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Sermon-Getting Rid of Resentment

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Getting Rid of Resentment

by Ward Williams

Text: Luke 6:28

Topic: How to get rid of resentment

Big Idea: We can get rid of our resentment by loving, serving, and praying for our enemies.

Keywords: Anger, human; Bitterness; Enemies; Grudges; Hate; Hatred; Love for Enemies; Resentment



·        All of us possess resentment towards people we don't like.

·        The test of Christian discipleship is to be able to love the people we don't like.

"Love your enemies…."

·        The New Testament contains three words that represent different aspects of love: eros (physical, romantic love), philia (mutual friendship), and agape (recognition of others' needs).

·        The Bible always uses agape whenever love is commanded as a duty toward our neighbor or enemy.

·        Jesus doesn't command that we like our enemies; he commands that we desire their welfare and highest good.

"Do good to those who hate you…."

·        Illustration: During the Revolutionary War, General Washington granted a pardon to a man whose enemy reported his innocence.

·        Christians can be distinguished from the world by our willingness to return good for evil, just like God did.

-                      Romans 12:20

"Pray for those who treat you spitefully."

·        Jesus emphasizes this command through repetition (v. 28).

·        You cannot pray for a person and continue to hate them.


·        Everyone who chooses to hold on to anger and hate places themselves in danger.

-           Matthew 5:22

-                      Illustration: A doctor with a defective heart died in the middle of a heated argument with a colleague.

-                      Illustration: A Christian in ancient Alexandria experienced the miracle of being able to endure the insults of his peers.

·        Big Idea: Use Jesus' formula to rid yourself of destructive resentment.

Getting Rid of Resentment

by Dr. Ward Williams


This morning we come face to face with a practical problem confronting everyone here; namely, overcoming our resentment toward people we don't like. In our scripture today, Jesus suggests the true test of Christian discipleship is not how well we get along with our friends, but how adept we are at loving our enemies.

Let's be honest. We all deal with people we do not like.

  • We don't like people who make us feel inferior.
  • We don't like people who think they are always right.
  • We don't like people who find fault with everything but have no constructive solutions for anything.
  • We don't like people who pretend to be what they are not.
  • We don't like people who view everything in life in terms of what it will mean to their own comfort and success.

What we don't like about other people is the basis of conflict and resentment between neighbors, between employer and employee, between politician and constituent, and between haves and have-nots. Even between parent and child, and husband and wife.

Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus sanction human shortcomings as justification for resentment. He says, in effect, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner."

It all adds up to this: the test of Christian discipleship is to be able to love people we do not like.

1. "Love your enemies..."

When Jesus says, "Love your enemies," we need to recognize that in the New Testament there are three words for "love" which carry very different and distinct meanings. They are eros, philia, and agape.

Eros means being drawn to another person because of his or her attractiveness: the object of the love is the source of the love. It is from eros that we get the word erotic. Its most complete fulfillment is in a happy, marital relationship, but in whatever kind of relationship we find this love, it rests on a real appreciation of the physical beauty, charm, merits, or talents of the beloved.

Philia is an attraction to another person because of mutual interest or concern. It arises between two persons who enjoy the same things, who like the same people. Its most vivid possibility is found in friendship. In modern usage, we find philia as the root of the word philanthropy, a love of mankind that is demonstrated through benevolent gifts or deeds.

Agape, unlike the other two types of love, does not depend upon the loveableness of another person, or upon shared interests. It arises from the recognition of the needs of other people. It has no hidden motive. Or, as Paul put it in his letter to the church at Corinth, "Agape does not insist on its own way." This love expresses itself in action; not necessarily accompanied by emotion or sentiment.

Agape emphasizes the free-will aspect of love, the determination to seek the good of the one who is loved. It's obvious, when you think about it, this is the only kind of commendable love. In the Bible, whenever love is commanded as a duty toward our neighbor or toward our enemy, it is always agape that is used and never the first two.

To give agape the sharpest definition possible, Jesus chooses an example in which no element of eros or philia are mixed in. He says, "Love your enemies…."

When you look at it this way, it begins to throw some light on your problem. You can love your enemies in spite of the fact that you do not like them, because you are able to control your will. Whereas you cannot command your feelings, or your emotions.

