Holding onto resentment

What happens when someone sins against us or offends us in some way, is it acceptable to hold a grudge?  Will God accept us if we reject others? Will God forgive us for holding a grudge?  No—He will not. Now, before you come at me with, “God loves us” please go to scripture. Yes, He is a loving father but we are told that God will chasten His children; those whom He loves (Heb 12:5-7), and this discipline includes those who refuse to forgive or hold grudges against others.

I know that I’m not overstepping when I say that we’ve all been wronged or hurt by someone, and while some can brush off the hurt like it’s no big deal there are many of us who are guilty of coddling our resentment. We nurse our anger and pamper our bitterness, sometimes for extended periods. I know that I’m guilty of that, more so prior to being saved by Christ. I’d even go as far as sharing my hurt with others, okay….I was gossiping and trying to rally the troops behind me. Which did more harm than good because those people cheered on the hate, and resentment, and stood behind the toxic behavior.

If we claim to be saved and yet allow evil grudges to rule through spiteful acts then we are rejecting the leading of the Holy Spirit. Remember, where flesh leads the Spirit of God does not. As a Christian, we are never to act out of spite. Scripture forbids holding grudges. So if someone claims to be saved but hates their brother, they’re deceiving themselves (1 John 2:9-11), and are likely not saved at all.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21 esv

Here’s the thing, God wants people to thrive and prosper. He knows that holding grudges is a sure way to impede that, so the Bible commands us not to engage in such destructive behavior.

John MacArthur once said that, “an unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms because we are the forgiven ones! Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” God forgave us an immeasurable debt, saving us from the horrors of eternal hell. That should be motivation enough to forgive any offense against us, yet some Christians still hold grudges. Forgiveness breaks the bitter chains of pride, self-pity and vengeance that lead to despair, alienation, broken relationships and loss of joy.”

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

James 1:26 

The other day I came across an article by John Piper in which he writes about Six Goals of Satan in Getting You to Hold Grudges which I found to be quite interesting:

If there is any way that Satan can assist you to hold a grudge, he will do it. For there are six goals of Satan which are greatly advanced when professing Christians hold grudges.

1. To Make Us Put Ourselves in the Place of God

Ever since Genesis 3 Satan’s goal has been to make us put ourselves in the place of God. “When you eat of the fruit of the tree your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” Nothing helps in holding a grudge like thinking too highly of ourselves. The more exalted we are in our own eyes, the more justified we will feel in holding a grudge against the person who offended us. If Satan can succeed in making a grudge feel natural or justified, he will have gone a long way toward his goal of making us put ourselves in the place of God.

2. To Make Us Act as If We Are Judge, Not God

Satan aims to make us act as if we were judge and not God. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry feed him.” If we hold a grudge, we act as though God were not a just judge. We act as though we are the moral guardians of the world and if we don’t hold this wrong against this person, it’s going to slip away into oblivion and a great injustice will go unrequited. But this is sheer unbelief. Vengeance belongs to God. He will repay. It is his business not ours. So again holding a grudge puts us in the place of God—just where Satan wants us.

3. To Make the Cross of Christ Look Weak and Foolish

Satan aims to make the cross of Christ look weak and foolish. Notice Ephesians 4:32–5:2. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” The power that frees us from holding grudges is that in the cross of Christ God satisfied his grudge against us and dropped it. So Paul says, forgive as God in Christ forgave you. When we hold a grudge, we cancel out the cross. We act as though God did a foolish thing on the cross, since he dropped his infinite grudge against us, but we are going to hold on to our little grudge against so and so. And thus Satan brings the cross of Christ into contempt.

4. To Cultivate Disunity in the Body of Christ

Satan aims to cultivate disunity in the body of Christ so that the grand evidence for Christ’s divine reality is shattered. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Short tempers and long grudges breed strife and disunity in the church. But in John 17:23 Jesus said that unity in the church is a great evidence to the world of his reality. So if Satan can preserve and deepen grudges among God’s people, he will have achieved a great goal—the hiding of Christ’s reality from the world.

5. To Crush Broken Christians into Depression

Satan aims to crush broken Christians until they are depressed into uselessness. Paul tells about an instance of church discipline at Corinth in which the offending party repented. Paul counsels in 2 Corinthians 2:7, “So you should turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you reaffirm your love for him.” The burdens of life are so great at times that someone’s grudge against us can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You can destroy a person by holding a grudge against them—the very work of Satan from the time of Cain and Abel.

6. To Help You Destroy Yourself

Finally, by holding a grudge Satan will help you destroy yourself. Satan always throws away his tools in the end. He promises the moon and delivers misery. When the unforgiving servant was thrown into jail, Jesus said to his disciples, “So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

As we follow Christ, we are to follow Him in acts of forgiveness.  I love what Charles Spurgeon said:

Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.

I don’t know about you but once I forgive someone I sit and think whether or not it would be wise to reconcile with them and let bygones be bygones. Sometimes depending on the hurtful act and broken trust, moving forward does NOT happen automatically when I choose to forgive.

Reconciliation and forgiveness do not necessarily go together. Reconciliation is a separate action from forgiveness and while forgiveness is an agreement made between us and God, reconciliation is an agreement made between us and the person who has wronged us. Ultimately, it is a decision to return to a peaceful, friendly place with that person. Reconciliation requires trust from both sides and a mutual willingness to restore the relationship be it your family member, friend, spouse or co-worker. We can forgive them, but that doesn’t mean we will be reconciled to them. A person’s actions will reveal their trustworthiness and if reconciliation is even possible (Proverbs 26:24-25).

The thing is, there’s no way of knowing if they will hurt you again. That is their decision. Setting boundaries in your relationship with them is often a good way to go. But in the case where reconciliation is not possible, it’s important to remember that, God wants us to choose forgiveness over holding a grudge. When we choose to give God our pain, we’ll find it easier to welcome in peace, comfort, and wisdom. While people may fail us, God is trustworthy and truly knows what’s best (Proverbs 3:5-7).

5 thoughts on “Holding onto resentment

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