Grudge Match: The Fight Against Broken Relationships

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Grudge Match

The Fight Against Broken Relationships

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MP3 Audio (10.27 MB)


Grudge Match: The Fight Against Broken Relationships

MP3 Audio (10.27 MB)

"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Bitterness is not good. In this verse it is associated with falling short of God's grace, not seeing God, and "defiling," or infecting, many other people. The New Living Translation even calls it a "poisonous" root of bitterness, further emphasizing the infectious and debilitating nature of this problem. Bitterness for others can arise from a variety of circumstances, but often it only begins as something small: a grudge.

A grudge is an angry gap between us and another person, but it is also a gap between us and God.

A grudge seems innocuous enough. Usually it comes from a situation where you feel justified in holding some matter against a person. "'Forgive,' but never forget," as they say. However, over time, this unresolved anger stirs and festers. A form of partiality creeps in where you treat the person you have a grudge against differently than those you are "clean" with. It becomes infuriating to even see this person. Is that a way to live? Is that the way God wants you to live?

A proclamation God made over 3,400 years ago still stands today: "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:18). God does not want us to hold grudges. To bear grudges is to disregard the Golden Rule and forsake the heart of God's law in our lives (Matthew 7:12). If we are to love each other as ourselves, we must put this damaging form of resentment behind us.

A grudge is an angry gap between us and another person, but it is also a gap between us and God. By stoking this fire, we give Satan the chance to enter this gap and pry us away from others and from God (Ephesians 4:26-27). Grudges are destructive to the relationships we should hold dear, including the one we have with the Lord above. A grudge is just as much a spiritual condition as it is a social one.

In addition, carrying a grudge is a devastating and very personal form of revenge. We cannot grow to be like God and sustain an acerbic, vengeful attitude. This wrath and resentment is incapable of producing the fruits God wants to see from us (James 1:20). God's verdict on revenge is crystal-clear in the Bible: it's not for you and me. "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19; emphasis added). As Christians it is not in our authority. We have no power or privilege to confer "justice" as we see fit. In doing so we elevate ourselves to a realm only God should inhabit. So what does God want us to do?

God's direction for us is to not wish for, hope for, or talk about, but pursue peace! This is an active endeavor! It is echoed in the beatitudes, spoken by Jesus Christ: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9; emphasis added).

Notice again that we are called to make peace, not sit around and wait for peace to come. "Make" is a common word with many synonyms that can be helpful in doing self-evaluation. Are you designing peace? Are you creating peace? Are you preparing peace? Are you assembling peace? Are you producing peace?

God further directs us to forgive those we have resentment towards and fully resolve our conflicts with them (Romans 12:17-21). Often, this requires us to both ask for and receive forgiveness from the individuals involved. The Bible instructs us to forgive others when we have a grudge against them, but also to approach others who may have a grudge against us and be reconciled to them (Mark 11:25, Matthew 5:23-24).

Jesus states in Matthew 5:23-24 to first be reconciled to the other person and then offer gifts up to Him. God wants to see us reconciled with others before we go to worship Him. God desires unity in His Church, not grudges and acrimony. If we subvert this order, we are not doing what God wants us to do.

Christians are told to be liberal with forgiveness and mercy, even if we have been wronged many times (Matthew 18:21-22). Interestingly, our own willingness to forgive is correlated with the forgiveness God extends to us (Matthew 18:35). Christ taught His disciples to include forgiveness in their prayers: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). How can we pray this prayer truthfully if we are not extending forgiveness and reconciliation to those we interact with in life? Carrying a grudge is diametrically opposed to this forgiving and peaceful nature.

To conclude, you and I are called to imitate God's perfect, complete character. God's character is merciful and gracious; He is slow to anger and full of love (Psalm 103:9). But notice also that God does not carry a grudge against us or stoke an angry fire against us forever. "He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:9-10). Instead, what has God chosen to do?

"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:11-12). God has put our faults against Him so unimaginably far away. We too ought to forgive others, pursue peace and never give root to any grudge.