I’ve written on grudges before and that’s because they are so destructive to us. I’ve heard one analogy I use all the time, “A grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” That’s a good way of explaining what grudges do to us. But it’s not just the fact that grudges hurt us that should cause us to desire to forgive. Grudges also lead to sin. If we bear a grudge, we’re eventually going to sin because of it. It’s more than just drinking poison. It’s also about playing with fire, if we want to use another cliche for an analogy.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. – Leviticus 19:17-18, ESV
We are commanded to reason frankly with our neighbor. If we don’t do this, we are being disobedient. Disobedience to God is sin. Therefore, as hard as it might be to forgive, we must do so. If we find it impossible in our own strength, we have His. Do we doubt that God will deliver what we need in order that we might be obedient to Him? Stop and think about that for a moment. God doesn’t put us impossible situations. He may put us or allow us to wander into situations that are impossible without His help, but He isn’t going to withhold His aid. He wants us to call out to Him, to lean on Him, to realize we can’t do it by ourselves. And if you’re the type to think, “Well, I won’t incur sin. I may not forgive, but I’m not going to physically act on that grudge,” then let me warn you that this isn’t good enough.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28, ESV
If we bear a grudge, at some point we will consider what it would be like for that person to get his or her comeuppance. That means we’re thinking about the evil that might befall him or her. This is not what we’d want for ourselves, so immediately we’re faced with the fact that we’re disobeying yet another of God’s commands, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Funny how he puts both of those together in Leviticus, isn’t it? That’s no accident. We’d want to be forgiven for our mistakes. And if we don’t forgive, we’re going to be dwelling on a person’s misfortune, which in and of itself is a sin. So now we’ve been disobedient and we’ve considered bad things towards another. Instead of one sin we’re suddenly dealing with two on our account. This doesn’t sound like we’re doing a very good job of mastering sin, but rather, it mastering us.
They key is to stop holding a grudge. No matter how personal, no matter how deep, no matter how devastating, turn the situation over to God and ask Him to help you forgive and move on. There are plenty of stories coming out from central Africa of the Christian women affected by the civil and tribal wars there. These women saw their husbands and sons murdered. These women were then raped, along with their daughters. Yet despite these horrible acts, these women have chosen to forgive and reach out to the ones who did these terrible deeds. Why? These women cite that their oppressors need Christ as much as anyone. If these women can forgive such great offenses, there is nothing we can’t forgive. It’s a matter of choosing to do so. It’s a matter of choosing to love as Christ loved. After all, due to His love He died on the Cross for His enemies, so that they might be redeemed and forgiven. Enemies like me and you. Let us follow our Savior’s example and be willing to love and forgive, no matter how terrible the hurt.