“The Church is full of bitter people who have not gotten over their past.”
A guest preacher said the above statement this morning during my church’s service. Unfortunately, I found his words to be stunningly true. When you become a Christian, Jesus takes away your sin and shame. But it can be hard to let it go. This same attitude can take over how we look at others.
When others have hurt you, it an be even harder to forgive them. This is especially true when the people who hurt you claim to be Christians. Just as Christ forgives our sin, he calls us to do the same to others. While we don’t have to put ourselves in positions that we can be hurt again, we have to be willing to trust God with the offense and to move on. This is much easier said than done. We tend to think by forgiving others we are some how validating their wrong actions. But that is not the case. Forgiveness does not equal validation of a sin. Forgiveness means the wrong is being trusted to God.
If you don’t forgive, hurt can lead to bitterness. Although you would think that people would want to get rid of bitterness, strangely the opposite occurs most of the time. People get used to bitterness and become dependent on it. Bitterness becomes something that they don’t know how to live without. This attitude then follows them in their future relationships.
American churches are full of bitter people who put on a happy face for Sunday services. Then they release their bitterness through conversations and actions throughout the week. Many times they are completely unaware of the poison they spew. I should know. I have fought bitterness, disillusion and frustration in my life, including my experiences in the Church. Truth be told. I still fight it from time to time.
A good friend and spiritual mentor once said to me, “Chaille, you will discover that your greatest joys and hurts take place in Church life.” I think this godly man is right because we expect so much more from Christians than those who don’t know God. But if we are honest, we should realize that the only one who we can really trust to do it right all the time is God not His kids.
Bitterness gets in the way of our freedom and release. It keeps us prisoner, not allowing us to move forward with our lives. It keeps us from trusting in the future and robs our relationships of intimacy. Bitterness makes us bound more tightly with each passing day. In forgiving others, we discover that we are the ones who become free.
The preacher this morning said that we should get over our bitterness and hand it to God. He also said that our pain and our scars help make us who we are and can be used to help others. He pointed to the many men and women of the Bible who experienced God’s saving power through their pain and scars. It is interesting that when Jesus rose from the dead His disciples recognized Him by the scars on His body. Jesus was known by His scars. The same can be said of us. Those scars can become something useful or just a painful reminder of our past that haunts our present.
Are you bitter? Who is that one person that you still bristle every time you hear his/her name? Who do you tend to blame for your greatest hurt?
You can either choose to be bitter or better. The choice is up to you.