Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dealing with Resentment - part 1

Through our current SUPER MEN series in the book of Philemon we are seeing the need as followers of Christ to be men and women who choose to forgive. Perhaps one of the greatest verses in Scripture that speaks to this is in Ephesians 4:31-32. Like Philemon, Ephesians was also one of Paul’s prison epistles written during his first Roman imprisonment. These verses read as such out of the New American Standard Bible:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

In these two verses we see two ways that we are to deal with personal resentment in our lives. In verse 31 we are to REJECT personal resentment and in verse 32 we are to REPLACE personal resentment. First, we are told to “put away” resentment. This verb is a word that means to take up or to remove something. This is not the idea of simply controlling a weakness. This is the idea of total abandonment. The same word is used in James 1:21 where we are told to “put aside” filthiness; in Hebrews 12:1 where we are told to “lay aside” every encumbrance; as well as in Colossians 3:8 and 1 Peter 1:1.

This verb in Ephesians 4:31 is written in the imperative mood making it a command, not an option. In other words, this must take place for us to be in the will of God. This is an action that we must do once and for all as individual followers of Jesus. We must put away every element of personal resentment.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:31 and describes 6 areas of resentment. These are like building blocks. We start with the first one mentioned (bitterness). But if that one is not dealt with it grows into the second area (wrath) which naturally grows into the third area (anger). But if it still is not put away, the progress continues and here is where it gets highly dangerous. The first three areas of personal resentment are all inward. You can experience these areas and not have anyone else even know that you are struggling. But if resentment is not dealt with in these areas, it moves on to three more areas that are all outward…clamor; slander and malice. Let’s examine these six areas in more detail:

Stage 1 – Bitterness

This is a very deceiving beginning to resentment. This is not a deep feeling of hatred or anger. Rather, this is more of a smoldering resentment. It can be likened to a sense of irritability (see Colossians 3:19). That is why in Hebrews 12:14-15, bitterness is described as a seed. Many times you don’t even realize you have a problem. But like a seed, it can grow into a monster of a tree. And the further it grows the more difficult it is to deal with. That is why in Acts 8:21-23, Luke uses the phrase, “The gall of bitterness.” This little seed of resentment grows into a deep, inner agony seen in the remaining stages of resentment. We will see more of these stages in tomorrow’s blog entry.

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