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 12:15
Have you ever had someone you love turn on you and create such an offense that your immediate response was to retaliate in kind—to get even? Or have you ever been disappointed in someone’s reaction to something you did that you thought was pretty good and even biblical—only to have it so misunderstood that acrimony and firm resistance followed? Did you go away scratching your head? Did you go away determined to clear your name? Well, I think I can answer those questions for all of us. The answer is yes.
So welcome to the reality of our world and yes, for us believers, welcome also to the body of Christ and while we’re at it, watch out for the “bitter root,” that if allowed to grow will cause even more serious problems—even resulting in the defiling of our very souls. That, my friends can last for a long time—even to the grave if we’re not careful.
I’ll never forget the first sermon I ever preached. It happened to be on the verse above. I titled my message, “The Root of Bitterness.” As a rookie preacher I didn’t feel very good about what I had to say that day and I hardly got any response from anyone other than the obligatory, “Nice sermon, pastor.” That is, until two weeks later.
A lady who was there at my debut, came up to me before service and told me that she had that root of bitterness in her soul for over 25 years. It had to do with a best friend that she had a falling out with over an issue that she could hardly remember. They had not spoken to one another in all those years but she was so affected by God’s word on the matter that she traced down her friend’s phone number and called her to ask forgiveness. When she identified herself to her friend, she said all she could hear was weeping on the other end of the line for several minutes. As the conversation finally began and they both asked for forgiveness, the “root of bitterness” was yanked out by its fibrous tenacles and thrown away forever—and a past relationship was restored. But why did it take so long?
Having been there and done that myself, I am indebted to the following help from R.T. Kendall’s outstanding book, “Pigeon Religion: Holy Spirit, Is That You?” for this wonderful and easy to remember acronym, L. O. V. E., that you’ll want to apply on a regular basis.¹ Having practiced it, I promise it will cut down your offense time from months or years—to minutes. Believe me, it really works. Are you ready?
L — let be
O — overlook
V — become vulnerable
E — emancipate
Let be. This means to accept things as they are without complaining at what God allows to take place, including disappointment or bad news. Let it be. Leave it alone. Don’t try to change things or knock down a door that is suddenly closed to you or to justify yourself. Let God work for you.
Overlook. This refers to the behavior of sometimes rude, thoughtless people who may insult you or accuse you. Or even to those who may feel they have your best interests in mind and think you’re “out to lunch” on an issue. At first you feel like getting even by doing the same thing to them. But Jesus said to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). The Bible also says not to answer a fool according to his folly or you are as bad as he is (Proverbs 26:4). And remember this, they may not be fools at all!
Vulnerable. Become vulnerable. Be willing to look like a wimp. Don’t defend yourself. You don’t have to look strong. Let the mind of Christ govern you (Philippians 2:5-11). Be willing to become a nobody. Be willing to lose your reputation among your peers and others. But always remember this, “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). If you’re innocent He will take care of it—and He will also take care of your accusers as well (Romans 12:18-19)!
Emancipate. This is probably the hardest to apply. This means you say what it takes to set them free because if they are wrong about you, they will come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and be embarrassed. You will know it and so will they. Instead of saying, “I told you so,” let them save face and never mention the offense again. After all my friends, that is what God has done for us (Psalm 103:11-12)!
My wife and I have made this acronym into a little jingle that we sing to each other when we sense we’re being tempted to remember an offense, knowing that the devil wants us to turn it into a fresh wound again. It makes us laugh and once again we can exercise kindness, compassion and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
Maranatha! — Pastor Don Kimbro
¹ R. T. Kendall, “Pigeon Religion: Holy Spirit, Is That You?”, Charisma House, pp. 52-53.