In my morning devotions, I read a familiar passage, and I didn’t realize two of the verses were actually in the same chapter. It starts with one of my favorite scriptures, then opens up into something I found very interesting.

Hebrews 12:14-17 (ESV)
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
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;
16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
17 For you know that afterward when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The writer is admonishing us to work hard, so we have peace with everyone. He uses the word holiness to remind us to be like God and separate ourselves from anything that isn’t like Him, which would include having peace with everyone. He then explains how important the grace of God is in our lives and that it is accessible for everybody.

What he says next I find very intriguing. He goes from the grace of God to the subject of bitterness and uses a term that no other writer in the Bible does. He calls it a root of bitterness. A root is something that lies beneath the soil and is unseen on the surface. However, if it’s a root, that means it’s producing from its own kind. Bitterness is defined as poison, therefore, if the root is poison, then everything it produces is too and whoever eats the fruit from it, will ingest the same poison.

The real danger with bitterness is, it doesn’t just affect the person that has it, but in time that individual could potentially affect everyone they influence. There are three ways a root of bitterness affects others.

1. Communication
2. Attitude
3. Relationships

The people we influence pay attention to what we talk about, the way we act, and how well we know them. These three areas can cause astounding things to happen when performed in a positive way. They can cause a business or church to become very successful. These are not just three good ideas; they are key principles to any organization. However, if just one root of bitterness springs up in a person of influence, it can create chaos and reek havoc. It’s brought down major companies and been the source of countless church splits.

In case you’re wondering exactly what bitterness is, after studying it and dealing with people who have struggled with it, this is my opinion.

Bitterness is an unresolved offense followed by anger that will eventually lead to hatred.

For anyone that has suffered a tremendous hurt, it’s important to make sure you’re not allowing a root of bitterness to grow in you. If you’re not sure, use the three words I mentioned and make a self-evaluation.

What do you communicate about with the people you influence?
How do you act around them?
How is your relationship growing with them?

I know this is a lengthy blog, but I have a few more things I’d like to share about this subject. I think the focus today is figuring out how far an offense has gone inside us. Are we over it or has it bothered us so long that a possible root has started to grow?

I look forward to continuing this tomorrow.

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