This week, we are talking about making resolutions. Isn't everyone? (Grin)
But these are some that may be different from those we've tried before. And these commitments are ones that will make our entire year of 2017 truly different!
Eat less junk food? Fewer carbs, maybe?
Exercise more? More often?
Well, yes, that too.
Set a definite time of day to read the Bible and pray?
Yep, that one is a really important one.
But how about making a resolution to give up our grudges?
Now, that's different!
Yesterday, we discussed making a commitment to quit torturing ourselves for our past failures. We said that we need to climb up out of the self-doubt that we are wallowing in, and realize that God forgives us for those failures - and we need to forgive ourselves, too.
Today, let's look at making a resolution that has the power to create a turning point in our lives.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
Oh, wow. Seriously? It sounds to me like God is challenging us to give up our grudges. This is direct. And it's personal. That's kinda how God does things, have you noticed?
Hmmmm.... give up our grudges. . . . That sounds like what He means when it says to forgive each other whatever grievances we may have against one another.
OK, what exactly is a grudge? A grudge is a deep, ongoing resentment that we cultivate in our hearts against someone else. There's a couple of significant words there....."deep and ongoing," and "cultivate." Those are the operative words, and they make the meaning pretty clear: it's a firmly-held belief that someone has wronged us somehow; it's more than a passing phase; it's also something that we keep on building and stoking, like adding coals to a fire.
Anybody getting hurt toes here? I'll pass along my box of bandaids after I finish bandaging mine.
It's hard to overlook an insult, isn't it? It's hard to forget about someone being critical or rude. Or both. It's hard to not notice when someone "stabs" us in the back, whether it's at work, at school, or even in church. (Yes, it can happen.)
A grudge is when we don't forgive for those words and actions against us. And that grudge can lead to an unforgiving attitude that spills over into our relationships, and even makes us act in unforgiving ways.
Like an eighteen-month old in an antique emporium, grudges can be dangerous if left unattended. They (like the toddler) can be destructive.
Grudges can destroy marriages.
They can break apart families.
They can absolutely ruin friendships.
They can even split up churches.
If we are being honest, one of the things that unbelievers point to, when they say folks in church are hypocritical, is the grudges that Christians hold against each other. You would think it's a group of elephants, not a flock of saved sinners, because of the very long memories they seem to have about past hurts.
Here is where the rubber meets the road, folks: grudges are not just destructive -- they are self-destructive, too. When we hold a grudge against someone, we will hurt ourselves just as much (or maybe more than) the person we hold it against. It can destroy us emotionally and spiritually, and make us bitter people. Ol' brother Job described people who "have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts." Ouch. I sure don't want people to think of me that way. Do you? Jesus touched on this in his parable of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt, and then refused to forgive someone else a pittance. Jesus remarked that the servant's unforgiving spirit landed him in prison . . . God doesn't want us to sentence ourselves to prison. He wants us to set ourselves free.
God is telling us to "give up" that grudge we are holding against someone. And according to the verse above, the way to give up a grudge is to forgive a grievance. There's a fine point here for us: He is not asking us to ignore what that person did to us. He isn't asking us to pretend it never happened. He isn't telling us to condone, or to pretend it didn't matter.
What He is asking us to do is to forgive the grievance. It's perfectly OK to acknowledge how painful and how wrong it was, but we need to decide to forgive the person who wronged us.
We may need to sit quietly and think on this.
Maybe we need to forgive the grievance we have against our parents for something they did (or didn't do).
Maybe we need to forgive our children.
Perhaps it's a partner or co-worker we need to forgive. Or we may need to give up a grudge that started with an argument.
Whatever it is, God says that the deep, ongoing resentment that we've been cultivating has got to go. What better time than the start of the new year?
Oh, by the way, the argument that you really can't forgive someone because it was so hurtful? That doesn't hold water with our Father. If He can forgive us for our sins, in spite of those sins nailing Him to the cross, then we can certainly forgive and give up our grudges!
I guess the real question is, will we do it?