14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 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.
Cancer is a growth of abnormal cells that spreads uncontrollably with the potential to invade the entire body. Interestingly, the word cancer has a Greek origin, which means crab because of the crab-like tendencies a malignant tumor often shows in grasping the tissue it invades.
Did you know you that you can have a spiritual cancer? It’s called bitterness.
Bitterness disfigures healthy emotions, obliterates peace and strangles love and compassion. Left untreated, it always metastasizes. It will not only affect us, but our relationship with God and others, prohibiting a Christ-like example and joy in our relationships.
Bitterness occurs when we feel someone has taken something from us (such as with hurtful words) that we are powerless to get back. We hold on to the hurt to remind ourselves and others of the injustice. Unfortunately, holding on to bitterness only makes it grow. One writer has insightfully stated, “The acid of bitterness hurts the vessel it is stored in more that the one you want to pour it out on.”
Freedom from bitterness is found by embracing Christ’s example of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice of obedience, not a mere feeling. This is the holiness we are called to in verse 14. Without this holy behavior of forgiving someone, we won’t see the Lord working in the situation. Our God has provided this remedy of forgiveness—a spiritual chemotherapy that attacks those cells of bitterness leaving behind only healthy ones. When we choose to forgive, rather than be bitter, we experience what another writer stated—“Forgiveness sets the prisoner free, only to realize the prisoner was me!”
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Repeated doses of the reading and application of God’s Word transforms our minds and hearts (Romans 12:2), giving us the ability to forgive and live at peace with ourselves and those around us. This is holiness at work!
Is there a root of bitterness growing in your heart that needs God’s spiritual chemotherapy? Will you move forward in forgiveness the way Christ forgave you?