I’m in the book of Hebrews. I arrived last night on chapters 11 and 12 and stopped to reflect on these verses:
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. Hebrews 12:14-15, ESV
I heard these verses read once at the ordination of a friend and thought it a bit odd of all the texts that could have been read over him as a pastor. But, now, with the advantage of serving for nearly 20 years in a range of Christian ministry contexts, I better understand it. I now recognize the roots of bitterness that trip us up as we seek to sow peace, live in holiness and extend the grace of God always in all ways.
Context: these verses come on the heels of the chapter where we remember all the saints who have gone before us (Hebrews 11 ). Maybe you recognize the opening verses of the chapter where our verses in focus appear. Chapter 12:1-2 read,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
For those who fighting the good fight and run with endurance the race set before us, our footfalls matter. We cannot allow our feet to sink into the mire of the present generational debates and you must guard against getting tangled up in roots of bitterness.
Certainly there will be injustices, hardship, cruelty and disdain for YOU and the good you are seeking to do in ministry today as an Ambassador of the King and the Kingdom in the midst of the kingdoms of this world. No question about it. It will happen. Trouble is headed your way. And blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Jesus. In the Beatitudes he tells us to rejoice and be glad and to focus on the Kingdom where our reward is great. And then he reminds us of the same truth spoken in Hebrews, “for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
So, if today is a hard day for you as a follower of Christ, hear this: you are not alone, you are not the first, you will not be the last, and you must not allow your feet to get tangled up today in the roots of bitterness. God is good and He is the same yesterday, tomorrow and forever. Great is His faithfulness. Draw near to Him, run the race He has set before You and do so keeping your feet free of the roots of bitterness the world would have bring you down.