DORA, Ala. (BP)–“Keep your shirt on!” A couple of centuries ago, only a very well-to-do gentleman owned several shirts, so getting into a fight was no reason to ruin what might very well be your one and only. Too, fabrics were homespun, coarser, and more constricting, so a common step before launching into a fight was to remove one’s shirt.
For example, Sam and Ben have words; Sam then sees Ben unbuttoning his shirt. Unless Sam is eager to fight Ben, Sam will cry out, “Keep your shirt on!” In other words, “Let’s not be hasty about getting into a fight.” Today “keep your shirt on” still means “don’t be in such a hurry,” but it no longer refers to preparing angrily for a fight.
How does the Bible word it? “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26b). Heard that before, haven’t you? But can you quote the next verse, which is the completion of the sentence? “And don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27). In other words, lose your temper and attract the tempter. Grudge-holding is wrong, and the only thing it accomplishes is to show Satan the chink in your armor.
Certainly situations will arise that make us angry and sometimes downright furious. But as followers of the Gentle Lamb of God, what are we to do? Get over it. If we refuse to do so, we open up a wound through which Satan’s forces invade our spirit and fester our feelings of self-pity and woundedness. Next thing you know, you’re ready to give somebody, maybe even anybody, a piece of your mind. All of us know at least one person who’s given so many people a piece of his mind, he doesn’t have much left to work with!
How about you? Are you quick to anger? Right now I’m dealing with a situation where a friend believes I’ve committed a wrong which I haven’t done, and she refuses to forgive. I’ve pleaded with her to talk with me. I’ve tried to show her I’ve done nothing to hurt her. I’ve asked for her forgiveness. Forgiveness? I hear you, “But you just said you haven’t done anything to cause this!” I haven’t. But see, it’s not about who’s right or wrong — it’s about preventing bitterness from growing.
Unfortunately this Christian sister continues to hold onto her grudge, and her bitterness is becoming more and more apparent to all who see and hear her talk about the situation — and believe me, she’s talking. Am I out there telling my side of the story? No. I’m praying for the Lord to touch her heart and heal our relationship. I’m praying for the Lord not to allow me to harbor any resentment for what is being said in the meantime.
Jesus Christ is the only Defender I need. He is the only Defender you need. If you find yourself in a spot like I’m in, do what you can to diffuse the problem. Then leave it in God’s hands. He will never take the side of anyone who refuses to forgive — and that, my friend, includes you and me.
Don’t withhold forgiveness. You need it too much yourself. I need it too much for myself. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12) that we are to pray for the Lord to “forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”
How much has the Lord forgiven you? How much are you forgiving others? Beloved, we can’t afford to hold grudges.
Judy Woodward Bates is a freelance writer, author, speaker and creator of Bargainomics, a Bible-based time and money management philosophy, and the author of “The Gospel Truth about Money Management.”