Volunteering in a hospital as a chaplain, I am privileged to be invited into the midst of families during some of their hardest struggles. When stressors come on a family unit, whether it is a biological family or a church family, we see the ugly come out of us...even if we are Christians, truly trying to be followers of the ways of Jesus.
Why is that?
Old hurts and wounds, not previously dealt with and hidden now come into the light. Hostility is expressed because bitterness, hate and envy have been allowed to grow in the soul. Deceitfulness, not honesty, often becomes the mode of operation. So in addition to the current stress evoking situation, members have to deal with events of long ago and unforgiveness, and it’s subsequent devastation, from the past. The result is poisonous and deadly to one’s spiritual well-being.
God gave us freedom to live in freedom. I wonder why we choose to continue to live in the slavery of forgiveness, bitterness, jealousy and the like.
Our Lord teaches to forgive: Forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others. I wonder why it is socially acceptable to ignore this command. Why is it ok to say “That’s too hard” and we console one another into disregarding the words of our Lord?
Let’s encourage each other to examine the day’s events every evening. If there is any hurt received, whether it is small or large, begin the work of forgiveness. The power that raised Christ from the dead lives within us. That being the truth, nothing that He commands is too difficult to achieve.
I share the following article with you, By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org
“Bitterness” is usually associated with anger and grudges. But is this what it means in Hebrews 12:15? “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”? I don’t think so.
Let’s ask a few questions. First of all, does “root of bitterness” mean that the root is bitterness (like block of wood)? Or does it mean that the root grows up into a plant and bears the bitter fruit? Second, does “bitterness” in Hebrews 12:15 mean “festering anger,” or does it mean “poisonous and foul”? Third, where did this image of a “root of bitterness” come from?
Let’s start with the last question. Answer: it came from Deuteronomy 29:18. “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.” This background also helps us answer the first two questions: the root is not itself bitterness but rather bears the fruit of bitterness. And the bitterness it bears is something poisonous. This bitter fruit may be festering anger, or it may be something else. The point seems to be that it is deadly.
The key question is, What is this root that causes deadly, bitter fruit to sprout in the church? The next verse in Deuteronomy 29 gives the surprising answer, but it fits perfectly with the book of Hebrews. Verse 18 ends: “…lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.” Then verse 19 begins by defining this root: “…one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This would lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.”
What then is the root that brings forth the bitter fruit? It is a person who has a wrong view of eternal security. He feels secure when he is not secure. He says, “I shall be safe [=secure], though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” He misunderstands the covenant God makes. He thinks that because he is part of the covenant people, he is secure from God’s judgment.
This kind of presumption is what the book of Hebrews deals with repeatedly—professing Christians who think they are secure because of some past spiritual experience or some present association with Christian people. The aim of Hebrews is to cure Christians of presumption, and to cultivate earnest perseverance in faith and holiness. At least four times it warns that we must not neglect our great salvation but be vigilant to fight the fight of faith every day lest we become hardened and fall away and prove that we had no share in Christ (2:3; 3:12-14; 6:4-7; 10:23-29).
This is also the very point of the context of the term “root of bitterness” in Hebrews 12:15. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 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” (12:14-15). This is a warning not to treat holiness lightly or to presume upon more grace.
Therefore a “root of bitterness” is a person or a doctrine in the church which encourages people to act presumptuously and treats salvation as an automatic thing that does not require a life of vigilance in the fight of faith and the pursuit of holiness. Such a person or a doctrine defiles many and can lead to the experience of Esau who played fast and loose with his inheritance and could not repent in the end, and find life.