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What Does the Bible Say About Holding Grudges?
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What Does the Bible Say About Holding Grudges?

Holding grudges is something many of us struggle with. When someone wrongs us, it’s natural to feel hurt and want justice. However, Scripture calls us to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Holding onto grudges and unforgiveness leads to bitterness and broken relationships. In this post, we’ll explore what the Bible teaches about grudges and how we can break free from their grip through God’s power and grace.

Introduction

Unforgiveness and grudge-holding are prevalent issues in the church today. Many believers are trapped in bitterness due to hurts from the past. This not only affects our relationships with others but our relationship with God.

The Bible has much to say about the dangers of refusing to forgive and holding onto resentment. Scripture calls us to forgive as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Holding grudges displeases God and opens the door for the enemy in our lives.

The good news is that through Christ, we can find freedom from all bitterness, resentment and desire for revenge. As we look at what the Bible teaches, may the Holy Spirit search our hearts and empower us to walk in forgiveness toward those who’ve hurt us.

Video on Forgiveness

Key Takeaways:

  • Holding grudges is rooted in unforgiveness and leads to bitterness.
  • Unforgiveness grieves the heart of God and hinders our prayers.
  • We must forgive others just as God has forgiven us through Christ.
  • Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. God calls us to obey Him and forgive.
  • God promises to provide strength and grace as we choose forgiveness over grudges.
  • Letting go of grudges brings freedom and healing into our lives.
  • Forgiving others allows us to be free conduits of God’s grace.
What does the bible say about holding grudges?

What Does the Bible Say About Grudges and Unforgiveness?

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness, bitterness and resentment. Let’s look at some key passages that deal with the dangers of holding onto grudges:

Unforgiveness Grieves the Heart of God

Ephesians 4:30-32 – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

In these verses, Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit through bitterness and unforgiveness. When we refuse to forgive others, it greatly saddens the heart of God. Holding grudges essentially communicates to God that His forgiveness towards us wasn’t enough. It’s a slap in the face of grace.

Grudges Lead to Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15 – “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

The author of Hebrews warns us that unforgiveness leads to a “root of bitterness.” Like a root, resentment spreads under the surface and affects every part of our lives. It defiles many by contaminating relationships. The only solution is focusing on God’s grace – both receiving it and extending it to others.

Forgive Just As You’ve Been Forgiven

Colossians 3:13 – “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Paul exhorts us to forgive others just as the Lord forgave us. Because of Christ, our slate is wiped clean. We are to extend that same grace to those who have hurt us. Forgiveness should be our “default setting” in relationships since we’ve been forgiven infinitely more.

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The Danger of Unforgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus highlights the dangerous cycle of unforgiveness. God forgives us only as we forgive others. Withholding forgiveness from others blocks us from receiving God’s forgiveness. Letting go of grudges keeps our hearts free to be cleansed by God’s grace.

Forgiveness Frees Us from Bondage

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 – “Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him… in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

Paul urged the Corinthian church to forgive and restore a man who had wronged them. He warns that unforgiveness gives Satan an opportunity to scheme against them. There is a spiritual bondage that comes with holding onto grudges. Forgiveness closes the door on the enemy’s schemes to breed bitterness.

Choose to Forgive

Matthew 18:21-22 – “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

When Peter asked about forgiving people who repeatedly hurt him, Jesus said to forgive not just 7 times but 70 times 7. He was essentially saying to forgive infinitely. Forgiveness is a choice we make by God’s grace, not a feeling dependent on the offender’s actions.

Why is it So Dangerous to Harbor Grudges?

After looking at what Scripture teaches, it’s clear that holding onto grudges and unforgiveness is extremely harmful. Let’s explore some of the dangers of allowing bitterness to take root:

1. Grudges Grieve the Holy Spirit

As Ephesians 4 highlighted, clinging to unforgiveness greatly grieves God’s Spirit living inside us. It’s a grave thing to grieve the Holy Spirit who wants intimacy with us. Grudges build a wall between us and God.

2. Grudges Lead to Bondage

Bitterness gives the enemy a foothold in our lives. Satan uses grudges to torment us and derail God’s purposes. As 2 Corinthians 2 said, unforgiveness causes us to be “outwitted” by the enemy’s schemes.

3. Grudges Affect our Prayer Life

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Unforgiveness blocks our prayers from being heard. We cut off communication with God by clinging to grudges.

4. Grudges Contaminate Community

One person’s bitterness and resentment can divide families, churches and friend groups. It spreads like a cancer, contaminating fellowship and destroying relationships.

5. Grudges Steal our Joy and Peace

Holding grudges keeps our hearts in emotional turmoil. The Gospel promises joy and peace that passes understanding. But resentment robs us of experiencing the fruits of the Spirit.

6. Grudges Lead to Isolation

Bitter people often cut others off and isolate themselves. Over time, grudges can make people paranoid of relationships and skeptical of friendships. Isolation feeds bitterness in a vicious cycle.

7. Grudges Breed More Unforgiveness

Once we allow resentment to take root, it becomes easier and easier to harbor grudges. Bitterness spreads as it distorts our view of other people’s intentions and motives. Only God’s grace can break this destructive cycle.

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

Now that we’ve looked at the dangers of grudges, let’s explore what biblical forgiveness actually entails. Forgiveness is often misunderstood, so we need to get clarity from Scripture.

