Focal Passage: Genesis 45:3-11
I love “The Andy Griffith Show.” I always get a kick out of the episode dealing with Aunt Bee’s pickles. She loved to make pickles, however they always tasted like kerosene. The faces of those who ate those bitter pickles always brings out the laughter in me.
Bitterness usually means having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid and unpleasant. It has come to refer to a very negative emotion, one that a person has from mistreatment by circumstances or people. Hebrews 12:15 warns about this: “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.”
Bitterness left unchecked will allow hurt and anger to grow until a person’s view of life is overshadowed by pain and resentment. It is destructive on all levels. It grows like a cancer in a person bringing about more harm to the offended, while often nothing to the offender.
In the Bible, we find the antidote for bitterness: forgiveness. The Greek word for forgiveness can mean, “to release.”
Not all persons in the Bible lived a life free from bitterness. Examples are given in the lives of Cain, Job, Esau, Joseph’s brothers, Naomi and Jonah to name a few. The scriptures show us that those who did not “release” suffered the consequences of other negative effects – rage, malice, envy, slander, hatred and even murder.
Joseph shows us (next to Christ) the epitome of forgiveness. As you study his life, he had every reason to develop the “root of bitterness” spoken of in Hebrews 12:15. However, when faced with his brothers in Genesis 45, he does not take retaliation against them, he welcomes and provides for them. He chose an attitude of forgiveness over bitterness.
When we display this attitude of forgiveness, we are displaying an eternal view, one that shows the world we understand how much God has forgiven us. One who displays this attitude is not ignoring the fact that they have been hurt. They recognize the pain, however they look at it through an eternal perspective. They seek to live each day as Paul challenged in Ephesians 4:31-32.