The Poison of Bitterness Within Us

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. Eph 4: 31-32 ESV

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7: 12 ESV

There is a strange ethic today, one of disrespect. It springs from a demand for respect. It’s a tunnel vision respect–a one way street. Yet it goes in two directions.

It’s a mentality that says, “I don’t have to respect you because you don’t respect me. Or my cause. Or the ax I am grinding today. Or [fill in the blank].” It doesn’t matter if you lean left or right in your politics. If you reject faith in God or hold to it. There are two roads of discourse and only those who agree are allowed on a highway.

It’s hard to pinpoint when it all began. Perhaps it was some time after a president advised us to, “Ask not what your country could do for you.” That difficulty of finding a starting point would indicate a gradual slide into the morass of accusations, name calling, and violence.

We have to admit, we have done it to ourselves. As affluence rose, faithfulness fell. That includes faithfulness to grace and civility among those who name Christ as Savior.

Our children learned evolution, that we are just an animal species, not the image of God. Judeo-Christian principles became a foreign language.

Children of the left and right alike embraced the new freedom–sexual license and freedom from responsibility–and the wounds that come with them. Such an embrace of sin leads to a stumbling into another sin snare, obnoxious self-righteousness.

Remember the conversation on social media over the US Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision? Christians and others of like conscience would not have to pay for abortion inducing “birth control.” The “opposition” was most unreasonable in its insistence that conscience should not determine what services women are “entitled to.”

The argument heightened when Dobbs overturned Roe.

On the other side, “our side,” David Aikman discussed the reaction of Christians to an atheist book. Believers became “self-appointed attack dogs of Christendom. They seem determined to savage not only opponents of Christianity, but also fellow believers of whose doctrinal positions they disapprove.”

“The attacks, moreover, are not reasoned or modestly couched criticism, but blasts of ire determined to discredit beyond redemption the targets of the criticism.”

We’ve forgotten we are to love our enemies. We’ve lost our ability to disagree reasonably, to engage in civil discourse.

We have more than two options. Instead of caving to unbiblical demands or responding with anger and name-calling, we can speak truth calmly and with reasoned argument.

We have the truth on our side. Using venom in our response will not win over others. It simply passes the poison down to the next generation only partly by our example.

For children on both sides, we boosted their self-esteem. We encouraged unhampered self-expression without requiring effort, accomplishment, and compassion for others.

We overspent on comfort and luxury. The government overspent. When the crash of 2008 came, many–least of all the government–did not curb spending. Personal debt is nearly as high as it was then. Our national debt has “surged” to previously unimaginable heights.

We have created monsters of entitlement. They are ourselves. There is a material sense of entitlement. But there is also a sense of entitlement to be obnoxious.

Christians are as guilty as anyone. Guiltier yet, because to be obnoxious is to be disobedient. And there is a crop to harvest from all this obnoxious, entitlement thinking.

New US Senator JD Vance correctly understands that Americans “look to the future more with frustration and fear than with hope and optimism.”

A Gallup poll supports that view. American’s have a “mostly gloomy outlook for the U.S. as majorities predict negative conditions in 12 of 13 economic, political, societal and international arenas.”

No wonder we’re cranky.

Perhaps our venom is inevitable. The economy aside, there had to be a point where more comfort and a higher quality of life, would be unattainable. There is a saturation point to luxury and pleasure. We’ve surpassed it and are reaping its results.

A primary result is that we stopped being grateful for what we have. We’ve grown to expect more. We expect to get and keep what we enjoy. And that it should never be threatened. We’ve convinced ourselves the party will never end.

As our personal kingdoms totter, we become bitter, angry, even afraid. Our sense of self-regard has toppled regard for our neighbor.

Shouting at him seems okay now.

