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Bearing Grudges

By Kyle Pope

A

As I grow older I have noticed a tendency in character that I wish I did not see: the tendency to very easily hold a grudge. When I was younger, if someone did something against me, or did something that in someway hurt my feelings, I found it relatively easy to let the matter “roll off my back” and forget about it. Yet, now as an older man, with a few more hurt feelings “under my belt,” and a few more situations that I wish I could forget, what once might have easily been viewed as “water under the bridge,” now tends to pool together, damn up and linger a little too long “under the bridge” (so to speak).

Understanding why some thing may happen doesn’t justify or excuse its occurrence. Bearing a grudge is wrong because it reflects a lack of forgiveness. Jesus taught in both the model prayer and His comments immediately after the prayer, how important forgiveness is. He declared: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14,15, NKJV). To some degree, this forgiveness is to occur whether the person who has “trespassed” against us ever repents of the wrong they have done. Jesus also taught: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25). Clearly, if we want to be forgiven by God we must be forgiving of others.

Bearing a grudge is a very unattractive quality. It is ugly to see in one’s self or in others. It makes the one who feels it bitter, resentful and distant. Forgiveness, on the other hand, and the sweet disposition that accompanies it are qualities that are appealing, admirable and approachable.

In June of 2004 the nation mourned the passing of its 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Among the many touching testimonials that were made about this man, one struck me more than any other. Shortly after he was shot in 1981, Reagan records in his diary that he found himself struggling with how he could go to God in prayer for himself while he harbored hatred in his heart for the disturbed man who had tried to kill him. To address this, Reagan first prayed to God for the soul of the man who shot him, then he prayed for himself. Imagine, after having someone explode a weapon in your direction that lodged a bullet inches away from your heart taking the time to first pray for them.

As impressive as this example is, it is nothing compared to the example of our Lord. He, who was God in the flesh, as life was slipping away from His fleshly body, considered those who had torn His body to shreds, slammed a thorny crown on His head and pierced His hands and feet with nails, appeals to heaven - “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If Jesus could ask for the forgiveness of those who carried out His crucifixion, what wrong could anyone ever do to us that would justify bearing a grudge against them?

Bearing a grudge requires that we maintain a disposition and an attitude towards the other person that can hinder our very worship of God. Before the model prayer, in the same sermon Jesus taught, that harboring anger towards our brother can place us in danger of judgement, and that holding them in contempt can place us in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22). Jesus taught that before we bring our “gift to the altar” we must first do what we can to make things right in our relationships with others (Matthew 5:23-24). If we hold on to a grudge it may be that the very spiritual sacrifices we offer in worship to God become unacceptable. Let’s strive to prevent this from happening to our relationship with God.   

Pope, Kyle. "Bearing Grudges" Biblical Insights 8.9 (September 2008): 7.  

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