Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”
It’s pretty clear that mercy is a virtue that we have to hang on to and practice constantly. In fact, we need to wear reminders on a necklace, commit to memory what God says about it, and recite it often so we don’t forget. Otherwise, mercy can run away from us, taking truth with it, and leave us among some very hard companions.
Romans 1:28-31 lists some of the hard companions as those with a “debased mind.” Very ugly stuff. Look at the company that the unmerciful keep: wickedness, maliciousness, and murder to name a few. And wrapping us the list of nasties are “unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). When we show mercy to one another, we find mercy from God: “favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” Who wouldn’t want to find favor from God and men?
But bitterness tells us lies. We somehow think that we are punishing the one who wronged us, when we are actually destroying ourselves. Bitterness is unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful. I know people who have let bitterness destroy them, and I’m sure you know a few too. It is (sadly) not that uncommon. Bitterness is never satisfied. Even if the offender has been punished, it is never enough. Even if they went to jail, the bitter person wants more. Even if years go by, bitterness does not forget. It reviews, reviews, reviews. And bitterness embellishes the story, painting itself always in the good light (I am justified in feeling this way) and the offender in a worse and worse light, attributing motives, adding details.
Think about this: the bitter person gives the offender and the offense complete authority and power over his or her entire life. This allows the offense/offender to put its foot on your neck and hold you down, maybe for the rest of your life.
I’ve known people who were wronged and allowed the wrong to define their life and their history. That became their identity. They refuse to let it go. And this is what turns them into trolls. They let the old offense become shackles around their ankles. It becomes their whole story. They tell their story over and over again to anyone who will listen, but it never brings the healing or peace they so desperately want.
Bitterness wants vengeance. But God has declared that vengeance is His territory, not ours (Romans 12:19). Our duty is to forgive; God will take vengeance for us, but only if we have given Him room to do it. When we try to avenge, we are disobeying God and He will judge us for it.
Everyone in the world has been wronged by someone, sometimes terribly. But no one has been wronged like Jesus. He is willing to take all your bitterness, all your unmerciful, unforgiving, and vengeful thoughts to the Cross where He will put them to death and free you. Don’t let bitterness define you. Accept His offer of forgiveness and He will give you the means to extend it to others.