Bitter Roots

The first step in defeating our enemies is recognizing them. Scripture tells us that God told Jesus He would “make His enemies a footstool for His feet” (Luke 20:43). I’ve often heard that verse quoted as a way for Christians to say, “Let God fight your battles”. But in this scripture, who is the enemy? If you read Ephesians 6, it says, “For we war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Christ’s enemies were satan and any spirit contrary to his.

When we talk about God fighting our battles, who are our enemies? So often, we attach the word “enemy” to a person who has hurt us, rather than attaching it to the sin and the spirit of a broken world. Our enemy is not our brothers and sisters in Christ, or even unbelievers. Our enemy is the same one Jesus faced and defeated.

When we are hurt by a fellow Christian, those scars sometimes affect us the most, because of the vulnerability in those relationships. But that doesn’t make them your enemy.

Here are three signs that we might be focusing on the wrong enemy:

  • We think their sin is worse than ours, and we can’t let it go.

Judas may have betrayed Jesus, but he’s not the only reason Jesus hung on the cross. We are.  It was our sins that kept him there. As Christians, we often talk about how He has forgiven our sins, but He also forgave us for putting Him on the cross in the first place. When we are unable to let go of something someone else did to us, we are essentially saying, “Their sin against me is worse than my sin against Jesus.”

What you can do: Remember what you were saved from. When we focus our minds on what Jesus did for us, instead of what someone else did to us, we are much more likely to be able to live in grace.

  • We pray against them or pray negative things over them.

Even when we don’t know we are doing it, we might be praying things as simple as, “Help them see where they have wronged me.” Praying condemnation or guilt over someone else is going completely against the very foundation of grace and doing the devil’s work for him. Karma is not what Jesus preached. You can pray for truth to come to light, but be prepared for that light to shine in your own dark places.

What you can do: Remember who you were saved by. Keep your focus on Jesus and think of how he prayed for those who hurt him. Even knowing that we would be the reason for his pain, Jesus prayed for us, the believers: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

  • We take joy in their failure or cripple their ministry.

After someone has hurt you, it’s so easy to find pleasure in their failures. If you’ve ever been fired from a job, you’ve probably also daydreamed about the whole place collapsing without you. In ministry, when someone has cut you deeply, it can be hard to still wish them success. You might actively attack them, or you might just find yourself telling others about the situation so that you can receive their comfort. When we portray other believers in a negative light, though, we hurt their ministry and we put ourselves in a place of opposition against God’s work. When any ministry crumbles, someone might not get to know Jesus.

What you can do: Remember what you were saved for. As Christians, we are meant to spread the Gospel. As His beloved children, our purpose is simply to give God glory. We need to edify and encourage each other, doing everything we can to show God’s love, both to unbelievers and to each other.

What it comes down to is this: If we believe our sins were covered on the cross, then we have to believe theirs were, too. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Bitterness is not only self-destructive; it also affects those around us. Rather than carrying around a spirit of offense or bitterness, we have to take our pain to the cross and leave it there.

8 thoughts on “Bitter Roots

  1. This one hit me hard haha. I struggle with the first issue. I’m a chronic grudge-holder, and I really think it stems from an issue of pride. Which is hard to admit because I’d never considered myself a prideful person! Thank you for reminding me that I need to focus on my own journey with God and redemption. It’s not my job to have an opinion of someone else’s journey.

  2. This was a really good read. I try my best to not hold grudges against people because in the end it is not going to make me feel better.

    1. Agreed. I think sometimes I hold grudges without realizing it, but then I’ll notice I almost cringe when their names are brought up. I think this will always be a work in progress.

  3. This is a great post. It is so easy to hold grudges, especially when we feel let down by another Christian. Maybe it is because I expect better of that person than another person on the street. I also think I struggle with thinking others think less of me. I have really tried to pray over this bitterness. Your post is helpful- thank you!

  4. Amen! This is a hard lesson! I’ve had to do some self reflection, recently. Change my heart towards a few people who have hurt me. This was a great word to read! Thank you!

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