Hebrews 12:15 (ESV)
15 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;
There are some scriptures that I keep returning to for they explain things going on in the world. They come to me in new applications as I read them again and again. Thus, it is with Hebrews 12:15.
I have wondered why the people with the most flaws are the quickest to point out the flaws of others. They have the most acerbic tongues, the most critical spirits and, often, have no basis for the castigation they fling on others.
I believe that somewhere they have failed to receive grace. This may have come from a degrading, over-the-top critical parent. It may have come from a long time of teasing because of their physical makeup, i.e. they had big ears, large nose, overweight, etc.. This refusal of others to offer grace has created a refusal in their own hearts.
They have developed a root of bitterness. The root springs forth new plants of criticism which denies grace and forgiveness. Every other person represents those who refused him grace at one time. Every other person receives his vile anger.
Meanwhile this person is longing for someone to give him grace. Yet, people do not commonly extend this grace to someone who is so critical. They have a great difficulty in complimenting and extending grace to someone who has had no grace for them. Then, the bitterness grows deeper.
The bitter person takes the personage of the devil. He steals the joy, kills the spirit and destroys whatever is going on. The bitter person comes to the business meetings of churches with this purpose in mind. He hopes that people will see how smart he is for pointing out the flaws in every idea. He is joined by the other critical people who pat him on the back. They do not realize that they have really joined with the devil to stop an act of faith by pointing out what was guaranteed or practical. Faith often lacks guarantees and practicality.
Bitter people are allows to rule because they bully the rest of the congregation. Most people don't want to come to church to fight. They want to fellowship, worship and study the scripture. They have too many struggle in their own lives to take on another fight. But the bitter people relish these opportunities to beat on others.
Bitter people flock to the church because no other organization would put up with them. The church members don't know what to do with them because they see themselves as those who must extend grace. The bitter people don't even recognize the grace which is being given to them. They believe their own strong personalities keep people from opposing them. And, yes, many times it isn't grace but fear that allows bitter people to go unabated.
Unfortunately, bitter people generally don't know they are bitter people. They can't see their criticism of others as harmful. They can't see their actions taking the personage of the devil.
There are two solutions and each of these requires a great deal of energy. One is to become the opposing voice to the critical spirits of bitter people It means standing strong during church meetings and giving solid reasons of faith why things need to happen. One must be careful in this response because it needs to be covered with grace rather than bitterness.
The other solution is to offer genuine grace to bitter people. These people live in fear of confronting their own flaws. Opposition keeps them from looking at themselves. Grace has an amazing effect. It can cause the coldest heart to turn to Jesus. Many a hardened criminal has become a spiritually sound person of grace after receive the grace of the Lord.
The solutions are not one or the other. They are both. The bitter people will either leave to terrorize another church or come to the grace of Christ. The former may happen but the latter is the goal of these solutions.
Make sure that even the bitter person receives grace. Grace has changed more hearts than anything else I have known.
Mary Poppins said it well: "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."