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. Hebrews 12, verse 15.
A bitter root: what is that?
The media is a bitter root. Left wing or right wing: the purpose of today’s media is to get ratings because getting ratings equals profit. Yes, this is an opinion, yet what is fact is that the media’s opinions, which is most of what they report now, cause trouble and defile many. Like it or not, it is true. Perhaps it has always been true.
Celebrities are a bitter root. Been paying attention to the NFL controversies these last few weeks? What about celebrities on the Emmy Awards (or any awards show) expressing their opinions instead of just their thanks? I have enough trouble living up to God’s standards on my own: I really don’t need or want celebrities pointing out how superior they are. They’re bitter.
Angry opponents are a bitter root. I’ll lump in disagreeable relatives into this category. The aunt or uncle or grandparent who spouts off their comments causes trouble. The folks protesting the removal of Confederate monuments – and more than a few of those in favor of keeping them – cause trouble and defile many. Name whatever ‘hate’ group you want and you’ll find they are a bitter root. Indeed, perhaps all social media is ripe soil for bitter roots.
But most of all, I’m a bitter root. You are a bitter root. I cause trouble with my words, even when I say some of them to heal. I defile many by being argumentative, contentious, and combative. I cause trouble and defile many with my pride that I carry to extremes. You know, too, that when I’m judgmental I’m misusing God’s grace. Isn’t it true that, when we judge others, gossip, or look down on others, our motives for doing so are almost always based in some kind of selfish thing? And that it feels bitter? There is no judgmental coldness of the heart in God’s soul-warming grace. “Judgy” words and attitudes, anger, selfishness, pride, arrogance, condescension: they’re all fruit grown from bitter roots.
All this happens because we’re short of the grace of God. God gives His grace to us no matter what we do, even when we cause trouble and defiling. But I set myself against His grace when I set myself up above Him. I have chosen to fall away, to alienate myself from Jesus. Today’s verse hails from Deuteronomy, translating it into advice that fits into the context of chapter 12. Moses commanded the Israelites to not let anyone spring up as a root that would grow and produce poison. If you think about it, whenever we actively move contrary to Jesus, we reject His grace and choose to spout poison. Sin is poison; it destroys and kills. It is vile and defiles God’s grace. Just one verse ago, God was imploring us to be holy and live in peace with others, knowing that apart from Him there is no peace possible. Have we truly considered that, when we fall away from God’s grace, we are moving ourselves just a little bit further away from that peace and holiness?
But let’s take heart in the words that begin this verse: “see to it.” If we choose to embrace sin, we can choose to reject it. We have each other, fellow believer, to encourage each other, to fellowship, to build each other up. When you’re feeling weak, I can be there to see to it that you don’t fall. I’d love your help when the same thing happens to me. We don’t have to live our lives mired in these sins. Jesus took them away and we don’t need to keep coming back to them; we don’t need to be fools for the world. God’s grace is given to us to build us up, to bring us closer to Him. One way we do that is by ‘seeing to it’ that none of us, by our choices, positions ourselves away from God by planting in the dirt as bitter roots.
For further reading: Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 3:12, Deuteronomy 29:18, Proverbs 26:11.
My Lord, keep me accountable to you through the fellowship of other believers. May I reject being a bitter root and become closer to you through the fellowship of other believers.