The Bitter Root Of Revenge

In the Bible, we encounter the strange phenomenon referred to as "a
root of bitterness" (Hebrews 12:15)

- a threat the Bible tells us to be wary of. The
New Testament admonition that we are to guard against this disease of
the heart should be taken seriously, for the text flatly tells us that
it is through this malady that "many be defiled."

This condition would have to be considered but one of the many "fiery
darts" aimed at our hearts that the scriptures so sternly caution us
to defend against. At the same time, another weapon the enemy has in
his arsenal is the desire for revenge. In fact, one of the most
commonly quoted reproofs among believers is that oft repeated verse
"vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19).

Because Satan is the source of the evil that emanates
throughout this corrupt age, we would certainly expect that during the
spiritual warfare that Christians see on a regular basis, he will
occasionally combine his weapons of assault. Thus we find the
ungodly desire for vengeance is commonly coupled with the bitterness
of spirit that grows from such a root of iniquity. In its most extreme
form, this hideous hybrid of unrighteousness can blossom into a
full-blown obsession.

The prophets teach us that at the end of the age, "the transgressors
[will] come to the full" (Daniel 8:233)

- a powerful indicator that such desolate
conditions will become more and more intense as the last day
approaches. As one that is in the spiritual trenches of the battle for
the hearts and minds of this "adulterous and sinful generation"
(Mark 8:38), I have personally seen this phenomena destroy more
than one professed believer in JESUS CHRIST.

The setting for such tragic conflict can be found at your place of
work, your home, fellowship circle, or a variety of other locales.
Friends, family, and even spouses can become the opponents that slide
into this treacherous cycle that can destroy your spirit, your mind,
and even your body.

A few anecdotal accounts might help to clarify how to counter such
tactics that are launched at the last day's Christian. Some years
back, my wife and I closely observed a stomach churning battle with a
divorcing Christian couple that were friends of ours as they fought
over an expensive piece of property. Although the terms of the split
had specified an equal distribution of assets, upon disposal of the
property the woman had somehow worked it out that the final split
should be 60-40

- with her unfortunate former husband being
relegated to the minority position.

Even though the equal arrangement had been clearly spelled out, the
offender had moved into the realm of irrationality with this grossly
unfair expectation, and even though they were already divorced, she
hired an ungodly attorney that was verbally abusive to her former
husband. Using extensive profanity, this lawyer described in graphic
how he would destroy the man in a threatened legal
proceeding. The fact that his client was a "Christian" made the
situation all the more egregious. This gross injustice infuriated the
man, and he planned to firmly resist them in court. Since the husband
was my friend, I observed first hand how the conflict turned him
towards what the Bible calls "vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes

As I observed this sad situation, I remember I had great difficulty in
reconciling how our friend could claim to be a Christian and still
have her representative employ such tactics. Indeed, both parties had
taken on a horribly vindictive spirit over the matter, but after weeks
of stewing over the inequity of the situation, the husband finally
came to see that the LORD was softly saying to him that he should
simply let go and "agree with thine adversary" (Matthew 5:25) and
He would deal with the offenders.

My friend finally came to the realization that their power
in this conflict only existed because he was resisting them, and he
just conceded the matter. In short order, I saw God provide a peace of
mind that I still vividly recall. Revealingly, some years later I
learned the female offender had become financially ruined.

As I remembered this situation, the passage about agreeing with "thine
adversary" opened up another layer of understanding. While
the Lord's statement seems to be telling us that it's wise to
agree "quickly" in order to avoid the unpleasant consequences ("lest...the
officer cast thee into prison"), He also tells us this tactical
retreat is so that "thou mayest be delivered from him" (Luke
12:58). I've come to see that the deliverance that is in view is
largely of a spiritual nature, for this is precisely the type of
setting where that root of bitterness can

Although I've encountered this dynamic repeatedly, and have tried to
put into practice the prescribed scriptural course of action, it's
much more difficult when you're the one that is being assailed.
Indeed, I have jumped 'into the pit' with several opponents I've
accumulated over the course of many years in public ministry, but I
have learned that this type of conflict represent a potentially huge
spiritual pitfall.

In this regard, a personal example is in order. At Christian Media,
a former radio host at our ministry has been waging a nasty campaign
of hatred against everyone at our ministry. Although he professes to
be a Christian ministry figure, under the guise of "exposing" me
as being a "false prophet," he has been harassing us through vile
broadcast statements, anonymous internet communications, hostile
messages on our voice mail, and broadly slanderous activity. This has
been going on for well over a year.

His identity is not relevant to the present study (he is
identified in a profile on this site), but what he has become
is. Although this person (and his recently divorced
female associate) apparently truly believes that we are somehow to
blame for his lack of ministry viability, the simple fact is the
conflict has poisoned their spirits to such a degree that most
observers can't stand to even listen to them. After publishing at
least 20 different essays attacking me, it's obvious this
individual has become obsessed with taking revenge on our

At this writing, 6 different hosts on the network have been
viciously criticized by him

- mostly because they maintain an association
with me. Still in radio "ministry," instead of seeking to develop
some degree of trustworthiness in spiritual leadership, the
overwhelming majority of his statements are vile and spiritually
corrosive. I bear witness that I have done nothing wrong to this man,
but he perceives me to be the source of all his woes. In short, he is
wallowing in a wretched state of foul desolation.

