Training for Reigning - 13 - Resentments

WHEN YOU STOP TO think about it, would it not be most surprising if, when they spat in the Lord Jesus’ face, He had said, "I resent that"?
We read that His anger arose when grieved with the hardness of men’s hearts (Mark 3: 5). And He was moved with indignation when His disciples rebuked "the mothers of Salem" (Mark 10: 14). But when we review all the indignities He suffered while He dwelt among men, do we not find it impossible to think of a single instance where we could say that Resentment, (as we think of it) was in evidence? Yet what a lot of us there are who sincerely believe that not only is our Resentment nearly always justified, but also that it is some sort of a virtue to react that way!
In recent years the unhappy truth has been hammered into my consciousness that a truly vast area of basic Christian living, and spiritual growth, is being undermined, habitually, by failure to recognize the soul-damaging effects of Resentment, and its twin, Self-pity. . . IN MOST CASES, QUITE UNCONSCIOUSLY. Along with this situation often goes something that seems surprising - an ardent longing for a more spiritual life!
Now perhaps we should consider just what Resentment is, and what makes us feel that way. The authorities tell us that there are probably five basic patterns of Emotions: Lust, Fear, Anger, Elation and Grief. In addition there are many composites of these. (Love, Courtship and Marriage note: Young people should know that the delicious, romantic (erotic) love, which they so greatly worship, has its roots in what is now called "lust" - a stern lesson which Experience finally teaches us all, but which many find out too late).
To resume: Resentment, therefore, is something more than the sudden emotion of Anger. It is something that goes on to become an Attitude - a disposition toward feeling grieved because some- one hindered us, or went against what we regarded as our interests, or injured us, or our friends - either in fact, or in imagination.
Considered in the half-light of the half-truths of ordinary ideas of daily living, we find it quite reasonable to conclude that Re sentment is entirely justified under such circumstances. We suppose that anyone who has an ounce of "spunk" within him, or her, is bound to act that way . . . and we secretly admire him, her, for it. Yet even poor, unsaved psychologists can see more deeply than that. They diagnose Resentment, bluntly, as "an emotional attitude" arising from the "THWARTING OF SELF-ASSERTION BY PERSONS OR THINGS."
Hmm . . . Arising from the "thwarting of self-assertion by persons or things." Doesn’t sound so good, does it? In fact when we think of the ceaseless practice of the Grace of Acceptance by the Man, Christ Jesus, it sounds like the very opposite to His way of living, wouldn’t you say? Certainly He Who took the seven long steps of Self-humbling described in Philippians 2: 5-8 was not tainted with Self-assertion. That is something which characterizes you and me, and others like us. Moreover, the fact that we can feel resentful towards people or things shows up our hateful Self-life, the Flesh, as being the source of our Resentments. Failing to see ourselves as God sees us, we are ready, nearly always, to blame persons or things for our troubles, instead of judging our Feelings and Attitudes in the light of His Word . . . Right? (that’s the way it is with me, anyway - alas!).
The word "Resentment" is not found in our Bibles; but as an attitude of ill-feeling its existence plainly appears in the Divine records. The story of Cain’s self-will, rejection, anger, resentment and revenge (Genesis 4) needs only to be recalled to provide proof of its presence. Sarah’s resentment towards Ishmael was definite (Genesis 21: 9-10). Consider, also: Rachel versus Leah (Genesis 29: 30-32; 30: 1); Esau’s resentment over the stolen blessing (Genesis 27: 41); of Laban’s sons (Genesis 31: 1-2); of Jacob’s Sons re Dinah (Genesis 34: 7, 13, 25-31), and Joseph (Genesis 37: 4). Passing over those of Job, of certain complaints in the Psalms, of the "vexation of spirit" of the writer of Ecclesiastes, and going on into the New Testament, we find the resentments of the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees continually nagging at the Lord Jesus. Doubtless these "fiery darts of the Wicked One" were meant to try to turn Him aside from the Perfect Servant pathway; and failing in that, to discourage, hinder and defeat His ministry. And how dismally they failed! But there were other victims of it.
As one example written for our instruction, we read: "And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village" (Luke 9: 51-56). Thus we see how disciple-resentment at the way He was treated was rebuked - not commended. Should we not have thought that, if ever Resentment was justifiable, it would have been on such an occasion?
Other instances come readily to mind; but since the above story deals with one example of disciple-resentment, let us look at it for our own benefit. It provides a good clear picture of the harm this graceless evil does to ourselves.
1. It put James and John completely out of line with the purposes of the Lord.
2. It made their flesh right ready to act "for His glory," as they evidently supposed. (Compare Peter’s zeal at Gethsemane:
Matthew 26: 51-54). They even had what they considered to be chapter and verse as a warrant for their fire-from-Heaven suggestion.
3. It only earned for them His rebuke - which, in turn, saved them from presumptuous sin.
4. Since they had hopes of seeing Him crowned as Israel’s conquering King, it demonstrated the truth afresh (so easily seen, also, in the other cases noted) that Resentment is an attitude which arises mostly when our self-assertion is thwarted, or our friends injured.
5. And unless His grace made them truly repentant, who knows but that they resented His attitude and His rebuke?
However, let us not forget that our Resentments do the very same kind of things to us. Perhaps you can recall remarks like these, all indications of Resentment either active or smouldering:
"Who does he think he is? He doesn’t need to think he can get away with that!"
"Well I like that! Did you hear what she just said to me?"
"He sure had it coming to him! He won’t get any sympathy from me. He treated my sister like dirt."
"Are my parents ever the old meanies! Just wait until
"Oh, everybody else can have friends, go places, and have things but not me!"
"Why can’t people mind their own business and leave me alone?"
"He really burns me up" (with Resentment, of course).
"Oh no, I never can do anything right to suit him."
The most grievous part of all this is that our Heavenly Father not only must listen to such things, and watch their outcome, but also must have patience with us when we actually suppose such attitudes to be commendable, while we count as "soft" those who seek grace to keep from indulging them.