by Dave Hintz
With basketball season under way, I take a moment to ponder my brief career in the sport, and its abrupt end. During my eighth grade year, I tried out for the junior high basketball team. With thirty-two players vying for only thirty uniforms, we knew that cuts were coming. I wasn’t too worried, as I had been a decent bench player the year before, and I had a reasonably good tryout. The next day I went into the locker room to get our practice schedule and, of course, to make sure I had made the team. A sense of dread developed in the pit of my stomach as my eyes scoured the list: I could not find my name. The coach cut me. The other players’ consolation and surprise at the coach’s decision did little to comfort my wounded pride. As my heart filled with anger, sadistic fantasies of hurting the culprit crept into my thoughts. In my mind, the coach had wronged me; he had robbed me of something I deserved, and I resented him for that. Bitterness controlled me as I mentally murdered the coach several times over the next few years, and for some sick reason I found comfort in my grudge.
Eventually, the Lord rescued me from sin’s snare by changing my perspective, liberating me from the shackles of bitterness. First, He has provided me with an awareness of His awesome presence and revealed my own depravity and utter unworthiness before Him. In view of what my sin truly deserves, the Lord has helped me to see that, if we define being wronged as receiving ill that we do not deserve, I have never in my life been truly wronged. In fact, every time I think I have been wronged, I have actually been “righted” just a little bit, as I receive just a smidgen of the misfortune my sin has earned. Being slandered, gossiped about, deprived of a promotion, insulted, or cut unfairly from a basketball team are all like an under-heated sauna in comparison to Hell’s lake of everlasting, unquenchable fire.
Secondly, the Lord changed my perspective by helping me to realize that the effects of my bitterness reach far beyond myself. Hebrews 12:15 commands believers to “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” The Body of Christ has been purchased by Christ’s own blood, and the sin that nailed Jesus to the cross should not continue to tear apart His Body here. Bitterness is a sin that does great damage to the Body’s unity, utility, and testimony on earth. If you have grudges against other Christians, whether they left your fellowship throwing stones or slandered and maligned your reputation, you must not permit yourself to slide down the slippery slope of bitterness. We must bear in mind the infinite riches of God’s grace lavished upon us on account of His Son’s death on the cross, so that no matter the crime against us, we still have no basis for a grudge. Once we repent of this sin, we will discover that where our anger once controlled us, the love of Christ will now compel us to love those who have ‘wronged’ us with the same love God continues to show us.