Battling Bitterness

     In 1 Kings 2, King David is on his death bed having a conversation with his son Solomon, who will succeed him as the king of Israel.  David tells Solomon to kill a man named Shimei after He is gone.  Wow!  David orders a murder right before his death.  The backstory is that years before, there was a civil war in Israel.  Absalom, David’s son, led a revolt against him causing David to flee the capital.  On the way Shimei, came out and cursed David.   David’s men offered to kill him but David refused.  Later when David returned to power, Shimei apologized.  David promised to never kill him, but now sees the opportunity to technically keep his word by having his son exact revenge.  Disappointing!  In some ways, David was amazing, but here he exposes a real dark side.  I think David’s actions are a result of an unforgiving bitterness that he allowed to grow in his heart.   
      Have you ever held a grudge?  Is there an ex-spouse who broke your heart or a business partner who betrayed your trust?   Unforgiveness will morph into bitterness quickly.  So, how do we battle bitterness in our lives? 
     First, we choose to bless rather than to curse or strike back (Romans 12:14-21).  One of the greatest ways to bless a person who has hurt you is to pray for them.  Many find that when they regularly pray for a person who had wounded them, eventually they are able to forgive and even begin to desire the best for the offender. 
      Second, we learn from the examples of great forgivers.  I am challenged and inspired by the stories of Joseph of Genesis, Pope John Paul II, who forgave his would-be assassin; and Nelson Mandela, who forgave his apartheid oppressors.  These historical stories, along with the examples of people I know in my circle of friends, prod me towards offering forgiveness to those who have hurt me.
      Third, assume a posture of humility.  Be honest enough to admit that God has forgiven us often.  For me, the most compelling reason to forgive others is the fact that I am forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross.  Extend grace because we have been given grace. 
       Finally, trust God.  If justice needs to be exercised against a person who has wronged you, God will do it eventually.  I appreciate mosaic art.  It is where the artist takes broken pieces of glass and arranges them in a way to create beauty.  Trust that God, the ultimate artist, is taking the brokenness of your relationships and making something that is strikingly beautiful.
      In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable of the prodigal sons.  One son demanded his inheritance early and spent it on wild living.  Eventually, he repented and returned to his Father.  His father, who represents God, forgives him and throws him a welcome back party.  During the party, the older brother comes home and stews outside in bitterness against his foolish, younger brother.   The gracious Father goes out and invites the older brother to leave his bitterness behind and join the party of grace. The story ends abruptly, so we don’t know what the older brother chooses.  I think Jesus left it that way so we could write our own ending.  Will you stay outside and simmer in your bitterness or will you come inside and experience the celebration of grace.  Bitterness or Love, the choice is yours.  Choose love.

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church                

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