Linda Sides, wife of one of the preachers at Sixth Avenue church of Christ in Jasper, Alabama, shared a startling picture with me that she took in a West Virginia cemetery. The backstory, as much as is known, is interesting. Apparently, a mother did not want to be cremated but her two daughters went against her wishes. Another child, a son, had a gravestone made with this epitaph: “IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER IVA PRITT WHO PASSED AWAY JANUARY 1, 1978, AND TO HER TWO DAUGHTERS WHO WENT AGAINST HER WISHES. MAY THEY BURN IN HELL. ALWAYS THINKING OF YOU. D.” We don’t know what kind of relationship the siblings had with each other or with their mother prior to the matriarch’s death. What we know is that the grudge held by the son has been memorialized for at least 37 years through the engraving on that marker. By this time, perhaps all the children have died, too. Where they went for eternity is unknown, but it’s quite possible this man went to his own grave carrying the burden of bitterness and resentment.
Perhaps few have carried their vendettas with such graphic vehemence as Iva’s son, but I have known quite a few whose verbal clues reveal as virulent a strain of visceral irritation. In the Bible, Herodias was said to have “had a grudge against him (John) and wanted to put him to death…” (Mark 6:19). She was living in sin and righteous John preached against it. Her response was to feel resentment for what he had done. Sometimes, an accurate message is received with absolute acrimony. A different Greek word is used in James 3:14 “pertaining to feeling resentful” (Louw and Nida, 1996, n/p). In reading James, this is a feeling that they may have had toward the world but more likely against their own brethren. How many churches have had works stalled and stopped, have experienced an atmosphere of severe tension, or have even been split because of unresolved bitterness and resentment?
With resentment being so harmful to ourselves and others, how can we bury it? First, let it go. This is an intentional exercise and will not occur without conscious mental effort and energy. Read Ephesians 4:31-32. Second, give it to God. Stop carrying it and hand it to Him. All cares can be safely transferred to His capable hands (1 Pet. 5:7). Finally, mend fences. Remember Paul’s encouragement that “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). You are not accountable for the peace-breaking disposition of others, but you are “so far as it depends on you.”
Do you have any “headstones” to destroy? Do you have hatchets to bury—including the handles? Don’t waste any more time. Let it die and bury it!