James 5:9 KJV
9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
How are you at holding grudges? Do you old onto things other people may do to you, or say to you? Do these wrongs nag at you throughout the day, causing you to stew and fret over them? Do you forgive those who have angered you quickly, or do yo hold onto anger for a long time, or even just a little time? If any of these things describe you, things need to change.
The word grudge here is the Greek word “stenazo” which means to groan, express grief, anger or desire. It is mostly interpreted groan, or sigh. I’m sure you have seen people who will sigh deeply when they are upset about something, or get to a point in a heated conversation that they just sigh and give up. That is the idea here. The longer definition says “to groan because of pressure of being exerted forward (like the forward pressure of childbirth); (figuratively) to feel pressure from what is coming on”.
Holding any kind of a grudge, or complaining to others about what someone has done to you, will eat you alive. James says “lest you be condemned”. God does not condemn us – ever. Jesus said, in John 3:17 ( a verse we often forget about because of what comes before it) “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” The condemnation does not come from God, it actually grows inside us in the form of bitterness, which can be our worst enemy. Hebrews 12:14-15 says “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 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” Do you see how this relates to our text?
Once a root of bitterness sets in, it will grow until forgiveness is given from the heart to the one that you are holding the grudge against. This shows you why forgiveness is so essential to our Christian walk. If we do not forgive, bitterness is not far behind. Bitterness will eat at your soul and poison your mind. The longer you allow that bitterness to stay, the harder it gets to forgive. Eventually, you forget what the original source of the grudge is, and hatred sets in for the person. Hatred – instead of the love we should have for one another.
Look again at the Hebrew excerpt above, because it shows us how to avoid bitterness. Follow peace with all men and don’t fail of the grace of God. To not fail of the grace of God means to be sure we are giving grace freely to all men. Giving grace is forgiving others. Giving grace is allowing room for people to make mistakes and then not holding it against them. Does Christ hold our mistakes against us? NO. Does He forgive us? YES. Now it’s our turn to display that kind of grace instead of holding grudges.
The judge standing at the door tells me that we better get those grudges out of our system or we will be judged for our forgiveness toward others. No one tells us this truth better than Jesus did. Matt 6:15 “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus never made idle threats. He meant what He said, every time. We have glossed over this truth to justify out lack of forgiveness too long. That is simply pride. Thinking we can ignore such an explicit statement and escape the final judge is us thinking we know better than God.
Forgiveness causes us to humble ourselves, and we don’t want to do that. I am not talking about saying “I’m sorry” and walking away. That is not what Jesus is saying either. We have replaced God’s desire with our own human statement of remorse. Asking forgiveness is much more difficult. We are opening ourselves up to another person and asking them to take a bold step. We are admitting our wrongdoing and asking them to acknowledge that. Then we are asking them to put it behind them as well. This is a bold thing to do, and at the same time it is the ultimate act of humility.
Do you remember the movie from the 70’s entitled “Love Story”? A famous line from that movie was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. In a way, that is true. Love will ask for forgiveness, not settle for I’m sorry. I know that just saying I’m sorry I sinned to God is not repenting. I must ask forgiveness, and He promises to give it if I ask with my whole being. I pray that all who read this will stop replacing “Please forgive me” with “I’m sorry” from now on