Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 12:12-17
12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.
I am a fan of The Gottman Institute established by marriage therapist John Gottman. He has done a lot of research (a lot!) on marriage and what makes marriage work and what can lead to marital problems. Through his research he has developed a theory called the Four Horsemen of Marriage Apocalypse. He found that these four horsemen will always lead to marital dissatisfaction. I like to think they apply to all of our relationships. They are:
Criticism – verbally attaching personality or character. “You are not just forgetful – you actually NEVER think about me. You’re selfish and all you think about is yourself.”
Contempt – attacking sense of self with an intent to insult or abuse. “You make me sick to my stomach. Can’t you do anything right?”
Defensiveness – victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame. “No, I did not do that thing you asked me to do – but you KNOW how busy I am today – why don’t you just do it yourself?”
Stonewalling – withdrawing to avoid conflict and convey disapproval, distance, and separation. “Do whatever you want to do – I don’t care. I have better things to think about.”
While Gottman calls these the Four Horsemen, the writer of Hebrews might have called them a “poisonous root of bitterness”.
When we let these four roots get started, they do indeed end up poisoning our relationships – even our relationships in church. In fact, the text says that when these roots grow, they end up corrupting many. The writer of Hebrews is warning his readers, and us, to pull up these roots the moment we see them. When they are caught early, they can be dealt with. But as they grow – the damage starts to happen.
Think through your relationships today. Do you see any root of bitterness? Maybe today is the day to start work on pulling it up and throwing it away.
God forgive us for the times we let criticism and contempt and defensiveness and stonewalling take root in our relationships. Help us to live as Christ and not let any root of bitterness grow or stay in our lives.
This Week’s Immerse Passages:
Week 7, Feb 15-21; Hebrews, James, John
Day 31 pp. 367-377 Heb 1:1-7:28
Day 32 pp. 377-387 Heb 8:1-13:25
Day 33 pp. 389-396 Jam 1:1-5:19
Day 34 pp. 397-411 Joh 1:1-6:70
Day 35 pp. 411-423 Joh 7:1-12:50