“I have been wronged,” they say. We have all met them. Every neighborhood has them, the jails are full of them, and church trouble often has its root in them—those people who carry around an attitude of grievance, a bitter, self-pitying, complaining spirit.
They are the ones waiting for those who have wronged them to come and make their wrongs right. And until that happens they sulk and complain. Perhaps they won't come to church; but if they do, they won't carry any responsibility. They may refuse, in their condemnation of others, to participate in communion. They withhold their financial support. Then as the years go by, their attitude becomes hardened into a personality trait and they become known as people who carry a grudge for something that happened years ago.
Every brother who has served on a committee to adjust any church difficulty knows how the story goes. Almost every division in church history features people who felt that in some committee decision, in some church action, or in some bishop's ruling they had not been treated fairly. “They took away my office,” “They said things about me that were not true,” “They gave me no chance to present a defense,” and so the complaints run.
Where there are humans, there will be injustice. Life is not fair. Even the saved and sanctified are fallible and, yes, even the church leaders have blind spots, so surely injustice will happen even in church relationships. Probably most people have been wronged at one time or another, or so it may seem. If you have been wronged, misused, set aside, or perhaps think you have, you are not alone; no solitary misfortune has befallen you (1Pe 5:9).
This is not to justify the giving of offense. Jesus said that “offenses must needs come, but woe to that man by whom they come.” However, when a stone of stumbling is thrown our way it is the sensible and Christian response to refuse to stumble. Most such stones can be stepped over or walked around. He is a foolish man who insists on stubbing his toe just because there is a stumbling block in his path.
Life is too short to let any of it be spoiled by moping around. If we have been wronged, we should quickly forgive, let go, respond with a Christ-like love, then go on our way. One does not need to wait until the offender asks to be forgiven. Yes, he should ask, but if he does not, it is his loss, not ours. Let us not warp our souls by allowing and harboring an unforgiving attitude. Love keeps no record of wrong (1Co 13:5).
The wrongs we suffer can be a means toward making our character more holy, Christ-like, and beautiful. The people who wrong us are potential change agents in our lives. Our response determines whether we are becoming more like Jesus or less like Him.
What a testimony it is to the world when Christians refuse to hold grudges! It takes no special grace to cherish a hurt; anybody can do it and many of us do. But only a Christian, one who has put on Christ (Rom 13:14) and who has become a new creature (2Co 5:17), can live above the hurts which come our way. Imagine Christ on the cross complaining, “I have been wronged!” Of course He had, and no one more than He! He was despised, rejected, falsely accused, misunderstood, and forsaken by His friends—He who had done no wrong had been wronged! But He allowed His pain to be turned into the world’s redemption. His life’s example shows us what He meant when He said “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Jesus said in Mar 11:26, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Again: Mat 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
And again: Mat 18:34-35, “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
These Scriptures are clear; no one who claims to follow Jesus can carry a grudge or have within them a bitter, self-pitying, complaining spirit of unforgiveness. Rather, the Christian looks to the cross of Christ and trusts the heart of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Father for whom ALL our life events are tools in His hands, to help “conform us into the image of Christ” (Rom 8:28-29).
Perhaps someone reading this cannot name one person who has wronged him. God bless you! You have forgiven and chosen to “remember it no more” and to have a heart full of God's love “that covers a multitude of sin,” all according to God’s will. No true follower of Christ says, “I have been wronged,” because they see the hand of their sovereign Lord at work in their lives.
There is a an opposite side to this whole issue, which is reconciliation. According to Matthew 18:15 we are told, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” God's heart in interpersonal relationships is that there would always be reconciliation between offended individuals and with Himself (2Co 5:18-19). The only way this can be accomplished is to develop and maintain open communication between each one involved; however, that is another subject.
In conclusion, the main purpose of this article is to examine the tendency of the human heart to focus on “hurts,” hanging on to them—all the while feeling justified in doing so, without realizing that if we respond in this manner we are actually hurting ourselves and hindering the work of God in our heart.
While we should never leave out the balancing aspect of reconciliation, we should always first take the time to check our own hearts in any given, hurtful situation and ask God to examine us, our attitudes, motives, and responses, so confusion does not settle in and so we do not become self-centered by being focused on ourselves instead of on God and others.
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Gen 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.