Why is bitterness so bad?
Her face was hard, the wrinkles that were starting to show up were hard too. They weren’t a grandma’s wrinkles, soft and caused by years of laughing, hard work, and loving her family. They were wrinkles caused by scowls, frowns and unhappiness. Her life was really pretty good, she had a lot going for her, had a lot of family and friends, but there were “those subjects”. There were some things you didn’t mention. When you did, you could expect a reaction. Her eyes would turn stormy. The scowl would come back, and she would nearly spit the words. Mention his name, or that situation that involved that person, or the one time that…, and you would get an earful.
Bitterness. A lot of ink has been spilled on it. Probably because it is something with which we all struggle. Everyone could get bitter about something. There has been something that didn’t go the way we wanted, someone who hurt our feelings and either didn’t care or didn’t realize it. Something that could grow and fester and turn to bitterness. Many have pointed out, correctly, that bitterness imprisons the one who was offended, because bitterness is a prison we build around ourselves. We are commanded to forgive, we are commanded to not be bitter. We can give all kinds of reason, including the fact that Christ called us to forgive, to love each other, to be kind to each other, etc.
However, I want to propose to you that bitterness in the life of a Christian is an affront and an insult to the Gospel and the completed work of Christ on the cross. Let me see if I can explain.
Bitterness is usually caused by a grudge, or unforgiveness held by someone (I can’t think of an instance where it isn’t. There may be, I just can’t think of it). Somebody did wrong to someone else. Somebody hurt someone else. Someone sinned against someone else. Think about what you struggle with when it comes to bitterness. What was the sin that was done to you. I am not here to sugar coat that sin, or to tell you to move on, or to tell you to just let it go. That would be trite and ignoring the fact that it hurt. In many cases, it was a sin. Not only was it a sin, but that person should be punished for the sin that they did to you. I agree. The punishment most likely should be severe. Here’s the issue. Christ already died for that sin. Christ was already punished for that sin. And believe me, it was severe. When you are bitter toward a brother or sister in Christ (this can include your wife, your husband or yourchildren), you are telling Christ that His death wasn’t enough. You want to add to the punishment, because what He did wasn’t sufficient. Christ was punished for him/her, but you want to add to that punishment and get your licks in.
When you hold bitterness and plot revenge, and desire the worst for someone, you are telling Christ that the cross wasn’t enough. When you don’t forgive readily, you are telling him that His death was nice and all, but not quite enough. You want them to suffer a while first.
But, you may reply, they aren’t a Christian. Even better, Christ loved us, while we were still His enemies. We can’t be bitter and love at the same time. We pray that they will come to Christ and when they do, you know what, Christ’s death on the cross will be enough for them, without you having to hold their sin over them, making sure that they know how much they hurt you and how bothered you were. NOPE. Christ’s death was enough.
So, next time you want to give the silent treatment, withhold forgiveness, stay mad at something, or be bitter about something that happened, think about this. Do you really want to tell Jesus, “You know your death on the cross, it was nice and all, but it wasn’t enough, I need to get my licks in too.”?