The text for the day was Hebrews 12:15, "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." Another supporting text was Ephesians 4:31, 32; "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."
The speaker first dealt with the results of bitterness. Bitterness can certainly destroy relationships and ultimately can destroy the bitter person. He then moved to help the audience to diagnose if they themselves were bitter. He pointed out that the Christian has no right to be bitter and that if there was bitterness in your heart it was time to clean it out.
How? First he said we must be willing to forgive. We should seek repentance from the offender and even when repentance is not forthcoming, we must treat that person with a spirit of forgiveness. Once we are willing to forgive we focus on three points.
- Do not remember the offence AGAINST the offender.
- Do not remind them of the offence.
- Do not rehearse the offence before others.
So, how does this apply to politics? First let me point out that the Word of God was written for Christians. You cannot expect those who do not know Christ as their savior to abide by the instructions of the Bible. Yes, I realize that these verses and this sermon were directed to the Christian audience. However, I also know there is such a thing as a common grace that allows anyone who is willing to follow the principles of the Bible to benefit from its truths.
The Republican Party in our state could take advantage of this common grace.
Politics is all about relationships. Where there are relationships, there are slights and misunderstandings and sometimes-downright meanness. There was plenty of that to be remembered as George W. Bush flew into town for the first time since the heated battle of the last primary. Yep, there was plenty of opportunity for bitterness to spring up and defile many!
I look back at my own experience during that time. It was obvious that I was involved with a group that was simply being used as a pawn in the political battle-by both sides. In the interest of political advantage Bush swooped into Greenville and appeared at BJU. In the ensuing fallout of that visit, BJU was left high and dry. The Bush people went from good buddies to "BJU who?" in an instant.
Then, of course, there was McCain. First of all, in some ways you can’t blame McCain for being a little upset. He was sucker punched by some overly zealous religious conservatives in the Upstate. However, once again BJU (which had absolutely NOTHING to do with the these attacks—even reprimanding a professor who inadvertently got mixed up in it all) got the blame and we all know about the resulting Michigan ads, etc.
Yet, as a Christian, I had to approach John McCain at the funeral of Terry Haskins and hold out my hand to express that I had forgiven him, would be praying for him in his battle with cancer and would not hold the actions of the primary season against him. I could not forget them (I am human and therefore a sinner). However, I would not seek to use those actions to punish him. There are lots of things with which I disagree with John McCain and if ever I enter into a campaign against him it is on those things I will fight—not with "wrath and anger and clamor and slander" for the purpose of getting back at him ("malice").
The same thing goes for Lindsey Graham, Mark Sanford, and even the late Terry Haskins along with others who supported McCain in that primary. I refuse to hold their support for McCain against them. I will vote for or against them based on the merits of their positions and personal integrity. Yes, I do believe you can have personal integrity and have supported John McCain!
It simply concerns me as I speak with my friends who say, "Oh, I couldn't support that person because they backed McCain." That is one example of many personal conflicts that pit one Republican against another. Frankly, it all appears to be "roots of bitterness." It is even more damaging when we "rehearse the offence before others" like reporters and columnists.
Come to think of it bitterness over past experiences appear to be at the root of many of the problems we face today. Southerners bitter over the South losing the war. NAACP members bitter over having ancestors whom were once slaves. Those are obvious ones and I am sure you can think of a lot more.
We can't stop bad things from happening. We can't always stop the occasional "personality conflict" or hurt feelings over a heated political battle. However, at some point, we need to stop putting such an emphasis on "McCain Republicans" or "Bush Republicans" and step back to remember that battle is past. At this moment, we are simply Republicans.