It sometimes seems that being unforgiving is a mark of strength. We have many statements that reflect this such as, “If you play you pay!” We even quote the Bible, “An eye for an eye….” to justify retaliating. Our unforgiving attitude does not bring freedom, but keeps us in bondage to others and the past offense. The Bible reminds us that freedom from this bondage, called bitterness, can be found by offering God’s undeserved grace to others.
For many years I allowed this way of thinking to destroy me, my wife and my testimony for Jesus. I was a toxic person because of a wrong that was done to me. I failed to let it go. It was something that I thought and talked about, to those that would listen, all the time. I replayed the injustice over and over in my mind. Looking back I can see that there was an evil satisfaction in holding onto that grudge. I was on edge and touchy in all areas of life. Looking back I can see that I was not happy either. The result was I became a mean person and did not hesitate punishing those that wronged me by withholding my services and abilities and even my love. It is shocking to see how we will do whatever we can to settle the score. The only problem is that we are the ones that lose. Maybe you have heard the saying, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!” And the sad reality is that not only do we die, but we spread the poison to those around us.
This is exactly what the Bible says happens when we do not deal with conflict in a Biblical way. The writer of Hebrews opens chapter 12 by encouraging us to run the race for Jesus. It reminds us that we need to keep our focus on Him. Yet, so often, this is where we fail by placing our focus on other things that distract us from running. A little later in the chapter we are encouraged to embrace difficulties. The writer of Hebrews speaks to the need to resolve conflict in chapter 12. We read, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) He challenges us to “strive for peace.” This means that we need to deal with the conflicts of life. And then he goes on, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15) The Scriptures reveal what I described earlier. When we forget about God’s grace toward us and fail to show it to others our hearts become a garden for bitterness. What begins as a small seed is watered and nurtured when we coddle an offense by not letting it go. The end result is the little seed becomes a spiritually noxious weed that takes over our hearts and then begins to spread to others.
This past Sunday in our sermon series “No Excuses – Freedom through Forgiveness”” looked at what God’s Word has to say about realizing freedom in this area of our lives. If you are living under the bondage of a wrong done, you may want to check out the message here. I am reminded of one of the greatest aspects of being a follower of Jesus, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson