The harvest of bitterness

The most unwanted sensation in this world is bitterness, and yet at the same time, the most preferred sensation is bitterness. The most terrible thing about bitterness is that it is contagious. The bitterness of Adolf Hitler was transmitted to other Germans, who then carried out genocide against the harmless Jews.

Robert Mugabe carried out his share of spreading bitterness, concerning Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and the Midlands. But if truth be told, Mugabe may, himself, not have been guilty of actually killing even one of those victims. But it was his venomous tongue, transmitting the bitterness that caused the genocide.

There is currently bitterness in the Zimbabwean atmosphere. Any opposition leader advocating violence can be popular but cause a serious inferno. This is the reason why some people have voiced preferring the replacement of Nelson Chamisa. The proponents of violence suggest that aggression, fuelled by bitterness is the best way to go.

The appetite for violence is ripe in Zimbabwe, because of the endemic bitterness. Any opposition leader, with charisma, but displaying bitterness can ignite an unquenchable inferno. It is therefore essential for Christians to promote advocacy for people to be united in appreciating the negative effects of bitterness.

The unparalleled domestic violence in Zimbabwe portrays the condition of bitterness among people. We have seen video clips of people ululating, where the speaker would be advocating violence against the opposition, for instance. This would be a manifestation of unreasonableness in the condition of bitterness.

The cause of bitterness is a result of not getting what one expects from other fellow human beings. This life is full of disappointments. At times we get disappointed, even by our own parents. In all spheres of life, there will always be disappointments. But at the condition of bitterness would be unreasonableness.

Bitterness is the opposite of magnanimity, which creates positive effects. Each person can be either a carrier of bitterness or a carrier of magnanimity. Hence, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV). This, therefore, reveals that nothing good can come from people who sensationalize bitterness.

Even in Christianity, there is bitterness. A person may have trusted a pastor who turns out to be a rapist. Ordinary people will always meet disappointments in this life. Bitterness is an expected phenomenon, which can be experienced by anyone, regardless of background.

As a champion of peace, Jesus taught against bitterness and was aware of its effect on humanity. As commonly accepted and adopted by radical characters, bitterness was also in the blood of Simon Peter. This is because Simon Peter had committed himself fully, to supporting the Kingdom of God.

From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said, “This shall never happen to you!”  

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:21-24 NIV).

Peter displayed what is common with humanity. Jesus said what could persuade his disciples to fight in His corner. Injustice invites bitterness in people’s minds. However, in the process of meting justice, driven by bitterness, violence is multiplied.  Let us now capture the rest of Jesus’ teaching on this subject:

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:26-28 NIV).

Death implies a condition of sinfulness, adopted by Adam at the beginning. This includes bitterness that inflames violence among other people. Death is a spiritual condition that captures the soul of an individual. One is as good as dead when harbouring bitterness. One may feel justified when bitter, but the same person would be as good as dead.

Jesus showed that one’s soul is redeemed by avoiding bitterness: “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”  Some of His listeners understood this principle, which describes a condition of redemption when appreciating what Jesus taught.

The state of bitterness is death, adopted in the Garden of Eden. The first son of Adam, Cain, displayed this condition, and yet lived longer, physically, at the expense of Abel. Gripped with bitterness, Cain was dead. However, Abel’s soul is alive, as nothing shows he died with bitterness against his brother.

Cain gained this world, but lost his soul, whereas, his brother lost this world, but gained his soul. Simon Peter had not appreciated this principle when he displayed bitterness against Jesus’ killers. Like Abel, Jesus died, but without losing His soul, therefore, teaching us to do likewise:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41 NIV).

The above behaviour cannot be practised by bitter people. It takes true believers to apply it. It is applicable when appreciating that bitterness is a condition, which signifies death, pronounced to Adam. Losing the physical body; guarantees eternity. But losing one’s soul is what should cause worry to normal people.

Bitterness is, naturally, instigated by antagonistic people against us. What Jesus pronounced is that we are dead, as long as harbouring bitterness against our enemies. Those enemies feel justified for hating us, but their justification does not invite revenge, which would put us at their level.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV).

Simon Peter had been there when Jesus delivered this lecture, affectionately known as the Sermon on the Mount. He could not have rebuked Jesus, displaying his disapproval of those who wanted to kill Jesus, had he internalized that Sermon. The same applies to those easily gripped with animosity, although being Christians.

