Digging up the roots of any tree is a labor-intensive task. (It is difficult enough pulling on the root of a stubborn weed.) As tedious as it may be to pick up the fruit from the ground day after day it is a seemingly better alternative than the daunting prospect of rooting up the tree. For many they would rather pick the fruit of their sinful behavior year after year than face the dread of getting at its root. Even for the discipler it is much easier and less intimidating to continue dealing with the fruit of his disciple’s life rather than having to struggle with the cause.
After 30 years of making disciples I have observed that if there is one consistent sin in the lives of people it would be bitterness. Most people have at least one person or organization that has deeply hurt or disappointed them. It could be a coach, parent, teacher, friend, pastor, youth pastor, girlfriend, boyfriend, boss, school, company, and even a church. In Hebrews 12:15 the author describes bitterness as a root:
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer. My surgeon said to me that the best way to deal with cancer is to get it out of there. I was willing to go through major surgery in order to rid myself of the cancer knowing that if I did not it would eventually kill me. The reason a discipler must relentlessly pursue the root cause in your disciple is because bitterness is a spiritual cancer and it will slowly eat away at him until it destroys him.
- Self-destructive behavior is the fruit of a deeper cause, which is usually bitterness.
- The door leading to the root of bitterness in your disciple will be found in the stories of hurt and disappointment from his life.