BREAK THE POWER OF BITTERNESS

Bible Reading: James 3:13-18

Yesterday we saw something of the anger and bitterness of the elder brother towards his younger brother. In Hebrews we read, “… looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many became defiled” [Hebrews 12:13]. Bitterness is both divisive and destructive.

Back in the 1960s and based at Cliff College, I was a young home missions evangelist of the Methodist Church. Together with another evangelist, we conducted a three-week mission in a Methodist Church in a town in the West of England. It was hard work, and the people were totally unresponsive to the preaching of the gospel night after night.

On the last day of the mission, the minister of that church shared with us his disappointment at the lack of fruit during the mission. He told us that he longed to see the church united and explained that more than 30 years earlier, two women in the church and fallen out over a minor matter. They were both still in the church but had not spoken to each other for all that time. The people who supported one of the women sat together with her on one side of the church aisle, and those who supported the other women sat on the opposite side of the church. Sadly, it was not just the two women who did not speak to each other but the two groups of people as well. This issue had continued for more than three decades and had not only divided individuals but also divided families. Here was disgrace in the place where love was supposed to be pre-eminent.

We spent the rest of that day in prayer, praying for these two women and these two groups of people and asking God for a breakthrough in the final meeting of the mission. As we sang the closing song in that final meeting, one of the two women responded and knelt at the communion rail. The atmosphere was electric and deeply moving as the other woman came and knelt with her, and they wept and sought forgiveness of one another. Then the supporters of each of the women came and began to confess their wrong, to pray, and to hug one another. It was a breakthrough moment when bitterness, anger and grievance were melted at the foot of the cross, and it was the beginning of a new work of God’s grace in that church. Remember that the opposite of bitterness is sweetness!

Questions: 

Why do you think it takes so long for people to let go of their bitterness and grievances?

What does James 3:13-16 say about bitter envy and self-seeking? What are the characteristics of wisdom from above, stated in James 3:17-18, that are pleasing to God?

If you have anything in your heart against anyone, will you forgive them and seek to be reconciled to them and to be peaceable?