As I first sat down to consider how I could put off bitterness and put on love, I didn’t know quite where to begin. Having just gotten the book A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent, I decided to thumb through it and see if anything pertained to my struggles. From a section entitled “Stimulated to Love Others,” I read the following:
When my mind is fixed on the gospel, I have ample stimulation to show God’s love to other people. For I am always willing to show love to others when I am freshly mindful of the love that God has shown me. Also, the gospel gives me the wherewithal to give forgiving grace to those who have wronged me, for it reminds me daily of the forgiving grace that God is showing me.
Doing good and showing love to those who have wronged me is always the opposite of what my sinful flesh wants me to do. Nonetheless, when I remind myself of my sins against God and of His forgiving grace toward me, I give the gospel an opportunity to reshape my perspective and to put me in a frame of mind wherein I actually desire to give this same grace to those who have wronged me (emphasis mine).
In my bitterness, I was far from desiring to give grace to those who wronged me. I wanted to give the silent treatment, or sarcastic cutting remarks, or a stern lecture. To really defeat bitterness, I needed not simply to resist making those remarks or turning a cold shoulder. I needed a complete change of attitude. What could make that change? I needed to spend time reminding myself of the gracious, forgiving love God has shown to me. I wronged him, sinning against him in pride, in selfishness; how did he respond? He did not shut himself off from me, roll his eyes at me, speak or act harshly to me. No, he sacrificed himself, so that I could be his friend rather than his enemy. When I revel in being forgiven and loved in Christ, then I will actually want to forgive and love others.
So now I knew where I stood. I was cherishing bitterness because I was functionally ignoring God’s forgiveness and love. And I knew where I wanted to get. I wanted to revel in the gospel so deeply that I couldn’t help but leave bitterness behind. I wanted grace instead of grudges. How would I get from Point A to Point B?
In the footnotes of that section of A Gospel Primer, the author referenced three Scripture passages that would become my route to renewal. I’ll address those next…