Jesus Christ demands that his disciple does not allow even the slightest trace of resentment when faced with tyranny and injustice. — Oswald Chambers
Not even the slightest trace of resentment? In this day and age?
How do we get there – to the place of no resentment? Or maybe, how do we escape the temptation to indulge in resentment? How do we keep resentment from growing roots of bitterness in the soil of our hearts? How do we dig it out?
How do we keep resentment at bay when people we love make wrong assumptions about our motives and treat us with disrespect and anger? What about when harsh things are said to us, or about us? Moreover, what if strangers treat us with contempt because we have been falsely and unjustly condemned? Does any of that matter? According to the Gospel of Matthew, no.
Jesus tells us that when we face injustice, we are supposed to walk the extra mile, refrain from hitting back (including with our words), give them the shirts off our back, and forego all tit-for-tat rationale. Seriously? Yes.
Christians must not indulge resentment, rather we are to pray for those who give us a hard time, show love to our enemies, and let them bring out the best in us. The best. In us. And that, my friends, is unbelievably hard, especially when we want vindication (I’ve written about that here).
I confess, resentment was the default attitude I indulged for most of my life. However, when God desires to work something out of you (or me!) he usually does it by providing plenty of opportunity to exercise the thing he wants to replace it with. God wanted me to get rid of resentment – so he has given me multiple opportunities to choose to exercise grace instead. Grace: unmerited favor.
Grace is what we received from God when he chose us, poured out his love on us when we were unlovely, and when he saved us through faith. We cannot earn God’s favor; we receive it through grace. People who are recipients of grace must then become conduits of grace; we must practice extending grace to others, including people who treat us unfairly.
That said, there is very little that is harder to endure than being treated unjustly because of erroneous assumptions about our words, motives, or actions. It is difficult, because there is no defense we can offer on own behalf. No one can defend his or her own heart. No one can convince anyone that his or her motives are true and innocent. No one can defend against what another has decided is true, even if it is not the truth.
Why not? Because motives are hidden. The only witness that can honestly testify to our motives is our behavior. Therefore, if we’ve been unjustly judged, we must not give in to resentment, but we must exercise love; love that is an extension of grace. Love to the unlovely. Love to the unforgiving. Love to the mean-spirited. Love to those who are angry with us, or who have decided we are not worthy of their love. Love to the one whose heart we cannot reach.
That’s how we are to respond to people who treat us unjustly, but how do we make sure we do not treat others unjustly? How are we supposed to judge someone else’s motives, words, actions, or attitudes? We must judge with the same grace and love with which we want to be judged.
The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians exactly how to keep from assigning wrong motives, or misjudging anyone: we must intentionally practice love. What does that look like?
o Love patiently waits for the moment to pass before it jumps in with harsh words.
o Love kindly seeks truth in confusing situations.
o Love does not allow envy to rule the moment.
o Love doesn’t boast about one’s self at the expense of another.
o Love does not indulge anger.
o Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
o Love chooses to set pride aside and submit to humility.
o Love does not let evil triumph, but rejoices in truth.
o Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.
In a text, an email, a conversation, a tweet, or any social media post, love assumes the best, the highest ideal, the purest motive. The innocent should not have to prove innocence.
Is it possible that you have damaged relationships because you misjudged another? Will you choose to act in love, seek the truth, believe the truth-teller, and confess your error? Will you ask forgiveness?
Have you been misjudged? Are you holding on to resentment? Will you choose to let go of the resentment and instead seek to extend grace and show love to those who persecute you? Will you pray for them? Will you choose to serve them? Will you forgive them?
How would our lives and relationships change if we, on both sides of the spectrum – the condemned and the condemners – choose to extend to one another the same grace, love, and forgiveness that we have received from God?
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