14Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See 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 [emphasis added]
Allow this passage to be a mirror into your heart, into the reality of your life…Does this describe what you are or what you are not?
If you have ever encountered raw and unbridled bitterness you know it is not a pleasant thing but rather a destroyer souls. If you have ever suffered from bitterness yourself but overcame this you also know how horrible bitterness is as a destroyer of your own soul.
Where does bitterness come from? The root of all sins is pride, the desire to be like God (Gen 3:5). As a fruit of pride the Bible says that bitterness is the mark of the world and of an unbeliever. Bitter is a sin! This word is only used 4 times in the NT though words similar to it are used many times more. We find it in Romans 3:14 where Paul says “no one is righteous, no not one.” Bitterness is then a mark of the unrighteous. We see it again in Ephesians 4 when Paul is contrasting the old and new life in Christ. Ephesians 4:29–32 says [emphasis added]:
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Bitterness is a sin and leads to more sins (like irritability, anger, murder, strife, dissensions, slander, gossip, etc). Though not explicitly mentioned its cousins can be found in the vile list of the fruit of the world in Galatians 5:19, which is followed on by the stern warning, those who do [in the case of professing Christians, persist in doing] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The list of the fruit of the Spirit that follows is another helpful mirror and is foreign to any bitterness. Which list best describes you?
James asks, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1–2). When we do not get the way of our pride with God or others one result is we can become bitter.
The Bible calls all people to repent of this (and all) sin and seek the Spirit’s help to be transformed. Still, even Christians can succumb to the sin of bitterness (as the above mentioned passages make clear) either as one off’s or as a besetting sin. If a professing Christian persists in this sin it is clear they are not in Christ (Heb). To anyone who truly loves Christ this is a sobering thought that should cause us to put away (Eph) bitterness.
Romans 12:18 says, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. In all honesty, have we done our part to be at peace with others? Are we at peace with God? If we are not we are not at peace and we’ll rob not only ourselves but others of peace. Use Scripture as the lens to examine and address the root of your bitterness. Are you mad at someone or God? Are you content with your circumstances? Do you need to speak with someone to settle a score (Jas 3:17)? Are you harbouring a grudge? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Are you taking your concerns to the Lord in prayer? Are you following Matthew 18 regarding concerns with a brother or sister (if not you will become bitter)?
Bitterness is an invasive root. Ask Jesus to help you eradicate it from your life.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,