Bitterness: Intense antagonism or hostility. Resentful or cynical.
I have a crucifix hanging in my dining room. A daily reminder to me of what my LORD and Savior did some 2000 years ago. Now, I realize that some people have a thing against crucifixes. They maintain that we worship a risen Christ, not Christ crucified and that a crucifix focuses on a dead corpse, not the extraordinary miracle that came after. In other words, He is no longer on the cross, they say, so don't keep Him there...
But, I love my crucifix and no, I don't think it represents keeping Him there broken and seemingly defeated. I know exactly what happened on Sunday!
Today, as I am looking up to that cross, I am reminded not only of what Jesus went through, but of Jesus' behavior as He went through it. I'm reminded of the price He paid to atone for a people gone mad and I am reminded of His grace and mercy on those that made Him pay it. Specifically, I am reminded that despite the horrific treatment, despite the fact that His flesh must have just been screaming out, “Don't you know WHO you're messing with? Don't you get what you're doing?” He still hung there, without any bitterness, until it was finished (John 19:30).
Can you imagine, even for a split second, what it must be like for the Creator to be physically crushed and violently snuffed out by His own created? He tolerated their ridiculous trial, endured their beatings, withstood their mockery and watched them gamble for His clothes. I can't imagine how His flesh must have just roared. How much must He have been tempted to jump down off that cross, wave His arm over them in a great rage and just bring every last one of them down to their knees! How much should He have hated and despised them? Shouldn't He have been bitter?
But... He wasn't. He didn't hate and despise them. He loved them.
Instead of cursing them, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) and He took advantage of those last few moments to bring yet one other sheep home with Him (the thief on the cross next to His) (Luke 23:43).
Christ came to share in our humanity and to overcome sin and the effects of sin, including death. If He conquered death, the most horrific and final effect of sin, surely He conquered bitterness along with it. My crucifix reminds me of this. Though the world would tell us that we sometimes have every right to be bitter, Christ crucified shows us something different. It shows us the holy way.
Knowing this, how can we not search our hearts for any bitter root and ask ourselves - if God wasn't bitter on that cross, what right have I to be - as we take up our own crosses? Paul warns us in his letter to the Ephesians that all bitterness must be gotten rid of (4:31). Bitterness is a sin, even though our hearts may strain to justify it. As Christ followers, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to be purified of all sin.
Some of us have been so horribly wronged at the hands of another that we carry their sin, refuse to drop it and in due time find ourselves bitter and unforgiving. And in that bitterness, the sin of another becomes our sin. We must remember that while the evil of sin may prevail over some of our moments, it need not prevail over our lifetime. Jesus didn't meet His death at the cross, sin did. Sin wasn't resurrected on Sunday, Jesus was. Yes, the cross is where bitterness meets its death.
Let us respond to the evil of bitterness in the same way that Christ did. Let us find the strength in Christ to say, “Father, forgive them...”
Alive in Him and praying you are too,