We’re talking about resentments today and how we need to deal with them. We have all been in situations where we weren’t treated right and have been tempted to become resentful – maybe it was with a family member, a friend, neighbors, co-workers or even fellow church members. And certainly as we move forward as a congregation we want to be united in mind and heart and have no residual resentments in our midst that might hinder God from working among us and through us.
A little exercise. I want you to look at everyone that is seated around you. Now look at me. If I may, let me say, this message is for you – and not for them. So don’t think to yourself, “I hope so and so is listening up! I’ll be waiting for their apology.” Let’s each examine our own lives and hearts this morning, in the light of God’s Word. What is God calling me to do? This is the right focus.
We begin with the question –
What is resentment?
I believe this is a good short definition, “to continue to hold something against someone.” The basic idea comes out in a couple of verses that talk about forgiveness:
- Jesus uses the phrase – “if you have anything against anyone.” – Mark 11:25
- Paul says it this way- “if one has a complaint against another” – Colossians 3:13
Now, listen carefully. It is natural to have something against someone, if they have wronged you. That’s how we are made. We are moral creatures. It is the continuing to hold onto it, instead of dealing with it in a biblical way that is the key. That’s what these verses are talking about.
When we continue to hold onto it, it becomes a grudge, a vendetta, a point of bitterness – what I am calling “a resentment.”
Let’s break this down some more by looking at –
The three parts of resentment
When we are wronged, 1. we have a sense of unfairness; of injustice. We rightly feel that the other person owes us for what they have done.
2. This then leads to ill feelings, especially anger. Again, it is natural to have anger when you are wronged. But as Christians we have to be very careful what we do with our anger. Anger is meant to motivate us to act; it is meant to lead us to deal with the situation and to deal with it in a biblical way – face to face with the offender, in gentleness and so forth.
But when we don’t deal with the situation and find some kind of resolution – and most of us would rather jump off a cliff than deal with hurt and conflict face to face with someone; when we don’t deal with the situation in a biblical way, our anger, as it were, spoils within us and becomes a well-spring of resentment in our heart. And this leads to other ill feelings such as hatred and we eventually end with hard-heartedness.
3. Finally, these ill feelings manifest themselves in expressions of judgment and punishment. Some typical examples of this include: avoiding the person, cutting off the relationship, talking the person down (slander, gossip), criticizing and fault finding, verbal attacks and worse.
You move into punishing mode. You haven’t found resolution to your fundamental sense of unfairness and anger, so consciously, or not you take things into your own hands and are busy getting back at them.
Now, that we have looked at what resentment is, I want you to think for a moment, is anyone coming to mind that you have a resentment against? Keep that person before you as we move on.
The message today is that –
We need to release our resentments
Instead of holding onto resentment and acting out on others in punishing mode, Scripture teaches us that we are to choose love and forgiveness. Let’s look at how this works in three specific scenarios:
1. Someone wrongs you, but it’s not a big offense. It’s not a big deal. Here you can simply choose to overlook it. That is, just let it go. You don’t hold it against them.
Now if you find you can’t do this; that you have abiding anger, resentment or bitterness – then this is a sign you need to deal with the situation. But if not, just choose to let it go; release it.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” This is an act of love on your part.
2. A second scenario. Someone wrongs you and the person isn’t seeking forgiveness or reconciliation. Let’s say you have gone to them, as the Scriptures teach (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3), but they are unrepentant. In this case, you are to release the resentment and choose to walk in love. Release it into God’s hands. This is absolutely key. Give your anger over to God who will sort everything out and right all wrongs. Trust God to take care of this so you don’t need to take up the issue of payback or go into punishing mode.
What you are really doing here is loving an enemy. For an enemy is precisely someone who harms you and has no repentance. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – Luke 6:27-28 (NIV). So we return good for harm in all these examples. Instead of anger and punishing behaviors, we show them love.And we pray for them.
And I can testify that doing good to an enemy and praying for them can change our towards those who have harmed us.
Now it is really hard to love an enemy. This is one-way love – from you to them. But it is a choice that we make, enabled by God’s grace.
In this scenario, even though the relationship is currently broken, our goal for the relationship is ultimately full forgiveness and reconciliation (two-way love), although this can only happen when they want this also, and when the issues are fairly dealt with.
3. Someone wrongs you and the person is repentant and is seeking forgiveness. Let’s say you have gone to them as the Scriptures teach or they have come to you as the Scriptures teach (Matthew 5:23-24) and the person is sorry and wants to make things right and commits to treat you right from now on. So things are dealt with, which should address the issue of your anger. In this case, you are to release the resentment and forgive so that the relationship can be restored.
Sometimes we still don’t want to. We want to hold onto our resentment and continue in punishing mode. But Scripture is clear on our need to forgive. Indeed, this is the situation that is addressed in most if not all passages that talk about the need to forgive.
- “If your brother . . . repents, forgive him” – Luke 17:3
- “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone . . .” – Mark 11:25
- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” This is a portrait of resentment. Rather we are to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another . . .” -Ephesians 4:31-32
- “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other . . .” – Colossians 3:12-13
Now this can be hard, but it is a choice that we make, whether we feel like it or not. The feelings will come later with God’s help. Sometimes we will have to continue to choose to release the resentment, because the temptation is always to take it back – even after a reconciliation has been reached. You have to let it go and don’t take it up again.
Let me end by giving you –
Several reasons why you should release your resentments and choose instead love and forgiveness
You are only a forgiven wrongdoer yourself. How can you hold resentment, when God has released his resentment against you, loved you and has now forgiven you? That’s why we are to forgive “one another, as God in Christ forgave you” – Ephesians 4:32. We have no ground to stand on to hold onto resentments we who only live by God’s grace and mercy.
Resentment will destroy you. No doubt you have heard the saying, “resentment is the poison you drink hoping for the other person to die.” But they don’t and it only destroys you. It poisons you.
- It takes away your joy and peace. As Paul says about those who need to forgive, your life will be characterized by things like “bitterness” “wrath” “anger” “clamor” “slander” “malice” – Ephesians 4:31.
- It will make you a slave of the person, the wrong, the situation that you are bitter about as you continually replay it in your mind.
- It will make you self-focused as you think about how badly you have been treated – me, me, me. You become self-absorbed.
It twists and distorts us from being who God want us to be, into a negative, bitter person, walking around with a cloud over our head. So for your own sake get the poison out. Enter into the peace and joy that God wants for you to have. Choose love and forgiveness and be free!
Resentment will destroy your relationships with others. Everyone will fail us at some point. So if you can’t release your resentments your relationships with family, friends and fellow church members will remain weak, damaged or broken. And you will end up isolated and lonely.
To have strong relationships you need real love. And as Paul said “love is not resentful” – 1 Corinthians 13:5.
Resentment will destroy your relationship with God. This is the most serious and dangerous thing of all. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” What a great promise. But hear the warning as well – “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” – Matthew 6:14-15.
What resentments do you need to release this morning?