Posts Tagged ‘unresolved anger toward pastors’

Have you ever had someone come up to you and tell you how upset they’ve been with you because you once wronged them?

One afternoon when I was in college, I was walking toward my car when someone called out my name.  I turned around to see a young woman I had known for several years at church.

She wanted me to know that she had been upset with me for a long time because she liked me and I hadn’t reciprocated the way she wished.

She asked me to forgive her for all the animosity she held toward me.  I told her I forgave her … she felt much better … but I don’t ever remember seeing her again.

Did I need to know how angry she had been with me?

I bring this up because some Christians carry grudges for months … if not years … against other Christians … especially against their pastors.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26-27: “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

At least four principles about grudge-holding arise out of this text:

First, we all feel angry when we sense we’ve been violated.

It’s not a sin to feel anger.  For example, I instinctively feel angry when another driver tailgates my vehicle on the freeway.

Years ago, I didn’t always handle such situations with maturity … but I’ve learned how to control my anger much better … although I still have my moments.

Although our anger antenna isn’t infallible, that initial dose of anger may be God’s way of saying, “You’ve just been violated.  Don’t make it worse.”

There’s nothing sinful about feeling angry … Paul says so himself … but we shouldn’t nurse our anger.

We need to learn how to release it as soon as possible … and most of us acquire this skill as we mature.

Second, we need to resolve our anger as soon as possible.  

Many years ago, I said something in a sermon that ticked off a particular woman.  After the service, she and her husband vented to another couple, and they immediately left the church.

Why involve that couple when the woman was upset with me?

She eventually did speak with me about the issue, but by that time, the couple was long gone.

Most church conflicts and forced pastoral terminations occur because people spread their personal animosity toward their pastor to others.


Because they lack the courage to speak with their pastor themselves, they search for allies, hoping that (a) someone else will carry their offense, and (b) someone else will deal with the pastor so they won’t have to.

But this kind of thinking is counterproductive.

If you’re angry with your pastor, then (a) speak to him directly, or (b) forgive him privately … and let it go.

Third, deal with offenses as they arise.

In his book Love in Hard Places, theologian D. A. Carson tells about the time a Christian friend told Carson that he wanted a private word with him because Carson had offended him.

So the two of them arranged a meeting, and Carson’s friend related an incident that had happened twenty-one years earlier.  Carson and his friend were having a theological discussion and his friend quoted a few words from an author who had written in French.  Because Carson grew up speaking French, Carson repeated the French words after his friend because he was unconsciously correcting his pronunciation.

Carson’s friend didn’t say anything at the time, but several decades later, he told Carson, “I want you to know, Don, that I have not spoken another word of French from that day to this.”  Carson apologized for offending his friend, but upon later reflection, Carson felt “there was something profoundly evil about nurturing a resentment of this order for twenty-one years.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

I once had a staff member come to me and share a list of purported offenses I had committed against him.  The list went on and on.  Finally, I stopped him and asked, “So what you’re telling me is that you’ve hated me all this time?”  His reply: “Until recently.”

Here I was … meeting with him regularly … assuming everything was all right between us … trusting him as a ministry colleague … but all the while, he had been collecting grievances against me.

After he dumped his load on me, he felt better, but I plunged into depression.  I started to wonder, “How many other people in this church feel the same way about me?”

Paul’s admonition is to resolve your anger before the sun goes down … to address the issue at your first opportunity … to repair your relationship as soon as possible … but not to wait 17 months, as that staff member did.

That incident still bothers me to this day.

Finally, unresolved anger gives Satan church entry.

Let’s assume that Satan assigns a demon to every local church.  It’s that demon’s charter to use whatever means are necessary to destroy that church.

So that demon begins to probe the hearts of church leaders … trying to find those who are bitter … especially against their pastor.

And when the demon finds such an individual, he coaxes that person to tell others about his or her anger.

I have a pastor friend who served a church for several years, but nothing he was trying was working.

People began making charges against the pastor … only they didn’t tell the pastor directly.

So a consultant was called to the church to investigate.

One of the few charges against the pastor involved a tiny incident that had happened two years before at a church event.

When the incident was brought to the pastor’s attention, he couldn’t recall it at all.

If I had been the consultant, I would have thrown out the charge at that point.  A minor incident from two years before shouldn’t have any bearing on a pastor’s present status.

But it did … and was a contributing factor that led to the pastor’s eventual removal.

But evidently no one said to the accuser, “How could you nurse that grudge for so long?”

There should be a statute of limitations on the offenses Christians commit against each other.

For example, in my state, the statute of limitations for:

*general assault or battery is two years.

*medical malpractice or fraud is three years.

*breach of a written contract is four years.

The less serious an offense, the shorter the statute of limitations should last.  The more serious an offense, the longer the statute of limitations should last.

And yet when it comes to pastors, small incidents have a way of being magnified into spiritual and moral felonies … and this does not honor God or grow churches.

If you still nurse a grudge toward a pastor from your past, I encourage you to do one of two things:

*Either forgive the pastor unilaterally and let the incident go, or …

*Contact the pastor directly and try to reconcile your relationship.

Why do you think so many Christians nurse grudges against their pastors?

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