A Word from the Word

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor [loud quarreling], and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
— Ephesians 4:31, 32

When you are mistreated, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, deliberately deceived, or otherwise wronged, what is your usual response? In light of these verses, what should be your response? It’s crystal clear, isn’t it? You should forgive just “as God in Christ forgave you.” And to what degree have you been forgiven by God? Colossians 2:13 answers: “He has…forgiven you all trespasses.

Plain and simple — we are to forgive. In Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive a brother who has “sinned against us.” The Lord’s reply was: “up to seventy times seven.” That paints a pretty clear picture, doesn’t it? Proverbs 11:17 also reminds us that when a man is merciful, it is good for his own soul!

But even though forgiveness is beneficial for us, there are times we just do not want to forgive, which results in bitterness as we are warned in Hebrews.

Pursue peace with all people…lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many are defiled.
— Hebrews 12:14, 15

The root of bitterness bears bitter fruit. Do we think we can hide our bitterness and just “grin and bear” the situation? We cannot. There is no freedom in a bitter soul. There is only freedom in forgiveness. Sooner or later it comes to the surface and strikes out at those in our lives. In fact, we are often blinded to the reality that we ourselves are poisoned by it.

The remedy to bitterness of spirit is to refuse to focus on our own hurts, repeated wrongs we have endured, or the personal pain we suffer through the deceptions and meanness of others. Rather, we must choose to focus on God’s grace. The same grace God has showered upon us, we should extend to others. We should forgive the undeserving in the same way we have been forgiven, putting away “all bitterness” and choosing to relinquish all feelings of resentment. Jesus is our supreme example — He is the only one who had every right to be bitter, but He chose, instead, to forgive.