When we carry a bitter spirit in our hearts we are guilty of unbelief. Being bitter means we do not believe God can or will adequately dispense justice in the world. So we harbor an unforgiving spirit; we angrily and continually view our adversaries as enemies. This bitterness eventually obliterates our joy and poisons everyone near us. Our unwillingness to forgive even blocks our access to God’s forgiveness, for the Lord will not forgive those who distrust his ability to exercise his right to be the judge of all the earth. But God has communicated many promises that beautifully present the joys of a gracious, forgiving heart. These will help us fine tune our faith when we’re struggling to let go of a grudge.
Let all bitterness … be put away from you along with all malice, and be kind to one another: tenderhearted, giving grace to each other, just as God in Christ also has been gracious you. Ephesians 4:31–32
“In so far as it is possible, be a peace with everyone you know.” Total commitment to good relationships is what the Doctor orders. He orders it, and he has shown us what is involved in such a life by living it himself. We must put away all bitterness so we can have the same joy in relationships the Father now enjoys with those of us who are “in Christ.” This means all bitterness. A little leaven leavens the whole lump; a little bitterness taints the sweetness of our attitude toward someone who has hurt us, and makes tenderheartedness impossible. It’s impossible to overflow with joy when our hearts are contaminated with unresolved anger. However, we can put away the pain we feel and the revenge we desire, because God promised to accomplish his justice through Christ; because we will experience the joy of not having an enemy; and because we will expand the fullness of our forgiveness by extending it to others—forgiving another’s hurt clears room in our hearts to cherish God’s grace to us and to see how complete it is as we extend it beyond ourselves.
Gracious and forgiving Father, cause me to treasure the grace you have extended to me. Help me let go of all the pain I have cherished from the hurts of others, so I can be full of the joy of your mercy to me in Jesus.