What is interesting is the fact that it doesn't seem to make any
difference if the desire for revenge is justified or not

- as my next example will demonstrate. In this
third example, the founder and leader of a well known Christian music
band led his group to a record contract, several national tours, and a
modicum of ministry respect. In the course of the music ministry's
development, due to the high investment required to launch a national
touring and recording group, the band's home church financed the
production and promotion of a record that was distributed by a major
record label.

Everything was going along great, then disaster struck. Citing
artistic differences, group members began resigning. In a brief period
of time, the entire band had quit the group leaving the leader
alone. In short order, it was discovered that every member of the band
had surreptitiously gotten together and formed another group without
the original group founder! Furthermore, they were immediately signed
to a recording contract to make a record with the label that was
distributing their previous recording.

The members of the new group all left their home church and refused to
honor their financial commitment for the church's original
investment. To put it bluntly, they ripped off their own friends, ran
off with the recording contract, and left their former leader (now
unemployed) with all the debts. Their former friend and musical
associate pleaded with them to at least do the right thing and take
responsibility for their obligations to the church. As the star-struck
group refused, the abandoned leader began to deteriorate spiritually
over the treachery that was perpetrated against him.

His walk with the LORD began to backslide, and a root of
bitterness set in. The musician embarked upon a campaign of
criticism in Christian record industry circles as he became possessed
with a hideously vindictive spirit. As his anger escalated, he started
drinking; and as his situation deteriorated, he would get drunk and
try to confront the band when they performed in Christian venues. At
last count, he was on drugs, and no one that knows him can stand to be
around him as his personality has turned so destructive that it's
downright depressing to have any contact with him.

In each of the 3 true stories I've presented, the responsibility for
the original offense varies. Indeed, in the latter example, the
offenders were not the ones that turned bitter

- it was the party that had been grossly wronged
that had became spiritually deranged. Thus, we see it's not always a
simple cause and effect when the bitter root of revenge
takes hold. To put it another way, it's not always clear who
the unjust party is in such circumstances. What is evident, is that
Christians in conflict come to a treacherous crossroad wherein God has
plainly warned us if we turn the wrong way, the path can become

One can easily see that Jesus did not take such a path. "He came
unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11), yet we do
not see Christ allow a root of bitterness to flourish in His holy
character. It is self evident that He was hardly shy of controversy,
and indeed He was downright confrontational on several occasions when
a clash was justified. However, the righteous anger he exhibited
when He turned over the tables of the money-changers (for example) was
not an obsessive, continuous cycle. He harshly rebuked
the offenders, but the event came to an end.

JESUS CHRIST taught His disciples
that when they entered a city and were rejected, they were to bear
witness against that city, and "shake off the dust under your
feet for a testimony against them" (Mark 6:10). The Lord then went
on to detail how in the final judgment it will go poorly for such a
place. He plainly taught us that He is the one that shall avenge wrong
doing against His own when he cautioned that

shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were
better for him that a millstone were hanged about is neck, and that he
were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).

Christ flatly stated that "it must needs be that offences come; but
woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18:8).
However, just as in the parable of the wheat and the tares, it is not
for the believer to appoint themselves the lifetime judge, jury, and
prosecutor of those they believe have wronged them.

The process in Matthew 18 specifies that when "thy brother
shall trespass against thee" we are to make a couple of attempts to
reconcile the situation through private interactions. If he or she
doesn't respond, we are to publicly state what has occurred. There
is no warrant for a continuing "railing accusation against them
before the Lord" (II Peter 2:11).

You state your case and then you move on.
As the earlier examples indicate, this process is designed in such a
way that sometimes the truth of the matter gets distorted through "the
hidden things of darkness" (I Corinthians 4:5). In such cases, the
one that has been offended may actually be the unjust one. I've
certainly seen the Lord's prescribed process for confrontation
manipulated by those with an agenda, but God is not mocked, and He
knows how to reserve such offenders "unto the day of judgment to be
punished" (II Peter 2:9).

The bottom line in this is that the intensity of the times we live in
is increasing. Many are falling away from the truth

- and they aren't aware that they have been
ensnared through this diabolical process. The time is coming, and now
is in which "the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore
every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast
into the fire" (Matthew 3:10).

If your tree has grown out of a root of bitterness, how can it
possibly bear anything but bad fruit? Thus, we would do well to
remember the stern warning found in Hebrews:

straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of
the way; but let it rather be healed. Looking diligently lest any man
fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness
springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled"
(Hebrews 12:13, 15).

August 26, 2003 - James Lloyd

Copyright © 2003 Christian Media Network

See Also


The Postacy Club

Murmurers In The Wilderness

Shortwave Wars

The Rise And Fall Of Craig Portwood

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