Summary: The moment you’re offended you have a choice. You can choose to forget it, or to hold on to it. When you choose to hold on to it, a bitter root begins to grow.
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do people have difficulty getting along with one another?"
How can people whose families have lived together as neighbors for a thousand years start killing each other? Why would Serbian gunners fire mortar shells into a bread line to kill women, or snipers shoot children playing in a soccer field, or Croatians ambush a UN relief caravan? Why in the world do people behave that way?
But it is not just on the other side of the world. Terrible things happen in our community, too. What would cause a mother to hire a hit man to kill her teenage daughter’s ex-boyfriend? Why is there such hatred even within members of the same family?
B. If I were to answer that question briefly, I think that the primary cause would be the "bitter root" spoken of in Hebrews 12:15. Listen as I read that verse to you.
It says, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God & that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble & defile many." That is an important passage of Scripture, & it is given as a warning to us.
It begins by saying, "Be careful that you don’t miss the grace of God." Now I think our ears ought to perk up whenever we’re warned that we might lose the grace of God, & careful attention paid to what is being said.
Then it says, "The reason is because it’s possible for a bitter root to grow inside of you." The picture is of a plant that sinks its roots deep into your soul & life. But it is a bad plant, a bitter plant, a weed plant that becomes a consuming cancer that literally cripples you so that you can’t function as you ought in life.
Every day of life presents opportunities to be offended. It may be something as innocent as someone on the highway not giving you the right of way. It may be something serious like harsh & cutting words that really hurt you deeply. It may be quarrels within a family. It may even be a church that you feel is insensitive to your needs.
C. Now the moment you’re offended, you have a choice. You can choose to forget it & go on with the business of living, or you can choose to hold on to it. When you choose to hold on to it, a bitter root begins to grow, & as it grows it begins to consume you. This "bitter root" is a very serious matter.
D. Now turn with me to Ephesians 4:32. This is a passage on forgiveness. If you master what Ephesians 4:32 says, you’ll never have problems with the bitter root. It says, "Be kind & compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Now what is the difference between bitterness & forgiveness? Forgiveness means "I let go of my anger. I relinquish my right to retaliate." Bitterness means "I hold on to my anger. I refuse to let it go." And the bitter root begins to grow & spread until it cripples every facet of our life.
I. THE BIBLICAL IDEA OF FORGIVENESS
A. Now with that in mind, let’s look at the Biblical idea of forgiveness, the forgiveness that God proclaims.
In fact, the 18th chapter of Matthew is devoted pretty much to that subject. But let’s skip over the first part of the chapter & go straight to the familiar parable that begins in vs. 23.
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he & his wife & his children & all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,’ he begged, & I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt & let him go" [Matthew 18:23-27].
B. Now let’s stop there for a moment & realize that what is being described here is God’s forgiveness. Jesus is using hyperbole, an exaggeration in the amount of money. Ten thousand talents would be equal to several million dollars today, an impossible amount for a servant. But somehow he owes it.
And Jesus is using the picture of this great debt to represent the great debt that you & I owe to God.
The servant can’t pay the debt, & neither can we. But when the man pleads for mercy, God erases the debt. That’s the way God forgives you & me.