Pam and I have seen the results of a bitter root. We have watched it defile families, friendships, church groups, neighborhoods, social groups, and ball teams disrupting tender and precious events for children, grandchildren, and friends such as birthday parties, weddings, and quite often, holidays. Non-communication, heaviness, ugliness, and darkness in our lives become the debris left over from bitterness. We have watched a bitter root defile families down to the 3rd and 4th generation. Frequently, a bitter root becomes overpowering, pervasive, and emotionally hurtful personally and to the ones we love. Too often the relationships rupture with seemingly no hope of reconciliation. How tragic…but so true! Many sweet people are living out lives crushed by bitterness.
Hebrews 12:15 is a forceful verse, “15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Grace is based on the sacrificial love of Jesus with a focus of loving, caring, and supporting others. Opposed to grace, bitterness is focused on me, my wants, my goals, my hurts, and how someone has disturbed my life. As a result, you determine “pay back” is in order which can be as subtle as a lie, deceptive manipulation, or stonewalling. Emotions, the devil’s playground, overpower your thoughts then your behavior. Your malintent for this person(s) makes the “jerk” look bad and maybe a bonus of you looking good. “Finally, they will get what they deserve as will I!” What you don’t realize, the root of bitterness negatively impacts not only their life but your life frequently resulting in wounds and ugly scars. If we “fall short of the grace of God”, it will eat you up and the others around you (“defiling many”).
The Apostle Paul states descriptively in Ephesian 4:26&27, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” The devil does not need much time to get a foothold in your life. Once he does, a root of bitterness grows within you ultimately poisoning you and others.
Later in Ephesians 4, Paul instructs us. “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Throw off all the stuff that result from a root of bitterness recognizing this is not what resides in a child of God. Then, he tells us how to kill the bitter root in verse 32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forgiveness is the antidote for a bitter root. There are two roots in this Greek word translated “forgive”. The first is the Greek word “char” which means joy. The second is the Greek word “charis” meaning grace. The outcome of forgiveness is joy and grace. A constant attitude of forgiveness keeps you from “falling short of the grace of God.”
The happiest people in the world are forgiving people. Rather than bitterness and acts of malice, they are “kind and compassionate.” These people are freed up to act like Jesus. Get rid of the bitter root in your heart with its antidote, forgiveness. It may take courage but your life as well as the people around you will change.