There was a time in my life where I could hold a grudge like a champion. I would live and relive the anger and resentment over what someone had done to me, or what I perceived that they had done to me. It would play over and over in my mind, and for a great amount of time it would totally consume me. Try as I might to dismiss the grudge from my mind, I was not able to do so. These things would keep me awake at night, in addition to occupying my thoughts during the daylight. I would think the incident through, and come up with so many other things I could have said and/or done after the fact. My after-action reviews were never constructive, they were more of “ah, take that,” or “I should have said this,” kind of moments. Maybe I thought that hanging onto the actual, or perceived wrong, gave me some sort of power, or even martyrdom – for sure I always thought of these situations as righteous indignation. It seems to be human nature that we want to hang onto those wrongs, as if they give us a sense of purpose.
I’m not alone in this kind of behavior, that’s for sure. The same scenario plays out in human history on a much grander scale. We see this kind of struggle between people, and classes of people, way back in the Old Testament. We see fighting going on in the squabble for the territory that God gave to the Israelites after coming out of slavery in Egypt – and that squabbling for the very same territory is still going on today. We see the attempt to annihilate the Jewish population under King Xerxes in the book of Esther. We see it played out in the hatred of Hitler bringing forth the extermination of an estimated 6 million, out of a total 9 million, Jewish people in Europe. And, perhaps in a way, we still see some of it in the attitude of Southerners towards Northerners in the USA, stemming back to the Civil War (1861 – 1865) – at least I experienced it when I moved to the south.
The fact is we as a people, also hold grudges, and in some cases these grudges play out over thousands of years. But, we cannot go forward, if we are constantly looking back. There’s a saying that I heard in effect that says God gave us eyes in the front of our heads so that we look forward. If God wanted us to look backwards, He would have given us additional eyes in the back of our head. You cannot look forward if you are constantly looking back, nor can you drive your vehicle forward if your eyes never leave the rear view mirror. There is simply no way to progress in a straight path with your eyes fixed over your shoulder.
I contend that it’s an age old problem, and one that is a favorite tactic of the enemy. Why? Because it’s so very effective. All Satan needs is to plant a teeny tiny seed, maybe even water it a little, then he and his minions can sit back and watch as God’s people race off on a tangent that causes others to disbelieve our Christian witness. Those behaviors that we exhibit during those times make us all look like nominal Christians (Christian in name only), and that’s precisely when non-believers point their fingers at us and proclaim us to be hypocrites. I can see Satan, and his minions laughing it up as we race around exhibiting un-Christian like behavior, all the while toting that we are God’s child, and telling others that they should want what we have.
The fact is that if we want to be an effective Christian, then we need to live like one. Of course, I realize that’s much easier said than done, and there are times that I am far from successful at exhibiting the right witness. I really don’t want Satan to render my witness ineffective. I know that I need to stay the course with God. I must stay in the Word, in constant communication with God, and be ever so mindful of Satan’s tactics to render me ineffective. To phrase this another way, I need to fix my eyes vertically on my relationship with God, so that I can be effective in my horizontal relationships with others.
Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (ESV)