A glance at the three words – resentment, unforgiveness and revenge – will immediately reveal a connection. They are like three ends of a triangle with one point leading to another.
- Resentment is the feeling of bitterness, anger, or displeasure due to injustice. It stems from the belief that one has been wronged or betrayed by others.
- Unforgiveness is simply the lack of forgiveness when one is unwilling to let go of feelings of resentment or anger towards an offender.
- Revenge is to inflict harm on someone in response to a wrong done out of malice, hate and bitterness. In the quest to justify their actions, men have come up with excuses hidden in terms like getting even and payback.
I will take a closer look at each term and share biblical counsel on them.
The fall of man brought sin into the world and with it all kinds of evil thoughts and practices. Selfishness in the form of self-love was successfully sowed into the human heart. Eve ate the fruit thinking she would be bettering herself by becoming wise and knowing Good and Evil. She did that at the expense of God’s instructions and man, ever since, continued to have this problem. He thinks only about himself and often doesn’t consider others much in his desire to get what he wants. He is determined to do what he wants and will stop at nothing to fulfill that. The person who has been wronged takes offense and, if something is not done about it, this grows into resentment. Resentment towards another person can linger.
Cain did just that because his sacrifice was rejected while his brother Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God (Genesis 4:1-7). It ultimately led him to commit the first murder in the Bible. As Christians, we live in this fallen world and offense will come and if we are not careful, we can be swept away by resentment. Paul counsels, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32). When a Christian gives in to resentment, it can grow into unforgiveness.
No one is above committing an offense. Someone may have offended you this week or you may have offended them. These offenses committed against you are in no way to be taken lightly because they may have caused injury to you in one way or the other. You have the right to be angry and want justice, but if you as a Christian allow that anger and bitterness to linger, unforgiveness will set in and, every time you see the person, you may get unnecessarily worked up. An unbeliever may do as he likes but as a Christian, you are God’s child, and you know that God holds his children accountable for their actions (Romans 14:12).
There are times you may need to meet the person and communicate your hurt to them; they may acknowledge it and ask for your forgiveness or they may not. Letting go is how you move on. Holding on and then using their sins against them keeps you in a cycle of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness that lingers will continue growing and will lead you further downwards into revenge.
This is the stage where harm or hurt is perpetrated against the person that has committed an offense. This happens when unforgiveness lingers and comes full circle. The person is unable to let go of the offense and for whatever reason, he believes he needs to get even by making the offender feel his pain; an eye for an eye. His pain and unforgiveness become his chains and he is always on the lookout for some misfortune to come up on the offender and is happy when it does. Some people even pray to God to hurt the offender. Revenge consumes and makes one backslide, it isolates one from God and when God is put out of the picture on any matter, every kind of evil is possible.
Many Christians have fallen into this triangle of resentment, unforgiveness and revenge. They are distracted from God’s purpose for their lives. The Bible warns against anything that comes in between our relationship with our God.
Love as a healer
Resentment, unforgiveness, and revenge can be overcome by practicing love as demonstrated in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of love will make the Christian grow in forgiveness and, although he will be hurt by the wrongs and injustices that will come his way, he will not sink into resentment unforgiveness and revenge. Jesus showed this love towards us men that, while we were deep in our sins, committing every form of evil imaginable, he died for us who saw him as an enemy and, through his death a way was made for us to be free (Romans 5:8). As many as will come to him, He will give them the power to be children of God who will begin to imitate Him with his help and grow in his kind of Love.
Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) One cannot obey these commandments and still have resentment, unforgiveness and revenge in one’s heart. Jesus also calls His followers “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The love of God in a believer’s heart melts away resentment and unforgiveness.
Finally, the Christian should take solace in these words “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)