Friday, December 03, 2004

The Root of A Root of Bitterness

We all know the ravages of a root of bitterness. How it springs up when you least expect it. How it shrivels the soul, and the face, of the one who has it. How it hurts families and churches, and leaves bloody wounded bodies laying around with verbal bullet holes in them.

Tell a person who has a root of bitterness that they have a root of bitterness, and you know what happens, don't you? Their bitterness bubbles up and splashes acid on you!

But where does the root of bitterness come from? What is the root of the root?

On the surface, we would say that it's caused by unforgiveness. But why the unforgiveness? Why on earth would we not heed the scripture that says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."? (Ephesians 4:32)

I. First, we don't fully understand the radical nature of God's grace toward us. We think He forgave us at salvation, but now we must meet some condition of "holiness" for future forgiveness, and we can't meet that condition. But the truth is that Jesus met the conditions for our total and radical forgiveness of all our sins -- past, present and future. We must repent of our thinking that "we must do something to stay under the grace of God" (that's legalism).

II. Second, we impose that same legalistic requirement on others. We put conditions on them to earn our forgiveness. It's pointless to tell someone with a root of bitterness to "just forgive them". They think, "But they haven't met my conditions!" And of course their "conditions" are seldom met, and so the unforgiveness piles up, and piles up, and a root grows down under the decayed, mossy, stinky, soil-rich compost pile of unforgiveness.

The solution?

1. Understand the total radical forgiveness of God. [Sidebar: interestingly, "radical" comes from the Latin for "root"] God forgave us at the root, the only conditions having been already met at the Cross and at our faith in Jesus Christ (even the faith was a gift, of course).

2. Forgive, like God does, at the root, without conditions! Don't hold it against them! Let it go! Let fervant love cover a multitude of sins! No requirements! Sorry, I know I'm shouting, but you've got to get it, or a root of bitterness will plant itself deep in your mind, and the putrid fruit it grows will kill those around you, and wrap it's tendrils around the neck of your soul till you can't breathe!

Of course, there may be "requirements" for fellowship, and there may even be discipline required in some instances. But that is separate from heart forgiveness, for which there are no biblical requirements. Here's my working definition of forgiveness: "Not holding anything against someone in a way that would cause you to withhold your love for them." Pretty simple, but the key there is "love". When we don't forgive someone, we stop loving them, because unforgiveness quenches the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit, which is Love, dries up. By the way, the rest of the fruit of the Spirit dries up also -- joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That's not how I want to live. How about you?

So what's the root of a root of bitterness? It's lack of an understanding of grace after salvation! When we understand the awesome ongoing grace and forgiveness of God after salvation, and He lives His life through us to show that same grace to others, a root of bitterness cannot grow.

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;" (Hebrews 12:15)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am very glad that I came across this article. Must be divine guidance.

I became a Christian 10 years ago when I went to the States to start my graduate school, after that I drafted and ended up living in Canada. I had a not very pleasant experience with my first job in Canada. I am still actively looking for work right now.

I became aware of my bitter root problem when I left the States and started to adjust the life in Canada. I had this unrealistic expectation that the church I belong to should have helped me. Sometimes I was afraid of my thoughts about my follow church goers. After sometime, instead of understanding the weakness of others, nobody's perfect. I become very angry at others.

Knowing it is poisoning my thoughts and my life, I realized that some of the resentment is from my childhood, I grew up in a loveless family, I have never been an emotional stable person to begin with. Before I became a believer, it was not such a big deal, but after accepting Christ, I knew that I need to forgive yet I could not do it.

Thanks for the article, I really appreciate the message.

Amanda Huang