There’s been some discussion lately about bitterness. I think this is a good conversation to have, and a timely one. My goal here is not to judge anyone for any bitterness they currently feel, but to provide some advice and encouragement to (a) make the decision to struggle against it, and (b) actually take active steps to do it. Why would you want to struggle against it? Because if you don’t, you will destroy yourself, not the other person.
Bitterness is not something to be messed with. It is a poison pill that will ensure a life of unhappiness for the person who lets bitterness grow in their heart, and will only encourage those who are the targets of their bitterness to justify their behavior. After all, if you’re the one with bitterness, you’re the one in the wrong, so they must be right. So goes their thinking. So if you’re feeling bitterness, this is the time to start pulling this weed up by the roots.
As I’ve shared before, bitterness was the life struggle my dad had after his Stanton experiences. The wife of his youth pledged her allegience to Merie and never turned back. I love my mom and am not bitter against her. She was deceived, as Eve was in the garden. But my mom made her choices, and has had to live with the consequences, including a strained marriage and strained relationships with her family.
But because of my dad’s loss of affection and loyalty from my mom, he became an angry and bitter person against her and against Merie. I saw it from a young age, and that was why I sided with my mom in defending Stanton, initially. I saw my dad as the angry and bitter person, since I hadn’t maturely processed what Stanton had done to him from the time I was 6 1/2 years old.Eventually, I understood it better, but in the meantime, his anger and bitterness nullified any “witness” he had in sharing the gospel with anyone. His bitterness impeded his marriage and his ability to share Jesus with a lost world who desperately needed to hear a message of hope, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Imagine his testimony had he been able to completely forgive what was done to him. Instead, his life couldn’t preach that message. This is no disrespect to him or his memory. I loved my dad in spite of this flaw, and he admitted his struggle with it.
Thankfully, I was able to see that example and its effect, and take a different course. The most productive way to combat bitterness, I realized, is to acknowledge that Jesus had far more right to be bitter than we have ever had. He was Emanuel, God made flesh. He created us, then become one of us. But his creation didn’t accept him, and they chose to crucify him. Can you imagine being persecuted and killed by your own children, whom you love and desperately want a relationship with?
So if Jesus could be mistreated and crucified by his own creation, yet willingly chose to forgive and set aside those feelings of bitterness and anger, then surely we can find a way to do so for the people who have wronged us. Wouldn’t that make this world a better place? That’s what Jesus came to Earth to exemplify for us. That is what it means to be Christlike.In fact, the real Christian God of love and forgiveness stands in stark contrast to the mythical Greek, Roman and regional gods and demigods of the ancients. Those deities were more human than divine. They had human traits, held grudges, engaged in power struggles, and started wars among humans for their own petty purposes. But our creator God, whose nature is identified as love itself, came down to live as one of us to show us how to live. He calls us to model his selfless nature and forsake our own selfish ones.
Doing so doesn’t simply mean to go to church every Sunday and attend every church function without fail. It doesn’t mean to “take counsel” from the rabbinical class of teachers/preachers/evangelists. It doesn’t even meant to follow all the doctrines and commandments of men that Stanton heaps upon their members.
What being a Jesus-follower does mean is following the pattern of how he lived. We speak truth, but love genuinely while doing so. It’s as simple, and simultaneously as hard, as that. Here are a few scriptures to help defeat the desire to harbor bitterness:
Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Hebrews 12:14-15 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 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;
Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Ephesians 4:26 – Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
James 1:19-20 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Proverbs 20:22 – Do not say, “I will repay evil;” wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
Romans 12:17-21 – Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Colossians 3:8 – But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Mark 11:25 – And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
It is completely understandable that people here who have been hurt by Stanton’s false doctrines, and had their families destroyed by them like my dad’s was, would naturally be resentful. How could you not, and be human? But take it from me, someone whose family was the first casualty of this sect–don’t live there.
Be angry, and sin not. Forgive, even as you have been forgiven. Only when we break the chains of our own bitterness can we be effective at helping our family members break their own chains binding them to Stanton.