Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 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 12:14-15
As I sip my strong cup of coffee on my 26th new year’s eve, I can’t help but think of what it takes to move forward when each new year arises. Particularly, when we’ve had a hard year — or when we’ve just been wronged.
When we’ve been wronged, when we believe we’re the innocent ones, when life all around us seems to be attacking us, it’s easy to feel like a victim. And, it’s really easy to become bitter and unforgiving toward those who have hurt us.
Truth be told, it’s hard to forgive sometimes. It’s especially hard to forgive someone who hasn’t even apologized to us. Even more so, it’s hard to not speak of them in bitterness and anger. But we must fight against those feelings.
Matthew 18:21-22 tells us to forgive others over and over and over again. And it doesn’t just mean we have to forgive them each time they wrong us, although that is important. But sometimes it means we have to forgive them over and over and over for one sin against us that keeps surfacing in our minds, causing us pain each time we recall it because, well, maybe they didn’t say sorry. Or maybe they did, but we’re still hurting.
I truly believe that if we stay in a bitter and unforgiving place, God can’t work in our lives. He may not change our hearts if we become consumed with self-pity and don’t ask him for help. I have found that when we feel bitter, we should ask God for compassion and then pray for the ones who hurt us. Through this, we will learn that compassion! After all, we are all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. And the Word says we have to forgive. So forgive, and love, and pray. It’s hard. But it’s freeing.
In the Hebrews verse I shared at the start of this post, we’re told to “strive for peace with everyone.” If you’ve ever been wronged by someone, you might be thinking something like, “Well, I tried. But they wronged me. It’s not MY fault.”
But it is still our place to “strive for peace.” The bible wasn’t written so that we could point the finger at one another while sitting in a holier-than-thou place. Nope, it’s for all of us to learn from. So, to strive for peace when we’ve been wronged might look like this: Not speaking in bitterness. Not only because bitterness drives us to that awful place of self-pity, but also because it may cause others around us to “become defiled” when we speak it.
The ESV Study Bible provides a great commentary on these verses in Hebrews. Check it out:
As they pursue peace and holiness, Christians should watch out for each other in order that no one falls short of the gift of eternal salvation. The author warns against “bitterness” by alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others.
That last sentence is my favorite. I don’t know about you, but I never want to become a bitter and “contagious poison!” This reminds me of James 3:8, where we are told the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” This is even more of a reason to stay away from speaking bitterness.
If you can relate to this post today, remember these nine words: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23). Bitterness is a complete antonym to any of the fruits of the spirit, don’t you think? In such a time when we’re tempted to speak bitterly, we must exercise that last one (self-control) in order to not cause others around us to fall.
If you’re facing difficulty in your life right now because of the way that someone hurt you this year, I pray that you would find healing in Jesus, and that you would learn to forgive your brother–seven times 70 times–and that you would not become bitter or spread bitterness.
Instead, choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Sounds a lot less miserable too, doesn’t it?