The Herald Weekly Vol XVI : 36

Ephesians 4 : 26
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

What causes us to have an unforgiving spirit – a lot has to do with anger. We have also seen how pride could be a wrongful cause of our frustrations. But there’s another possible reason that is more subtle – and perhaps more deadly. And interestingly still, more prevalent in the church of Christ – resentment or bitterness.

Resentment often has to do with one’s view of another person. It slowly builds up inside oneself, gradually distorting one’s perspective, and eventually reaches a stage where nothing done by the person resented would be considered good. Rather, everything done by that person would be viewed in a bad light. And there comes a day, when a small incident acts as a catalyst and sparks off the simmering coals and it ends up in a great fire – to the surprise of that poor person being resented, for the cause certainly does not justify the magnitude of that particular reaction – little did he realise that resentment runs deep from ancient past.

In most cases, resentment or bitterness happens when a negative emotion like anger (or in some cases, envy or jealousy) is suppressed. It happens in the world especially when that person who offends is of a higher social status – people fear to voice out against him and thus indulging him. But sadly, it gets more complicated in the house of God. Many a time, we suppress our anger because we thought as good Christians, we should be forgiving. When forgiveness becomes a reluctant obligation, you clam in, and the offender, either unaware of his mistake or taking advantage of the context, would continue irritating you until one day you decide to do something about it. And regrettably, this would often result in something disproportional to the offence done against you.

Resentment is bad for you. I cannot put it any simpler. I like the Chinese word for “bitterness” in this passage – literally, it means “bitter poison.”

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). It is perhaps not by chance that Paul in his letter to the Ephesians listed “bitterness” before “wrath” and “anger” as one of the old man’s traits we need to put off. For unlike wrath, bitterness does not come and go; it stays and feeds on your soul. Some would say bitterness is an acid that destroys its own container.

To make it worse – if it starts making sense to you already, the person whom you are angry with does not know that he has trespassed against you – until it gets serious.

Let us be watchful over our hearts, keep it with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23); “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15)

Resentment can cause us to fall deeper and deeper into sin. One good illustration would be Absalom. He was angry with his half-brother Amnon for violating Tamar, but he withheld his anger for two full years (2 Samuel 13:23) before killing him. The question is, what is going on in the mind of Absalom in these two years – especially when he sees Amnon merry- making as the next king-to-be, apparently oblivious of his doom to come? We could imagine the torment he felt every time he saw Amnon, until one day when it resulted in the meditative murder of his own brother.

To that, Paul offers a good advice in the same epistle: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26).

Resentment can cause us to give up on God’s people. Do not underestimate the extent in which resentment could scar our lives. A man resentful of his colleagues would make him leave a promising job; a woman resentful of her neighbours would cause her to feel insecure in her own home; a child resentful of his classmates would make him fear going to school. Similarly, and most likely so, a Christian who is resentful of his fellow brethren is likely to be disillusioned with God’s people, and even be stumbled in the faith.

In the present-day church, this might cause one to choose the easy way out of changing church – only to find oneself in a similar or even worse situation in another. And this would result in church-hopping. It is true that we should try to live harmoniously with one another, but avoiding the issue, though an easy way out, does not help us grow. Worse, this might cause one to be stumbled. Having an idealistic view of the church, one throws out the baby with the bathwater.

The truth is, and we have to continue reminding ourselves this – the church is a place where sinners saved by grace learn to grow, and it is through the resolution of conflicts that we learn to love one another. Come before Christ and assess our situation. Ask what God wants you to learn from a certain conflict. If there is a need, resolve wisely and prayerfully. Then move on.

That said, pray that we, on the other hand, would not be a cause for a brother to stumble. Our Lord reminds us, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee. Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23- 24).

Resentment can blind our eyes and cause us to be biased. Resentment distorts one’s view. And there is no better illustration than the jealousy of King Saul over David. Saul was pleased with David (1 Samuel 18:2) until the day he heard the song of the women, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The first cause could be anger, it could be jealousy, it could be pride, but from 1 Samuel 18:9 (“And Saul eyed David from that day and forward”) until the end of his life, Saul’s life could be summarised using one word – resentment. Twice David has proven his motives by sparing Saul’s life (1 Samuel 24 and 26), yet Saul still could not see the truth. At one juncture, Saul even nearly killed his own son Jonathan who interceded for David (1 Samuel 20:33). In bitterness, he gradually isolated himself until his tragic death in mount Gilboa.

Resentment is contrary to our very nature as children of God. What comes in your mind when you think of a Christian having bitterness in the inner recess of his heart? “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). As we grow, let us daily put off the Absaloms and Sauls in our old self.

Let the words of apostle John be a reminder and an encouragement to us:

“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:4-7)

As children of light, we are forgiven, may we thus walk together in the joy of fully understanding Christ’s love for us.

Preacher Bendick
Adapted from Calvary B-P Church Weekly

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