Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ONE PERSON’S BITTERNESS THAT DEFILES MANY?
In this passage – there is a TON of spiritual meat!
- it is impossible to live in peace with others and be bitter
- it is impossible to be holy and be bitter
- it is impossible to see God without holiness
- it is impossible to grasp the grace of God and be bitter
- bitterness grows to cause trouble (in the church, in families, in businesses, in neighborhoods, ANYWHERE)
- bitterness yields a toxic harvest that contaminates many people
1. My bitterness may lead others to become bitter towards the same person/thing I am bitter about
When I am bitter – I am seething with unforgiveness and a sense of justifiable anger. I am fueled primarily by PRIDE – pride that I don’t deserve this treatment and that I am better than the person with whom I am bitter, that I ought to be sovereign instead of God, that I know best for myself and for others, that I should decide and dole out what the punishment for sin against me should be… LOTS OF PRIDE.
I cherish my grudge more than my relationship with God. My bitterness leads me to more sin. As the bitterness tree grows – it takes over my heart, my life, my thoughts, my words and my actions. The tree begins to develop fruit. Fruit like – hatred, avoidance, lack of love, lack of faith in God, deceit, lying, being divisive, gossip, possibly even violence or adultery – depending on my situation. And the fruit drops into my life and the lives of those around me, rotting and allowing the small seeds of bitterness to spread and germinate in other places.
When I am bitter, I WANT to gossip about the person with whom I am bitter. I WANT to run them down. I WANT to hurt their reputation and try to build myself up by stomping them into the ground. Gossip defiles my listeners. And the people listening to me may become convinced to become angry, unforgiving or bitter towards the target of my bitterness, too. Or, at the very least, they will lose respect and regard for the target of my bitterness or for me! This happens at work, in extended families, in the church and especially in the home.
Children who have a parent who sets out to turn them against the other parent often develop great bitterness and unforgiveness themselves towards that other parent – not realizing until they are adults how much they have been defrauded by the bitter parent. They can literally be robbed of the love of one parent and a relationship with that parent by having a bitter parent try to turn them against the other parent.
2. Others may become bitter towards me because it is HARD to love a bitter person. My bitterness is so obnoxious, foul and toxic.
When I am bitter, I become more and more consumed with my anger, my justification of my own sin, my pride, my rights, my desire for revenge, my needs, my purposes, my will, MYSELF – that I can hardly see anything or anyone else around me eventually.
There is certainly no room for Christ to co-exist in my heart with a tree of bitterness. Even a tiny seed or root of it offends His holiness. I have to choose – Christ or bitterness.
It is HARD to love someone engulfed in bitterness. They are sharp and prickly. They practically develop a force field around them that love bounces off of. It is exhausting to be around them. They are depressing and draining. They are an endless pit of need and negativity. It is EASY to begin to develop bitterness towards a bitter person. Of course, Jesus can give us to power to continue to love them – but if we start reacting in our own flesh, we can be very tempted to be bitter with one who is bitter.
3. Bitterness can become my idol.
I can become completely entangled if bitterness continues to grow unchecked. My very identity becomes BITTERNESS toward a person, an event or even God. The tree of bitterness, and many generations of offspring trees that grow from the seeds of the fruit of the first tree – produces a FOREST of sin in my life that is inescapable.
If I am a very bitter person, I only want to talk about one thing – my bitterness. (Bitterness grows in stages and is progressive, so it may start out only consuming a portion of my attention, but if given plenty of fuel and a nourishing environment of continued anger, pride, rebellion against God and unforgiveness – it will completely take over my soul.)
It can become my IDOL. I want to wallow in it and luxuriate in the mire of it. I want to run the other person down – or run God down. I wants the world to know what a victim I am and how powerless and wonderful and innocent I am and what justice I have been denied.
Bitterness blocks my view of God’s sovereignty. When I am bitter, I cannot accept God’s grace for myself or for my offender. I cannot receive grace. I cannot give grace. I cannot forgive. So God will not forgive me. It is a dark, depressing, lonely, cold, miserable prison.
If I am bitter with a person – I am ultimately also bitter at God.
For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, CANNOT love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother. I John 4:20b-21
We don’t understand that God counts the way we treat other people as if we are treating Him that way. The person to whom I show the least amount of love is the way I love God – that is how He judges me.
Whew! What a scary thought that is!
The whole book of I John is an incredible study on NOT living in bitterness and hatred, but living in the love of God.
Idolatry destroys my fellowship with God and destroys every facet of my life – my soul, my relationships, my finances (eventually), my health, my emotions, my family… Idolatry has a steep price – it causes discontentment, an insatiable desire for more that cannot satisfy, frustration, anxiety, worry, lack of joy, lack of peace, misery and sometimes even death.
4. Others may become bitter with God because of my bitterness
If I am bitter – I won’t forgive. I won’t accept God’s grace for myself and I won’t extend God’s grace to others. God says I am wicked if I refuse to forgive as I have been forgiven (Matthew 18). I am a slave to sin and the flesh, and I can’t have God’s power or His Spirit or the fruit of His Spirit in my life. I don’t see the sovereignty of God to work through this situation for my good and His glory.
So – I cannot shine for Christ.
In fact, if I call myself a Christian but am holding on to bitterness, I convolute and distort the image of Christ that I am projecting and will REPEL others from the gospel and the truth of God.
Why would anyone want to come to Christ if living for Him looks like ME – living in bitterness?
Especially my spouse and children will be affected. If they are not believers, my horrific “witness” will erect a massive stumbling block for them to come to Christ. I am an awful billboard for Christianity and for Jesus when I live in disobedience to Him. If they are believers, my poor example will influence them greatly towards ungodliness, too.
My sin will trip others and entangle them. They may resent God and be bitter at Him, too. Because my bitterness is contagious and because I can make it hard for them to see the sovereignty of God, the love of God, to accept the grace of God. And, I make it REALLY hard to love me. And if they don’t love me, they can’t love God.
THANK GOD HE HAS PROVIDED VICTORY FOR US IN JESUS!
If Jesus is not your Savior and Lord – you can pray and ask Him to be. Check out the post on my home page about how to have a relationship with Christ!
For those of you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord – here is what we can do when we are convicted of sin:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8-9
The blood of Jesus is strong enough and more than sufficient to cover any sin we might commit. We can ask for forgiveness. We can agree with Him that what we are doing is sin. We can turn from our sin and decide we want to walk on God’s narrow path that leads to life. And then we need HIS power to be able to obey Him. So that means, we allow Him to remove all the sin in every corner of our hearts. We abide in Him – we stay in His Word often. We pray continually through the day. We seek His will, His wisdom and His glory and we lay down our own selfish desires and our wisdom . We long to obey Him in everything. We ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. We are still and listen for His voice and read His Word with a deep hunger. We want HIM more than ANYTHING in life.
Precious sisters in Jesus,
The bitterness has to go! I am looking at myself first. We cannot afford to hold on to this destructive sin anymore. How I pray that God might speak to each of our hearts and tear out every trace of bitterness -replacing it with His Spirit, the fruit of His Spirit and His abundant life!
In the Name and power of Christ,