We can put it down as fact that Jesus never says we must like our enemies. What he commands is that we desire their welfare, that we seek their highest good, whether we like them or not. There is a second part to Jesus' formula for getting rid of resentment:

2. "Do good to those who hate you…."

This story of General Washington and the petition for pardon illustrates that "doing good" means just that: doing good. During that dreadful winter at Valley Forge, while General George Washington's army was freezing, the British sat snugly in their warm barracks in Philadelphia, growing fat on American bread and beef. Morale in the Continental Army was low, and Washington himself was filled with an overwhelming sense of helplessness. In the course of that season, a man walked fifty miles through the bitter cold to beg General Washington to spare the life of a soldier who had been sentenced for neglect of duty. "I am very sorry," said Washington, "but I cannot grant the request for your friend's pardon." "He is not my friend!" the man replied. "I suppose that there is not another man alive that hates me to the extent that your prisoner does." Washington looked very surprised and said, "Surely you are not pleading for someone who hates you?" "Yes," said the man, "because I know him to be completely innocent of the charge." "Then," said the general, "I shall grant the pardon."

Stanley Jones reminds us that there are three levels of life. The first level is returning evil for good, which is the demonic level. The second is returning evil for evil, which is the legal level. The third is returning good for evil, which is the divine level.

You cannot read the New Testament without seeing that any person who names the name of Christ is called to live on the high level of returning good for evil.

In the passage surrounding our text, Jesus says the Christian will not demand an eye for an eye, but will turn the other cheek. And the apostle Paul, in his letter to Rome, puts the matter in an unforgettable fashion:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

There is a third part to the formula, which is:

3. "Pray for those who treat you spitefully."

First, love your enemies, in the sense of desiring their welfare. Second, do good to those who hate you. And finally, pray for them. Jesus adds emphasis to this last step by saying it in two different ways: "Bless those who curse you," he says, "and pray for those who abuse you."

I imagine that Jesus named this step twice in order to emphasize its importance. Essentially, he says this: when you have arrived to the point when you can invoke a word of blessing on the person who has made himself your enemy, then pray for him. Stanley Jones put it like this: "Every time the name of the person you dislike is mentioned, breathe a prayer for that person. You beat down rising resentment by a barrage of prayer."

I do not know why it is, but I do know what it does; the proper prayer is a practical step to getting rid of resentment. You cannot pray for a person and continue to hate them.

I think we all agree that one of the major problems in our world is getting along with each other. What is war but the consequence of large groups of people who find it difficult to get along with each other? What is internal discord and strife but the consequences of conflicting interests of people within a nation? What is the cause of most of the personal unhappiness in our lives but the result of refusing to get along with others? The problem we confront at every turn is the problem of getting rid of resentment. In another context, Jesus warned us of the consequences of harboring resentment when he said,

"Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment."

That sounds like a religious argument against resentment; but when you shorten the sentence you get the real point: "Everyone who is angry shall be in danger"—period.

When a preacher says something like that you chalk it up as "just preaching." But when a doctor says the same thing, you are more likely to listen.

Listen to Dr. William Sadler: "There is simply no way to get comfort and delight out of hate—it is truly the arch-demon of all the little devils who are subversive of joy and destructive of character."

And to Dr. John Hunter, a famous British physician, who suffered from a bad heart: "I am at the mercy of any scoundrel who will make me angry." He was certainly right. He stood up at a medical meeting to soundly refute something he resented, and in a fit of anger, fell dead.

"Everyone who is angry is in danger…." The reason Jesus said that is because it is true. You simply cannot get away from it. If you hold resentment within you, it acts as a thief robbing you of your happiness.

There is an old story of a man who lived in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, in the early days of Christianity. The man was a devout believer. One day he was being tormented by a group of young people who were mocking him and making fun of his religion. In their scorn they hurled this question at him: "What miracles has your Christ shown?" This is what the man said quietly: "He has wrought this miracle, that I should endure the insult and injury which you heap on me without losing my tranquility of mind."

That is what we all want, is it not? To be able to rid ourselves of the resentments which disturb our tranquility of mind. To that end, I bid you: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who treat you spitefully."

© Ward Williams

A resource of Christianity Today International

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