There are two verses that stand out as a contrast about roots.
One is Hebrews 12:15: "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
The other is Ephesians 3:17: "That ye being rooted and grounded in love..."
Do you have a root of bitterness springing up or are you rooted or grounded in love? My contention is that a root of bitterness cannot survive in the ground of love. The two are mutually exclusive.
We have a choice to make every day when we're confronted with difficult situations. People will let us down, hurt us, and treat us insensitively. And when this happens we can either choose to react in love (even when we don't feel it), or we can allow bitterness to take root by harboring bad feelings towards them.
Love is fertile ground where many things can grow. Good fruit will come from being rooted and grounded in love and many people will be blessed. But once a root of bitterness starts growing, it will tangle up your roots in the good ground of love, and many will be defiled as a result.
How do we become rooted in this love in the first place though?
The preceding verses bear out a few clues in Ephesians.
Ephesians 3:14-17 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
This is further collaborated by his companion epistle to the Colossians.
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Heb 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
In the verses prior, he's talking about understanding the chastening of the Lord, and the entire book of Hebrews is about having the proper understanding of Jesus. The Hebrews were undergoing intense persecution and rejection from their Jewish families and neighbors. It would be easy to let bitterness spring up in a situation where family and friends were rejecting you and treating you poorly...if you don't keep your eyes on Jesus.
But if we're looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, it makes a difference in how we live our lives! He, being reviled, reviled not again. Being cursed, He threatened not. He loved His enemies, forgave them and prayed for them. That's why we have to be rooted and grounded in His love. It's an unending supply. And it's been shown to us.
That's why the author of Hebrews refers to it as 'failing of the grace of God.' When God has shown so much love and grace to us, how can we withhold it from others?
"But they've hurt me! They don't care about me! They talk about me behind my back! They're turning others against me! They misunderstand my intentions and believe things about me that aren't true! I'm just trying to help and they're jealous and won't accept any!"
Will you let a root of bitterness grow up because of this? A root of bitterness that will defile many others?
"Well, why doesn't God do something? Why is He letting me go through all this?"
Will you let a root of bitterness grow up? A root of bitterness that will defile many others?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, and that's the kind of love God has shown to us.
Bitterness has a limit, and starts to keep record of wrongs after a certain amount of hurt and offense. And when we have a bitter mentality, it spreads. Roots, unfortunately, don't stay to themselves. They intertwine with other roots of other plants. And bitterness is one of the most tangling.
It can be hard to keep from becoming bitter when everyone seems to be against us. But Jesus said:
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
John 15:21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.