1. We Forgive Because We’ve Been Forgiven

As Colossians 3:13 states, we forgive others because of how God forgave us through Christ. We don’t forgive to earn God’s favor. We forgive in response to the infinite forgiveness we already have in Jesus. It’s rooted in grace, not duty.

2. Forgiveness is a Choice, Not Just a Feeling

Although emotions are involved, forgiveness is first an act of the will. We choose to release the offender from a debt they owe us. As Matthew 18 showed, it’s a choice made in obedience to God, not based on others’ actions.

3. Forgiveness Involves Releasing a Debt

When someone wrongs us, we often feel they “owe” us something – an apology, changed behavior, punishment, etc. Forgiveness releases them from that debt and frees our heart toward them.

4. Forgiveness is Not Forgetting the Offense

We may not easily forget severe hurts and offenses. But forgiveness means not holding the offense against them anymore. We leave justice and vengeance to God.

5. Forgiveness May Not Lead to Reconciliation

With severe hurts, reconciliation may not be possible or wise if the offender is unrepentant. But we can still forgive them even if the trust to reconcile isn’t there. Forgiveness simply releases them from owing us anything.

6. Forgiveness is an Ongoing Process

Often forgiveness is not a one-time choice. As memories resurface, we must keep choosing to extend grace and release grudges. This prevents roots of bitterness from re-forming.

7. Forgiveness Opens the Door for Healing

As we choose to forgive, God’s grace gives us power to heal from wounds caused by others. Space is created for God’s love to speak louder than the enemy’s accusations.

How Do We Break Free From the Grip of Grudges?

Forgiveness is not easy, especially with deep hurts. How do we break free from the stronghold of bitterness and choose to forgive those who have wounded us?

1. Accept God’s Forgiveness for Your Sins

To give forgiveness, I must first receive it. Letting God’s grace and mercy penetrate my heart empowers me to extend it to others. I realize I have been forgiven an infinitely greater debt.

2. Ask God to Soften Your Heart

The Spirit must soften our hearts toward those who hurt us. We can pray, “God, give me Your heart of compassion for this person. Help me to see them through Your eyes.”

3. Be Honest With God About Your Anger

God isn’t scared of our feelings of anger and sadness. Pouring out our hurt and pain to Him heals us without allowing seeds of bitterness to take root.

4. Release Your Right to Take Revenge

Make the choice to trust God with justice instead of taking matters into your own hands. Declare your trust in His ability to make wrongs right.

5. Bless the Person Who Hurt You

As Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Ask God to bless them and meet their deepest needs. This breaks bitterness’s power.

6. Remember How Much You’ve Been Forgiven

When grudges resurface, recall specific ways God has forgiven you. This gives strength and perspective for forgiving others. God’s grace toward us is inexhaustible.

7. View the Offender as a Broken Child of God

See them through the lens of God’s redemption. Pray for their healing and restoration. They are on a journey too, in need of God’s grace as much as you.

8. Release the Relationship to God

Give the burden of the relationship over to God. Trust Him to deal with their heart and to work all things for your good. Let go of control and thank Him for being in control.

9. Keep Taking the Forgiveness Challenge

Each time grudges reemerge, keep choosing to forgive. Write down the offense and date it. Tear it up or shred it as an act of releasing it to God. Forgiveness gets easier with practice.

The Blessings of a Forgiving Heart

What blessings await those who, by God’s power, break free from the prison of holding grudges? Scripture describes many fruits of living a lifestyle of forgiveness.

1. Forgiveness Brings Emotional Freedom

Forgiving others allows our hearts to be unshackled from bitterness. We no longer waste energy obsessing over offenses. As Jesus said, only forgiveness can “set the prisoner free.” (Luke 4:18)

2. Forgiveness Restores Lost Joy

Unforgiveness drains the joy from our lives. But releasing grudges makes space for the joy and peace that Jesus purchased for us to flourish again. It’s warmth after a long winter.

3. Forgiveness Opens the Floodgates of Grace

As we forgive others, we position our hearts to freely receive and give God’s grace. We become conduits of the same grace that saved us rather than reservoirs collecting bitterness.

4. Forgiveness Heals Broken Relationships

While the other’s response is uncertain, choosing to forgive opens the door for reconciliation. Healing can begin when we let go of demanding justice.

5. Forgiveness Brings Physical Health Benefits

Research shows that chronic unforgiveness and bitterness negatively affect heart health and weaken the immune system. Forgiveness combats the toll grudges take on our bodies.

6. Forgiveness Allows Us to Be Good Stewards of Time

Holding onto grudges traps us in the past. Forgiveness frees us up to be fully present and make the most of each moment God gives us. We invest in the future, not the past.

7. Forgiveness Equips Us to Fulfill Our Calling

When we are free from bitterness, we are emotionally and spiritually available for God to use us in serving others. Unforgiveness imprisons our hearts and gifts.

Conclusion: Walking in the Freedom of Forgiveness

What an amazing gift God has given us through Jesus – the ability to forgive and be forgiven. As we have explored, holding onto grudges only leads to bondage, while choosing forgiveness ushers in healing. I encourage you today, whatever grudge may be weighing you down, bring it to Jesus. Repent of any bitterness and thank Him for perfectly forgiving all your sins on the cross. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to freely forgive those who have hurt you. Experience the joy of that burden being lifted. Walk in the freedom of forgiveness that has been purchased for you. Refuse to allow seeds of bitterness to take root. May God bless you as you choose forgiveness over grudges through His abounding grace.

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Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.