Pastor's Corner




Read: Hebrews 12:15

             There is a truth which says “suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3-5).  Yet at the same time we know people who have experienced suffering or sickness and have become bitter rather than better due to the experience.  Bitterness is a non-Christian virtue. (Ruth 1:20-21). There are people in the church who have been left bitter and still are bitter as the result of a hard fought trial which left them bruised and hurting (Hebrews 12:15).  Hebrews 12:15 is one of the few verses in Scripture which addresses this issue of being bitter.             

             When the Bible mentions having a bitter root and get rid of it if you have one, it touches on and refers to “missing” the grace of God. Not having the Grace of God means one fails to give their hurt/pain to God, humbling oneself before God allowing Him to lead us through the hurt instead of trying to fix it ourselves.  In a sense, the bible says that bitterness defiles a person.   Naomi (Hebrews 12:15) became bitter after her husband died.  Because of bitterness some people never learn to love and trust again.  Therefore, all interaction between other people may become fake and insincere. They are afraid to trust and love again.  When we have not the truth and grace of God within us, we cannot be truly honest with ourselves and others.  Being bitter can cause one to lie to oneself and be dishonest with others.  This is so because we have no grace of God operating within us so as to lead us to being honest and truthful.  We hide our hurt.

             A frequent interpretation of this verse is that it simply warns against bitterness or “bitter root judgments.” Since the term “bitter” appears in the verse and all of us know someone who have for some reason or another to become bitter.  We have witnessed within ourselves and others bitter attitudes which have flowed out of our lives and placed the judgment upon others which resulted from such bitterness - like poison seeping out of a festering wound.  And when we spit our poison at others, we often block these good people from good things God has for them.  Just think about the blessings which could come to others if blessings are given instead of bitterness.

         The context of the passage in Hebrew 12 is that of holding onto one’s faith in spite of the difficulties.  Where commitment has grown weak, it is to be strengthened; the lame in the community are to be healed; level paths are to be made for their feet (Hebrews 12: 12-13).  The level paths from Proverbs 4:27 are the ways of holiness without which no one will see God. (Hebrews 12:14).

        We see the warnings from bitterness: Esau, an irreligious man, had an inheritance and lost it, being unable afterward to regain what he had sold.  Israel was disciplined severely at Mt. Sinai for her disobedience, but the Christians to whom Hebrews is addressed have come to an even more glorious place and therefore will be so much more severely disciplined if they reject God. 

             Verse 15 we see this interpretation fits.  The phrase “bitterroot” is an Old Testament allusion being similar to the Old Testament Greek phrase in Deuteronomy 29:18 we read, “Make sure there is no (person) among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”  In short, the author is saying-to miss or fall short of the grace of God is the equivalent of turning away from the Lord in the Old Testament.  Simply put, it means apostasy, turning away.  This apostasy can lead others away from the church.

             Bitterness is not good.  It is a form of anger, which is allowed to smolder for a long time.  See Galatians 5:20, James 1:14, 19.  Bitterness leads to apostasy.  If bitterness is not good, apostasy is devastating.  It means missing the grace of God and coming into judgment before God which is a “consuming fire.” Bitterness cannot be tolerated in the church.