As the opposite of magnanimity, bitterness is attributed to Satan. Any person can be affected by bitterness, as long as living in this world. Rich people struggle with bitterness, just as poor people struggle with bitterness. The only way bitterness can be handled is by a willingness to forgive.

Magnanimity implies the ability to love, despite the justification for hatred and bitterness. Zimbabwe carries a classic example of what bitterness can do to those attracted to it. In the year 2000, the late former President, Robert Mugabe adopted the stance of bitterness against the white people. This resonated well with the ex-combatants who had fought a bitter armed struggle.

White farms were confiscated and properties were destroyed. One would assume that the perpetrators of that violence benefitted from that state of lawlessness, but the opposite was true. The country was reduced to an unprecedented state of poverty. The Zimbabwe dollar became useless.

Rather than learn lessons from that experience, the bitterness was transferred to Western nations, assumed to be siding with the Zimbabwean whites. Therefore, Zimbabwe continued in the trajectory of bitterness, but with resultant consequences. The entire population became captured in the condition of bitterness. Hence, in the year 2013, ZANU PF was returned to power.

The opposition had been identified as being the cause of bad effects on the Zimbabwean economy. Another lesson of bitterness is that it cannot be sustainable. ZANU PF could not take advantage of the landslide victory to consolidate power and correct their mistakes. Divisions in that party translated into a coup in 2017.

But, guess who supported that coup? It was the same opposition that had also entertained the idea of bitterness against Robert Mugabe. To them, the coup was sweet revenge. They entertained that idea, without appreciating the consequences that go with bitterness condition.

The opposition only got shocked when the person who would take over would be worse than his predecessor. The effects of farm inversions were assumed to benefit the black populace, but it brought the opposite. Those gripped with bitterness could not see that reality.

Surprisingly, even those in the opposition could not see bitterness as responsible for bringing the opposite of what was desired. Hence, they supported the coup, due to their hatred of Robert Mugabe. Had they applied the principle of loving enemies, they would have, actually, sided with Robert Mugabe, during the coup.

For his sin of supporting Robert Mugabe, Jonathan Moyo escaped death by a whisker. Out of bitterness, Jonathan Moyo did everything to support the opposition, in order to jeopardize Mnangagwa’s establishment. That failed, for obvious reasons. The coup plotters could not accept results, other than their entrenchment of power.

We are facing another election next year, 2023. Unless the elections are conducted peacefully, without expressing bitterness against anyone, everything will be fine. The saddest thing would be to repeat the same bitterness, as was expressed in previous years.

Currently, Professor Jonathan Moyo has expressed his bitterness against the CCC, which appears as the most formidable opposition. He would rather reconcile with those who almost took away his life, than those criticizing him day and night. How far Jonathan Moyo’s bitterness against CCC goes; remains to be seen.

On the other hand, many CCC supporters express morbid bitterness against the flip-flopping Jonathan Moyo. Again, it remains to be seen how far their hatred of Jonathan Moyo will lead, without them reaping the fruits of bitterness. Zimbabwe’s twenty years of experience are there as a case study for posterity and a lesson for other nations.

Bitterness is futile. No one reaps anything from bitterness. Maintaining the path of righteousness is the only path that ensures happiness. That is described in the condition of being able to love, despite every reason to hate. Only after adopting that lesson, Zimbabwe will be back on track, towards prosperity.

The harvest of bitterness is currently manifesting in Zimbabwe. Magnanimity grants the opposite of what currently exists. Do Zimbabweans now fully understand the principle of loving enemies and blessing those persecuting them? If the answer is yes; most certainly, Zimbabwe should be back on track towards a prosperous economy and happiness for its people.

The value of forgiving those who conduct harmful acts against us can be indescribably marvellous. The people killed in that process, have already achieved positive results. But for those alive but yet to learn and appreciate this lesson, the road ahead is still bumpy, but requires resilience.

The Master of our salvation persuades us to be focused, rather than get enticed towards the route of bitterness. Magnanimity is the way to go. While we have extensively dwelt on politics, bitterness encompasses all other areas of existence, without exception.

There is bitterness in marriages. There is bitterness in institutions, and even in Churches where Christ is preached every weekend. The answer is the same: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The mistake, often unperceived by many people is the assumption that there would be an advantage in harming other people. Nevertheless, the people who commit harmful acts against other people are more at a disadvantage than their victims.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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