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Love Doesn't Keep Score Love Doesn't Keep Score
    by David Smith

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5b NIV

    There are lots of phrases for it. “Nursing a grudge.” “Harboring a hurt.” “Storing up grievances.” “Keeping score.” But they all describe the same thing. In a word — resentment.

    Resentment is the subject we simply don’t talk about (funny, it’s the one subject you won’t hardly hear discussed on talk radio or on TV talk shows!). At the same time, it’s something we all do battle with often. Resentment is “the elephant in the living room” that we walk around. Resentment isn’t someone else’s problem — it is the common problem of mankind.

    If you doubt that, ask yourself these three questions. See if you can say “no” with a clear conscience three times. (1) Do you ever bring up old issues that someone has already asked your forgiveness about?, (2) Is there anyone you consistently treat cooly who you believe has slighted or hurt you before? (3) Do you find yourself talking quite a bit about personal disappointments from years gone by? If you’d like to take these three questions to a higher level — or maybe have an even more accurate assessment of them — ask your friends to tell you how they perceive you on these matters. Yow!

    Look around — you’ll find resentment almost everywhere. No heart is immune from the temptation and no place is too sacred to be infiltrated with an army of secret hatred. Consider...

    How many husbands harbor grudges as to their sex life with their mate?

    How many wives nurse some grievances over things their husband have repented of years ago — and remind him of it not infrequently?

    How many adult children treat their elderly parents with contempt because they believe they were ignored or mistreated as a child?

    How many parents rue the day their children were born because now they aren’t their mate’s center of attention anymore?

    How many employees try to torpedo someone else’s job or career because they feel they were stepped on by someone in the company?

    How many employers watch some aspiring underling closely so they can “cut ‘em down to size” someday in an attempt to keep their position secure in the company?

    How many sermons have been preached out a preacher’s resentment of slights and hurts (or how many lessons have church members / leaders encouraged a preacher to preach because they wanted the preacher to “get” so-and-so)?

    And how many new churches have been planted because deep personal resentments and personality clashes caused a a church to split?

    There’s no doubt about it — resentment is a very popular game we play everywhere and all the time. But how ironic that it is so popular — no one ever wins at it and it costs you your life! Take a good, hard, honest look in the mirror and see what resentment does.

    Holding a grudge makes no sense at all. When you nurse a grudge against someone, you’re putting him in prison in your mind. Guess who has to play “jailer?” Duh!

    See what harboring a hurt does to your spirit. It steals most of the joy from your life. It robs you of a great deal of peace. It buries your ability to be patient with others. It turns your kindness into something prejudiced and selective. It stains all that is goodness in you. It twists your faithfulfuness into something you gloat over. It crucifies your gentleness for now nothing gentle can survive in your heart. It warps your mind into thinking you’re a self-controlled person, when in reality, you’re out-of-control. In sum, it eradicates love from your spirit and stamps out the fruit of the Spirit of God in your heart.

    “Keeping score” just brings you more pain and causes pain for all sorts of others, involved and uninvolved. Wendell Willis in his wonderful book entitled A Place to Belong has described the painful spiral downward of “keeping score”:

“A person or group of people feel slighted... Yet often those they blame are unaware of doing any injury. This lack of awareness is perceived as an intentional neglect and leads to resentment. When we are resentful for wrongs we have endured, whether real or imagined, we are also very quick to take offense at any other slight.... we become the source of our own anguish.”

    Resentment begins a vicious cycle of hurt — with each remembrance of the wrong (or supposed wrong) we simple build a mountain of hurt. Resentment is, for all practical purposes, emotional masochism.

Resentment is emotional masochism.
    Storing up grievances only brings us shame. In remembering our grievances, we think we’re gaining a bit of justice by remembering someone’s injustice toward us. But it works exactly opposite in reality. If I may speak candidly and vividly (a bit crudely, perhaps, too, but at least I know you’ll remember the lesson!): harboring resentment is like wetting your pants — you’re the only one who feels it, everyone else sees the result, but you’re the only one who’s shamed. Think about it — who did you ever admire more for the way they hated someone? Resentment is a shameful way of dealing with the past or present.

    Ultimately, resentment dares to do what God refuses to do. If anyone has a “right to resent” mistreatment, it’s God. He is misunderstood and denied, misquoted and defied — and has been since the Fall. But how does God respond to all this abuse? Remarkably, God reconciles, rather than resents. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV

    God is love. And for those who claim to know God, reconciliation is the only way to life and love. Resentment can only lead away from a God who is true love for... “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5b NIV

    Resentment. It’s an ugly word for and ugly spirit. Such a spirit is fit only for a cross. And a cross is precisely what God did with it.

    Resentment. It’s the word that makes “work” a four-letter word so much of the time.

    Resentment. It’s the axe that splits up many a marriage and hacks the heart out of many a divorcee.

    Resentment. It’s the cancer that slowly kills many a church and embitters many a Christian.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15 NRSV

    Resentment. It’s the stuff hell is made of, and fit only for it. So be done with it. Get rid of it. Let it go.

    But how?

    See it for what it is — unforgiveness. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col.3:13)

    Learn from Jesus on the cross:

“Forgive them Father for they do not know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)

    Keep a record of “rights.” Journal your blessings. Actually write them down. Look for the good in others — particularly those you resent — and jot it down. Hold those thoughts before you in prayer as you lift the one you resent before God several times every day. And you’ll develop a new way of thinking about people made in God’s image and remembering the past. Take it from the AA “Big Book” (p.552):

“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.” (From the AA Big Book, page 552)

    Or more concisely, take it from “the Good Book”:

”...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven...”(Matthew 5:44-45 NRSV)

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV)

    Resentment — you’re worth far more than what it delivers and God, and his people, deserves far better. Get over it. Give it to God. By the power of the Holy Spirit of God, forgive and live.

"...pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God...” (Jude 20b-21a NRSV)
Comments, questions & requests to be added to the e-mailing list for the Online Devotional may be sent to: <thedsmith@aol.com>

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Title: "Love Doesn't Keep Score"
Author: David Smith
Publication Date: December 7, 2000



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