but is it in Matthew’s account where the peace motif shines. Among the famed Beatitudes, we find this commendation:

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children (Matthew 5:9, CEB).

At his arrest, Jesus corrected Peter when his petulant disciple drew his sword to defend the Lord. “Put back your sword in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all those who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NIV). The rest of Jesus’ words on the occasion are lesser known: “Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups of angels right away? But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” (vv. 53-54, CEB). Jesus overcame one of history’s greatest acts of terrorism – crucifixion – not through superior strength but through a radical act of passive non-resistance. God exalted the Prince of Peace by raising him from the dead, vindication and a seal of approval upon Jesus’ counterintuitive ways (Acts 2:31-33).

Elsewhere, the New Testament affirms the humility that is inherent in the peace ethic. Paul portrays Christ as one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8, CEB). Following Jesus’ example, as much as possible, we are to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18b, NIV). We are sanctified entirely not just by “God,” but by the “God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Further, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, NIV; italics added).

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