Jump Start # 3317
Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
Our verse today, follows the strong exhortation of “pursue after peace with all men” in the previous sentence. And, what we have before us are opposites. Pursue peace on one hand and keep the root of bitterness from springing up. Pull the bitterness out of your heart, like you’d pull a weed out of your garden. Left alone, weeds multiply and can take over a garden. Left alone, bitterness causes trouble and many become defiled by it.
Bitterness and peace do not co-exist in the same heart. A person at peace with God and with others has no bitterness in him. However, a bitter person, is never at peace with others.
There are a lot of reasons why a person may be bitter. It sure seems that our culture has had plenty of refills of bitterness. Some are bitter because they do not have what others have. Jealous is the cause of that bitterness. Others are bitter because they got their hands caught in the cookie jar and now they are in trouble. The consequences of their actions have made them bitter. Others become bitter because some won’t side with them in their plans and thinking. There are many reasons why a person can be bitter.
Bitterness is like eating a really sour piece of candy. Your face does funny things because of the sourness in your mouth. A bitter person is not a happy person. A bitter person doesn’t like it when others around them are happy. The bitter person wants everyone else to be bitter like they are. So, they will spread misery, complaints, accusations and trouble everywhere they can. And, as our verse expresses, bitterness causes “trouble.” Rather than trying to find ways to agree and have peace, the bitter person is making a mess of things.
A bitter person in marriage will always pick the scabs off of our fresh wounds and hurts. Grace and forgiveness are not in the wheelhouse of a bitter person. A bitter person in a congregation will always stir things up. People that are content become discontented because of the actions of the bitter person. People that like each other and are at peace suddenly can’t stand each other. What has happened? Bitterness hads taken root. Trouble has sprung up. Many will be ruined by it.
Our passage opens with, “See to it…” Well, just how does one do that? How does one keep bitterness from springing up? I have a huge yard, with lots of flower gardens. Weeds springing up is a constant battle. I spend a lot of time weeding. There are some things I see parallel to our passage today:
First, one cannot ignore weeds or bitterness. The weeds do not go away nor does bitterness go away. And, the longer one waits, the greater the problem. Weeds are easy. Spray them. Pull them up. Put down plastic. Bitterness is harder to deal with. One must teach God’s word about this. Private conversations must take place. Ignoring bitterness will only lead to deeper and harder problems.
Second, at home, after a rain, the weeds pop up. I know this. I understand weeds. And, after a crisis in the family, the congregation or in one’s heart, bitterness pops up. Understand bitterness. Know when to look for it. Address it early.
Third, create a culture of peace and harmony. Some are never happy unless there is some unrest and agitation taking place. Lessons and classes about unity, fellowship, harmony, peace helps. Constant reminders of how great and powerful our love for each other is will change the culture. Not tolerating cheap shots, snide comments, off handed remarks also strengthens the positive culture of the church. God loves us. God loves Samaritans. God loves sinners. God loves lepers. Reminders, reminders, reminders.
Fourth, a lot of bitterness comes for a heart that is focused far too much upon itself. How I feel, what I want, what I think, becomes less and less important as one grasps the concepts of a disciple. Seeking God first and making it our ambition to please the Lord will move us out of the center and place the emphasis upon the Lord where it belongs. Taking a long and deep look at what the apostles endured also helps pull the root of bitterness out of our lives. Look at Paul. Really look at him. He was chased, hunted down, abused, hurt, mocked, yet, he was not a bitter person. Faith in the Lord kept him away from bitterness. When one learns that, it sure doesn’t give him much reason to hold on to a bitter spirit.
Pursue peace. That means, be nice. Be thoughtful. Don’t stir things up. Don’t cause trouble. Don’t push the buttons of others. The more we pursued peace, the less we’d be bitter. It just sorta works that way.
Great reminders for us.