14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (Hebrews 12:14-16, King James Version)
The first time I read this, I was a little surprised. After all, didn’t Esau forgive Jacob when Jacob returned from Padanaram? So, what does Esau have to do with a “root of bitterness”?
Well, Esau’s descendants were the Edomites, as “Edom” was another name for Esau (Ge 25:30). When Israel came out of Egypt, Edom refused to let them pass their borders to cross over. So much for brotherly love and forgiveness, right?
Well, you have to remember that Esau wanted to kill Jacob. Esau was just biding his time until his father’s death. I assume that at that point, he would have seized the inheritance that he was defrauded of. So, Jacob fled.
Jacob was gone for 20 years. A lot can happen in that amount of time. We follow Jacob’s story to gaining wives, children and flocks. We aren’t told about Esau. I can imagine that the first portion of it was spent with real bitterness towards Jacob. I can imagine it was verbally expressed, just as his desire to kill Jacob was overheard.
Yes, bitterness can be passed down to the next generation even.
Are you leaving a legacy of bitterness?
Bitterness is sneaky. It worms it's way into us, into an organization, robs us of inspiration (the Spirit inside us) sucks up our encouragement (courage inside us) burrows down and dries us up. Then it covers us in dust so we can't see straight. Bitterness is anger and resentment turned sideways and leaked out in a mess on the floor. The CoG cannot grow, cannot flourish, as long as bitterness is holding court. Footwashing gets rid of dust, I think the CoG needs a big foot washing ceremony to clean everyones feet of the bitterness of where we've tread. Shake the dust from our feet so we can go forward with the dust of bitterness in our past, so we can make way for an inspiring, encouraging future.
Pride will have to be vanquished first.
Note, in the passage you quoted: "Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright."
This gives the context – it is about an earlier issue, culminating in Esau profaning his birthright (treating it as ordinary, not with due respect).
Also, reading the passage over again I think this might be a list, not connecting Esau to bitterness. The way the translation you quote is punctuated I would paraphrase it as:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness… looking diligently lest a) any man fall from the Grace of God; b) any root of bitterness spring up; c) there be any fornicator, or profane person like Esau…