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Summary: Families can often be shattered by pain and anger and bitterness. There's only one thing that heal those broken homes and fix what has been damaged by the abuse, neglect and selfishness that family members often inflict on each other. What is that?

POEM: If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours, if it doesn't, it never was. (Pause) But, if it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, takes your money, and doesn't appear to realize that you've set it free... you either married it or gave birth to it.

A family can be a wonderful thing. It can supply you with love and warmth and comfort… and a feeling of contentment and security.

But there are other times when families aren’t like that. Times when families are filled with pain, bitterness, and hatred. The Bible has many stories that tell of such conflicts in the home:

• For example, in the book of Genesis we read of Jacob. Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his inheritance and Esau got so furious about that he threatened to kill Jacob. And he would have too if Jacob decided it was a good time to go visit relatives. Jacob left home and didn’t return for 14 years… by which time his mother had died.

• Then there was Jacob’s son Joseph. Jacob loved this boy so much that his other 10 sons grew to despise Joseph. And one day, they when they got him alone, they beat the tar out of the boy, threw him in a pit, and then sold him into slavery. As far as they knew or cared he would probably die in chains in a foreign country.

• Then (of course) there’s the story of the “man after God’s own heart, King David. David became interested in the wife of one of his best friends, and committed adultery with her. His sinfulness in this sordid affair created all kinds of turmoil inside his family. Turmoil that plagued his family for a really long time.

• In the aftermath of his sins, one of David’s daughters (Tamar) was raped by her half-brother. In response, her brother Absalom murdered that half-brother in revenge for his evil act. And that’s just a sampling of the stories of troubled families in Scripture.

Now why would Scripture tell us stories like that? I thought the Bible was supposed to be a book of hope and encouragement. But stories like the ones I just mentioned… they’re a real bummer.

Well, the Bible tells us stories like that because the Bible is about real people. Real people who make real messes out of their lives… and real messes out of their families.

Today we’re going to be talking about the one thing that can heal broken homes. We’re going to be talking about the one thing that can take away the pain and the hurt and the bitterness. The one thing that can help us deal with the frustrations that so often cripples families.

And that one thing… is forgiveness.

You see, families are often torn apart because family members do stupid and mean and hurtful things to each other. There’s abuse, neglect, petty arguing, selfishness, (and on and on and on). And all those stupid, mean and hurtful things can cause us to become bitter.

God warns His people against bitterness. “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 12:15

Really? Why would bitterness cause me to be defiled? Why would it cause me to fail to obtain the grace of God?

(BOWL OF WATER) Here on this table is a bowl of water. This bowl represents your life. Notice how the water is fairly clear - you can almost see through it.

I read the story once of a counselor in Illinois ministered to children from divorced families and she noticed that these children constantly struggled with bitterness and anger about their divided families. One day she had all the kids in one room and she took a bowl half filled with water… and then she gave each child a vial of food coloring. She told them their food coloring represented their pains and angers toward their families. She instructed the children to squirt as much of liquid from their vials into the water as they felt represented their pain, anger and hurts.

(As I took various vials of food coloring and squirted into the bowl I said) Some would squirt in only a couple drops, others would almost violently put in as much as they could. Then they watched as the water turned black from the spread of the food coloring.

She drew the children’s attention to the fact that the once clear water was now entirely black. She asked “Do you know why it was so black? That’s because light can’t get through. This is what our souls look like when we let bitterness get hold of us. 1 John 1:5 says “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” When our lives are filled with bitterness and unforgiveness (she explained) God can’t shine through. He can’t penetrate a heart that is clouded with hatred, anger, and pain.

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