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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