We had so much to lose, we lost our very selves.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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21 Replies to “The Poison of Bitterness Within Us”

  1. A “reactionary world.” The best way I know to describe this world today. Note, my friend, I did not say “our world”, as I acknowledge that though I am traveling through it, I cannot and do not claim it as home. My home awaits me and is being prepared. And even though I don’t claim this world, I have a responsibility to leave it better than I found it. As you so aptly point out, I’ve failed miserably. “We have done this to ourselves” rang loudly in my heart this morning as I read your truth-filled post. We have indeed become a world of “polar opposites” with seemingly no middle ground in which we seek to find what is common. In ways, it seems Satan has succeeded in his plan to divide this world and pit us against one another. Sadly, he’s even accomplished this in the church. My greatest sadness comes from recognizing that mine is the generation that allowed all this to happen. Rather draw that line in the sand of morality, we have constantly erased and moved the line more and more with each passing year. To the point that we find ourselves painted into the corner with no escape. My greatest lament, I think, is when I am rescued and brought home by my Savior, I will have to stand in judgment and accept the loss of reward for all the times when I “moved the line” rather than “toe-ed the line.” Well done ma’am.

    1. Amazing metaphor, JD. We all need to toe the line of standards–unchanging measures–rather than embracing values–moving lines of worth. Thanks and God bless!

  2. I got shivers reading this, Nancy. You are SO RIGHT. “Our sense of self-regard has toppled regard for our neighbor. Shouting at him seems okay now. We had so much to lose, we lost our very selves.” This breaks my heart for it is absolutely true. Our pride tops our regard for others. We don’t respect the other, the elder, anyone really… and yet respect for others shows respect for the Lord.

  3. Your message is a great reminder of how far this world has turned from God. Today, the “me first” mentality is causing harm in every moment. We need to put God first in all situations.

  4. What an article, Nancy! This captures the current state of our nation. We probably haven’t had morals fall to such a low at the same time that our values seem to be under serious attack. We need to hold fast to our Christian values, teaching them to our children, holding to our faith in God, and to the importance of prioritizing our families

  5. Without commitment to the Lord and a solid Christian faith we would be cast about in all kinds of confusion. By the grace of God, we can strive to be good citizens, showing compassion for one another, and having a willingness to help others and to respond to the need for help from our neighbors. This calls for Christ-like behavior.

  6. Holding tightly to our Christian values of care for the poor, loving our neighbors, and protecting and instructing our children, will help us to get through this dark time when drugs are rampant, families are harmed by the poisons coming across our border, and no one seems aware of what is right and what is wrong. God help us!

  7. We’ve forgotten that the human beings on the opposite side of our positions are people just like us with families they love and jobs they strive to keep. They have also gone through our high inflation and our rising gas costs. And yet, we often forget all this and assume a harsher tone when attacking the values of others rather than treating them like fellow human beings living in during a hard time. State the truth, but say it with love and respect to the other human being, who is made in God’s image talking to us.

    1. Those are important ideas and suggestions, Melinda. We have to show grace to others who may be struggling in ways we don’t understand. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Thanks and God bless!

      1. I’m sorry I ended up with four comments. Your post impressed me with the difficulty of the situation our nation is in. There were so many things to address, and you wrote such an excellent piece! Thank you for always saying the hard things.

  8. People don’t know or have lost sight of who the enemy is. In the garden, the serpent began to sow division and disrespect, “Has God really said?” He is at it still.

  9. I want to scream Amen, Amen and Amen until I realize that I’m part of the problem too. I’m praying for God’s grace to forgive me (and all of us) and to turn my heart back to Him so I can love like Him.

    I think many of us forget to examine our own hearts and how we’ve added to the problem. God forgive us and heal us.

    Thanks Nancy

  10. “We’ve forgotten we are to love our enemies. We’ve lost our ability to disagree reasonably, to engage in civil discourse.” Today as we remember the great love our Lord has for us that He went to the cross for our sins, we should remember that we are called to love others as He loves us. We each can make a difference.

  11. Nancy, this phrase is so powerful and struck a chord with me, “we can speak truth calmly and with reasoned argument.” So many times, believers do not consider this stance. And what we see when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus? He never compromised truth to love others, not one time. He never conveyed truth in a brow-beating way.

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