I go through the readings each week while putting together the service in an attempt to find something that stands out – something that would make a good cover slide. The verse needs to stand on its own, to capture people and draw them in. Some weeks I struggle finding that verse; this week, I did not.
This week my brain caught the verse above and forced me to pause. I read it again. And again. And then I read it once more for good measure. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” The verse seems to be calling for action, tasking me to make sure that everyone knows about God’s abundant grace. What is God’s grace? How do people obtain it? We don’t need to struggle with that, we hear about it every week. God’s grace is wrapped up in an individual – one who lived as we do, who understands us. You get God’s grace through Jesus through Jesus and it’s free to all of us.
This doesn’t mean that once we come to God and obtain that grace that we are free to sin because we are saved. While God’s grace is free, it’s not cheap and we cannot treat it as such. In fact, it’s the most expensive commodity there is. It was bought with the blood of Christ when He died for our sins. Grace, therefore, isn’t a license to sin without consequences. Quite the opposite: grace empowers us NOT to sin – it’s what enables us to do the right thing. It takes grace to say “no” to sin. Without God’s grace, evil lurks all around us and we are powerless against it. With it, we can obey God’s Word and run the race that is set before us. As we heard last week, we may fall, but by the grace of God, we will be picked up again.
Getting back to the scripture verse, one of the reasons we need God’s grace is to prevent the “root of bitterness” from springing up and causing trouble. Most of us are familiar with bitterness, which often appears in the forms of sadness, anger, or disappointment. When tended to, that root can grow into a tree and take over one’s life. One of the best ways of cultivating bitterness is withholding forgiveness…otherwise known as grace. Living life holding on to the injuries inflicted upon us pushes us away from God, not because He abandons us, but because we abandon Him in favor of focusing on negative emotions. This isn’t to say that negative emotions should never be felt – they will be. But if we live in the Word we are encouraged over and over again to forgive and love one another as God loves us. We may feel the other person doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but then again, neither do we. Still – unmerited as it is – we have been saved by grace – a fact which should inspire us to live and walk in the Word, being continually changed by it. It’s impossible to live a Christian life without it. Looking at it that way, extending the grace of God is a higher calling and with His help we are all up to the task.