"Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, 'This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.' " (1 Clement 15)After warning us of the grave danger we will face if we join ourselves with those who are divisive, envious, and full of strife, Clement encourages us to "cleave" to those who are of the opposite nature; those who cultivate peace with godliness. Not only should we be careful about those whom we follow, but we must also be careful with those whom we choose to associate with. If we associate with those whose character is contrary to that of Christ, then our own character is in danger. However, if we associate with those who express the same character as that of Christ, then we will be helped in our own conformance to Christ's nature.
Clement also warns us to distinguish between what a person says and what they really do. It is easy to train the tongue to say the right things but much harder to discipline the heart to perform those things. Many people say all the right words, but fail to actually cultivate peace from their heart. To make such a determination requires more than just hearing the person, it requires a relationship. We must be cautious of following people based solely on what we hear from them, we must endeavor a relationship with them that we might know if their words align with their heart. Any man can sound great in public and even look great on TV, but there is no way to judge their heart by merely hearing and seeing them, we must come to know them.
Clement continues by identifying some from history who truly exemplified those who "cultivate peace with godliness." He begins with our Lord,
"For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him... And again He saith, 'I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see Me have derided Me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delighteth in Him.' Ye see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?" (1 Clement 16)Clement continues with some of the ancients and prophets under the old covenant.
"Let us be imitators also of those who in goat-skins and sheep-skins went about proclaiming the coming of Christ; I mean Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel among the prophets, with those others to whom a like testimony is borne [in Scripture]. Abraham was specially honoured, and was called the friend of God; yet he, earnestly regarding the glory of God, humbly declared, 'I am but dust and ashes.' " (1 Clement 17)And finally, he reminds us of David,
But what shall we say concerning David, to whom such testimony was borne, and of whom God said, 'I have found a man after Mine own heart, David the son of Jesse; and in everlasting mercy have I anointed him?' Yet this very man saith to God, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression.' " (1 Clement 18)All these Clement praises as those who were humble, cultivated peace, and were godly. There example is of great benefit to us as we seek to grow in the character and stature of Christ.
"Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better; even as many as have received His oracles in fear and truth." (1 Clement 19)We are better for their example; and we are benefited when we imitate their example. Let us learn to identify those who are truly humble and peaceable and let them be our leaders and associates.