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Take It With You 02.13.2022

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

There is an ancient comparison between bees and the Holy Spirit. Bees are well known for being able to dwell in a variety of vessels. For example, you could take a flowerpot and, with a few small modifications, have prime real estate for a beehive. There is one exception though: Bees will never settle in an unclean vessel. This is why you may have to clean it with soaps or scrape out any filth before the bees can swarm into it.

In the same way, we are a sort of vessel, with the gifts of the spirit eager and willing to swarm in. But if within us, there is bitterness, wrath, hatred, or malice, the swarm flies away. Not because the Holy Spirit will not take us as we are (and this is where the worldly metaphor must inevitably break down), but because we have made ourselves less receptive to the Spirit through our own bitterness. And so, a wise person will not hesitate to cleanse himself. Like the beehive, it will require work. We may need to scrape away all the bitterness and malice, a sometimes painful process. We need to cleanse ourselves with prayer and love and charity.

Bitterness and malice are poisons that attempt to infect the whole body. Even so, they are not to be feared by the body of Christ. What power does bitterness have in the face of God? Can malice undo what Christ has done? Perish the thought. Bitterness and malice are not things to be feared by a healthy body but to be scorned. The 4th-century preacher John Chrysostom was in charge of the great church at Constantinople. In his congregation were rich and poor, Arab and Greek, Jew and Gentile. He had to deal frequently with strife within his congregation, and this is what he had to say about our attitude towards bitterness:

“Surely there is nothing we ought so to despise, nothing we ought so to laugh at to scorn, as a bitter and malicious man. For there is nothing so powerless as bitterness. It makes men fools and senseless.”

So let us, as Paul says, put away all bitterness, and hatred, and gossip, and malice. It does nothing but make us foolish, poison the body, and close us off from the swarm of spiritual gifts. Let us cleanse our own soul, so that the body of Christ may be in harmony.

~ Matt Miller