As a follow-up to my post on bitterness, titled: “Holding On,” it’s important to say that while bitterness is the sin of the bitter person, that’s not to say the bitter person was not really sinned against or victimized. Real victims can respond with sinful or with godly responses. However, this means there are real victimizers: abusers, thieves, lairs, gossips, etc. We’re all sinners, which means we have all sinned against others, and thus we all need to repent, make restitution, and seek forgiveness. If you remember that you have sinned against someone, then you also have an obligation to go to the one you sinned against and make it right (Matthew 5:23-24). Obviously, some sins are much worse than others. Some sins are crimes for which people should be prosecuted. Peter tells us that “love will cover a multitude of sins,” but love never covers-up sins. Not every sin has to be confronted but some sins are serious and they do call for confrontation.
Those who have been sinned against, i.e., victims, (or those who think they might have been sinned against), often have the option of confronting those who sinned against them, seeking their repentance and a full restoration of fellowship by way of forgiveness (see Matthew 18:15). In that process of communication a right understanding is hopefully gained by all parties, misunderstandings clarified, true repentance achieved (if needed), and relationships are reconciled. If that fails, there is a process for brining others in to help deal with the offenses (Matthew 18:16-17). If a crime has been committed there is also a due process for confronting the crime and seeking justice (reporting, testifying, etc.).
Nevertheless, even after following these processes of confronting the sins of others there is not always agreement, repentance or successful prosecution. The victimizer might deny it, cover it up, lie about it, escape, hide, or even die. Perhaps we can’t prove the offence. Now what? Am I free now to be bitter; to nurture and feed my victimization? The command not to allow a root of bitterness to spring up (Hebrews 12:15), is a command given to victims (real or perceived). I may not respond to having been sinned against by now sinning myself. Bitterness hurts me, it hurts others, and it keeps me from trusting God. He knows what really happened, and He is able to bring about His just judgment. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
This fallen world is unfair. We are all victims of something, and some of those things are truly awful. We should feel sympathy for and have mercy on those who have been sinned against. We should pray with them and for them. We should love them and get them help. We should especially teach them (including ourselves) what Gods’ word says to do when we have been sinned against. This is the way of true peace, and even joy in the midst of a storm. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).