so then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19
Pursue – What do you really pursue? Be honest with yourself. Don’t consider the ideals that float around in the culture. Look at your behavior. Assess yourself as though you were an outside observer. Examine your actions and then ask yourself, “What goals are obvious from the things I really do?” You might be surprised with an exercise like this.
If you ask most people what they pursue, you are more than likely to get an idealized projection. Peace, goodwill, generosity, harmony and prosperity will probably find their way on to the list. But you might get a very different picture if you followed them around for a week, observing how they really behave. That’s why Paul uses the Greek verb dioko. It’s actually a rather strange choice because it also means to persecute and to prosecute. In other words, whether applied to good things or to bad, this verb is about intensity. It is hard-pressing, diligent effort with the goal of obtaining. Paul would know the characteristics of this verb very well. He pressed hard in order to persecute those who were followers of the Way. But once he encountered the risen Messiah, all that effort was turned toward a different objective – the delivery of the good news to the Gentiles. Paul had personal experience with both side of dioko. My guess is that a lot of us have the same bipolar experience. There was a time when we were in hot pursuit of self-centered goals. Then we encountered the risen Lord. Things changed. Hopefully, we now find that the same intensity is directed toward His purposes rather than ours.
Paul tells us two of the things that belong to this new direction. The first is peace. Of course, Paul does not think of peace in the same sense as the infamous Miss America contestants’ idea of “world peace.” He undoubtedly has the Hebrew concept of shalom in mind. Shalom is not only peace with God; it is peaceful and harmonious existence with all of creation. That includes my neighbors, my environment, my work and my worship. It is well-being in the fullest possible sense. But it is properly ordered well-being. The priorities of shalom are those of a slave of the King, not those of a religious employee. For Paul, world peace means nothing if it is not the result of the Kingdom here on earth, and that Kingdom begins with the individual whose life is given to the reign and rule of the King.
Paul adds something else in this verse – deliberate and intentional provision for others. Paul tells us that we are to pursue the encouragement, edification and support of other people. In other words, we must produce fruit in our lives so that others may eat it. This is not an accidental by-product of other activities in my life. This is on-purpose fruit production. Take a look at the results of your actions. Are others benefitting from your deliberate efforts to nourish them with what God has blessed in you?
Paul’s reminder is a good one, especially in a world where more and more emphasis is placed on taking care of myself first. Hot pursuit is a characteristic of Christian living, but it is hot pursuit for godly peace and the benefit of others. Now you know what to look for. When you look at yourself, do you see these two things sticking out like sore thumbs?
Topical Index: pursue, dioko, persecute, shalom, peace, fruit, Romans 14:19