“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.” —Heb 12:15 NLT
One by one we poured out the hurt we encountered through the church. Some had grievances with pastors, some with elders, and others with a brother or sister in the congregation. This issue came up while we were discussing why some people do not attend church. I emptied my heart on this issue, as I too was apart from the church for a short period of time. But my conclusion was that we always have to come back to the Scriptures to see why God created the New Testament church, and where we fit in.
When I got home from this meeting, it hit me between the eyes – we often divorce ourselves from the church when we are hurt. We tend to play it safe and stay where we are most comfortable – at home. But is this Biblical?
According to Easton’s Bible dictionary, “Bitterness is symbolical of affliction, misery, and servitude (Ex. 1:14; Ruth 1:20; Jer. 9:15). The Chaldeans are called the “bitter and hasty nation” (Hab. 1:6). The “gall of bitterness” expresses a state of great wickedness (Acts 8:23). A “root of bitterness” is a wicked person or a dangerous sin (Heb. 12:15).”
When we allow past hurts to take root in our lives, we are succumbing to bondage. And that bondage, when fully rooted, makes us groan/complain. When the children of God were slaves in Egypt, they cried out to God in their distress, because they were heavy laden. It is no surprise then, that the Passover is celebrated with bitter herbs, symbolizing the oppression of the Israelites.
“No oppression can give us joy. No oppression can give us satisfaction. No oppression can help alleviate the misery our soul is bound to.”
When the New Testament church met regularly, it was to exhort each other, meet their needs and hold each other accountable. We were not created to be an island to ourselves, but streams of living water that flow outward and change lives for Christ. Paul says this about meeting together as Christians:
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. 
God created the New Testament church as a gathering place for the saints. It is to be a safe haven for His people to gather and be united in His word and deed. When we forgive, we produce fruit of righteousness (right living) that is pleasing to God. Although this dwelling place is full of redeemed, yet tainted people, we fail God when we do not forgive each other. We conclude that His grace is not sufficient for us, because we cannot forgive others of their trespasses. Love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8-9). By God’s grace we were forgiven at the cross. And by God’s grace He covered our guilt.
What about you? Is there someone in the church who has hurt you directly or indirectly? Are you allowing a “root of bitterness” to keep you and them in bondage? I encourage you today, sever the wicked weed of unforgiveness, and untangle yourself. Your holy crop depends on it!