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Hebrews 12:14-17

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“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. [15] See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. [16] And see that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. [17] For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.” (HCSB)

 Norway and Russia have argued for years about Norway’s 1920 sovereign claim of the Svalbard Islands located 500 miles north of the Mainland.  In 1977, Norway set up a 200-mile zone around them as a part of their territorial claim, something Russia doesn’t recognize.  This region in the Barents Sea is rich with fish and is estimated to hold 40-million barrels of oil.  Norway allows fishing in the area, but does not allow fishing vessels to use fine-mesh nets that catch undersized fish. 

On October 15, 2005, Norwegian Coastguard officials boarded the Elektron, a Russian fishing vessel and placed them under arrest for fishing with illegal equipment.  With two Coastguard officials aboard the vessel, the Elektron was following the Coastguard ship towards a Norwegian port when the Russian vessel broke away and began heading toward Russia.

 Immediately, the Coastguard Ship changed course and began a two-day hot pursuit of the vessel that now held the Coastguard personnel captive.  Before long, the Norwegian Navy and the Russian Navy were involved in the dispute and all the loose ends will probably be tied up in court or some diplomats’ office in the future.

 What do you think was going through the Coastguard Captain’s mind when he learned that the Russian Vessel was breaking toward Russia with two of his personnel aboard?  Do you think it took him long to give the orders to change course and began pursuing the Russian vessel?  I don’t think it even took a split second.  Undoubtedly there was no question in his mind, he gave the orders and the Coastguard was in hot pursuit of the renegade vessel.

 With the same determination—the determination of a hot pursuit, we are to pursue peace and holiness.  Just like the Russian Vessel, these things will elude you if you don’t feverishly pursue them.  The natural default for most people is neither peace nor holiness.  Think about it.  It is much easier to be mired in conflict and be at odds with others than it is to do the hard work of working out your issues.  In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul urges two faithful women to learn to get along with one another.  He writes, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. [3] Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (NASB)  Apparently these were two good women who had fallen short of God’s grace.  That’s an odd phrase isn’t it?  The writer of Hebrews wrote, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God.”  It isn’t that they lost God’s grace; it is that they did not achieve its ideal in their life.  Perhaps they thought as others do that God’s grace goes to them, but didn’t understand that it should also flow through them to others.  If we are pursuing peace and holiness, His grace will flow through us to those who’ve wronged us.

  As you know, Jesus taught us to pray for forgiveness and to give forgiveness.  We should allow His grace to flow through us just because He told us to, but have you ever thought about the benefits of forgiveness?  In his book, The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook quotes several recent studies about forgiveness.  Here are some of the findings. 

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