Bitterness is the hallowed record keeper and the scribe of every wound we’ve ever received. It’s the tenacious instigator that continually rips the scab of the spiritual scars that are freshly healed. Spiritual warfare is not just reserved for casting out demons or fighting off the fiery darts from the devil; it’s also reserved for battling our fleshly desires.
The oft-quoted Ephesians 6:12 reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
While Ephesians 6:12 is the Christian manifesto for spiritual warfare, it’s also a warning . Too often, I do want to wrestle against flesh and blood. My generation marinates in moral decadence, and as a young believer whose ears sting when he hears his peers mock God, I’m often tempted to delight in the fantasy of opening fire at people in a salvo of righteous indignation. Sometimes, I want to make it a battle of flesh-and-blood and debate every falsehood that I hear being tossed foolishly into the atmosphere.
It’s easy to be bitter towards the people who profane God and create these scenarios in your mind where you destroy them in a debate and rid them once and for all of their foolishness. However, I’ve found these imaginations in the mind do not exalt the name of Jesus Christ, because I make it about me being right instead of reflecting the glory of the Lord. That’s what bitterness does: it cripples every ounce of thanksgiving and love and instead, constructs a vain imagination of pride that sets you up on a throne of self-righteousness. In Christians, bitterness is especially dangerous, because it creates a hierarchy within the mind of people you want saved and then the people who you think don’t deserve to be saved. As anti-Biblical as these thoughts are, I would be foolish to believe this mindset is rare.
Bitterness also twists the gospel into perversion because it deceives us into a mindset where we think that Jesus died for us because we loved Him first. Romans 5:8 puts a dent in this mentality, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t die for people when they were waving their hands in worship or fellowshipping at Pastor appreciation day. He hung bloody on the cross whenever each of us were gleefully enthralled with perversion and tenacious in our rebellion. We were made worthy because Jesus qualified us. That means that everyone’s qualified (even though they may never accept salvation) and being a bitter Christian towards someone else means that you have labeled them unworthy of forgiveness and salvation.
There will be times where we want to get even and desire for people to pay for their blasphemies. We think it will feel so good if we can just beat the love of Jesus into people. We know that’s foolish, because those same people who confidently mock Jesus are the ones who desperately need him the most. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Every man and woman will have to give account for what they’ve done, so the plan of action for us is to plant the seeds of salvation in people. When Paul debated scripture in the synagogues and the streets, there were some who believed and others who thought he was an imbecile. Notice he didn’t get caught up in hatred for those that hated him, and we must do the same.
That’s why it’s critical to stay rooted and grounded in the love of Christ(Ephesians 3:17). People will want to wound you for merely loving Jesus, and that’s why God’s love can destroy the wounds. Don’t allow bitterness to tear them right open. This doesn’t mean we condone perversion and the sin nature as “celebrated differences” as some are apt to do, but we must not allow pride to label our worst enemies as “goners.” God had the authority to do that to all of us, yet He displayed the balm to bitterness: mercy. Yes, we must defend Biblical principles and push back against evil in our communities, but we must never wield the Bible as a bitter dagger rather than the Sword of the Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit behind our words that bring life, not our actions by themselves.
God gives us a free workshop on mercy in Luke 10:25-37. It’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan and we all know the story well. A Samaritan, considered inferior and looked down upon by the Jews, saves a beaten and unconscious Jew from certain death. We know it was a parable but the real question is, “Can we do that right now in real life?” Imagine a Jewish man caring for a wounded Hezbollah fighter on the side of the road, because that’s the kind of love that Jesus exhibited when he was put on the cross. He died because he knew that our hearts were black and cold, so don’t barbecue yourself in bitterness towards those who are in the pre-Christian phase. If you want to grill on something, chew on this…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5:43-48
Kevin Cochrane is a nineteen year old writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with ears to hear to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. The great pursuit of his life is to live by the words he writes and develop his character along with the prose he pens. For updates on his latest blog posts, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.