By Kyle Pope
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).
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.