I often wondered what “Be angry and do not sin,” meant. I hate feeling angry. I don’t like me when I’m angry. But sometimes rage just rises up and I don’t know what to do with it.
Sometimes anger flares up over seemingly trivial things, and I’m embarrassed by it. It’s like some poor soul accidentally stepped on a buried land mine from a forgotten war. I thought I had dealt with that, but I guess there was still something nasty there.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is like a shockingly annoying siren screaming that something is wrong. A shameful weakness or secret is about to be exposed, or somebody is demanding something I don’t want to part with, or something is removing my ability to choose how I will spend my time or resources. Sometimes the anger looks like righteous indignation on behalf of another person, often a child, but that’s because an incident triggers a memory of past hurts when no one seemed to notice or care about me either.
Anger can be an agent of grace when it signals an area that is still infected and still needs healing. Anger is an agent of grace when it motivates change for the better. It’s like the engine light flashing on the dashboard of the car. We don’t always know what’s wrong, or how to fix it, but we know it needs attention.
The problem with not attending to the real issue is that after time anger begins to congeal and solidify into bitterness. Bitter people are hard people. The Bible calls them stiff-necked, because they become stubborn in their resentment. Any endeavour we embark upon that has bitterness at its root is bound to produce bitter fruit. The quality of the fruit is dependent on the quality of the seed that is sown and the type of tree that grows from that seed.
We have a tree in our garden that starts off beautifully every spring. The blossoms that completely cover this plum tree draw attention from passers-by. It looks marvelous! But this time of year it draws complaints (especially from me) as it drops its inedible fruit and attracts vermin that don’t seem to mind its bitterness. I was just out there sweeping more bitter plums as they rolled, like on-top-of-spaghetti meatballs, down the sidewalk and onto the street.
Jesus warned his disciples about false prophets who would show up like ravenous wolves. They would look good at first -just like the other harmless sheep, but eventually their true nature would become evident. He said we could identify them by their fruit.
The fruit of bitterness shows up in words, bitter words. Anger leaves room for hope of change. Many crusades for justice in the world have been triggered by anger toward an incident that causes people to unite, rise up and say, “No more!”
Bitterness says, “What do you expect? It’s always going to be this way. They have all the power and influence. I am a perpetual victim of injustice. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer. It’s hopeless and God is either impotent or complicit in the whole thing,” or, “People are not obeying the rules! They should not be getting away with this. I’ve had to obey the rules all my life and nobody has ever rewarded me for it. But that’s way it goes, I guess.”
The bitter “prophet” loves to point out what is wrong, but cannot offer hope for change. They might talk about “should” but they have a harder time talking about “how.” They cling to the deeds of the law even though they resent the law themselves. Galatians says these are some of the fruits of that thinking: enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions and envyings.”
These are the things that cause people, some of them with great reputations who have been entrenched in churches for years, to reveal ravenous aggressiveness that would devour those who live in hope of changing into the likeness of Jesus Christ. They have lots of words to offer about why something won’t work, and what’s wrong with anybody who follows God zealously and does things differently, but they have few words of encouragement that urge the next generation to stretch and to pursue a relationship with God that goes farther than we have gone or to see greater works than our generation has seen.
Sometimes it’s the very folks who tell us they are the shepherds guarding us against all possible heresy who themselves attack the sheep with harsh words, criticism, gossip, disputes and slander. (And like ravenous wolves they tend to join up in packs and go after prey bigger than themselves.)
Our words need to be full of the same grace we have received from God. We need to give people room to grow and not condemn those who are still learning and not yet perfect. We need to gently correct with a humility that comes from willingness to be transparent about our own struggles, and build up and equip those coming behind us to be greater in the kingdom than anything we have imagined. Only by letting go of our own disappointments and bitterness through forgiveness, only by entering God’s presence through gratitude and praise for all His goodness, only by letting his healing light reveal those dark corners where hidden time-bombs of shame and pain and guilty secrets still lurk -and bringing them to Jesus for healing- can we be kind, tender-hearted, encouragers full of love.
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:26-32)
9 thoughts on “Bitter Fruit”
excellent writing !
Thank you, girlwiththepen.
Good thoughts 🙂
we need His grace not to sin in our anger i believe… He is faithful He will help us not to sin as that is what He desires for us also…
Wow, do I ever need His grace. You are so right, Cecille.
our Father is right as He promised in His word… all of us need His grace… but when we sin we are only to confess and He promised to forgive us… again it is by His grace that we will not abuse His goodness, mercy and understanding…
I much appreciate this word, sister, particularly your last paragraph: “Our words need to be full of the same grace we have received from God. We need to give people room to grow and not condemn those who are still learning and not yet perfect. We need to gently correct with a humility that comes from willingness to be transparent about our own struggles, and build up and equip those coming behind us to be greater in the kingdom than anything we have imagined. Only by letting go of our own disappointments and bitterness through forgiveness, only by entering God’s presence through gratitude and praise for all His goodness, only by letting his healing light reveal those dark corners where hidden time-bombs of shame and pain and guilty secrets still lurk -and bringing them to Jesus for healing- can we be kind, tender-hearted, encouragers full of love.”
Amen. “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient (forbearing)…”
I had a song by one of my favourite singers, Vittorio Grigolo, in my head this morning. The words were in part, “Leave tomorrow in the hands of love…. is there any sense in fighting fire with fire?” If we take time to listen to Holy Spirit before responding we may find ourselves saying or doing the opposite thing from the way we first wanted to react.
These blogs are really sermons to myself, but if anyone can relate, I am so glad.