Today's Gospel lesson is a difficult one to preach on. Mostly
folks remember this story chiefly because of its gory detail of
Herod having the head of John the Baptist brought in on a platter.
Hard to get that picture out of folk's heads. So, I decided not
John the Baptist's head being brought to Herodias on a platter,
was probably the worst case scenario as a result of Herodias
holding a grudge against John the Baptist because he had told
Herod it wasn't lawful for Herod to marry Herodias who was his
Now, any one of you holding a grudge against someone might not
lead to something as physically violent as having someone
beheaded, but holding a grudge can be hurtful and harmful to
someone else, and it is ALWAYS extremely negative for your own
well-being if you hold a grudge.
This story says it very clearly-holding a grudge has horrible
consequences. In this story we see how it harmed someone else, but
the story is meant to tell us that holding a grudge is harmful,
We aren't told how it affected Herodias specifically, but her
treachery and scheming and pushing Herod to move up politically,
eventually got them both banished and exiled where he died and she
along with him.
The title of my sermon is, "The Dis-Ease of Holding a Grudge."
The word 'disease' is actually a negative form of the word 'ease.'
When we are not at ease within ourselves, we are at odds with our
selves and at odds with the world around us. When there is turmoil
within, then the way we relate to those around us and the world
around us is negative. Our attitude, our outlook, our actions are
negative. Scientifically we know that holding a grudge, a negative
attitude, releases toxic chemicals in our body. Whereas a positive
attitude releases soothing and healing chemicals because one is
free from being bound to someone in a negative way (which is what
holding a grudge does-binds you to the person against whom you
hold the grudge),
Many people hold grudges against someone but never really act
out that negative feeling and emotion toward the person. So, while
the person holding the grudge is in a constant state of turmoil
and negativity within all parts of their body and mind and spirit,
(though not always conscious of it), the other person continues on
with their life oblivious to the fact someone holds a grudge
I think the saddest examples of holding grudges are when I've
seen them in families. Especially when someone takes the grudge to
their grave or, the person against whom they hold the grudge dies
and the one holding the grudge then never resolves it for the rest
of their life.
I've seen it happen in families when it has gone on so long
that the person holding the grudge cannot honestly remember why
they are holding a grudge. They couldn't remember at all, or in
some cases, it got mixed up in their mind and they were holding a
grudge against someone for something that didn't happen. Which is
also the case sometimes in that someone has misunderstood the
intent or misinterpreted what someone said, or just plain didn't
hear the words properly-in any case, they hold a grudge based on
In the case of Herodias in our Gospel reading today, she knew
she was in the wrong, but didn't like having it pointed out to
her. Again, I see that so often in ministry-both my own and that
of other pastors. Pastors are not called to make people feel good
all the time. Pastors are called to lead those who have called him
or her to the truth. Preaching the Gospel is not always easy. It
calls to each one of us in our own sins, to straighten up, not
just to please God by doing good or being good, but to please God
by being the best that we were created to be so that we not only
benefit ourselves, but ultimately others. We can't do that for
anyone if we are holding a grudge. The Gospel convicts us in our
sin. Once we know it is sin, which is anything that is a block in
our relationship with God, like holding a grudge, we can never NOT
know it's a sin.
I think God is disappointed when we sin, but I think God is
angry when we refuse to do anything about it. We don't repent-that
is, stop doing it and turn around and go in the opposite
direction-we just continue in our sin and think that because we
ask God to forgive us that that's that.
But it isn't. God expects us to repent (promise to give up
whatever it is that is causing a block or break in our
relationship with God) and then ask forgiveness. God will forgive
us over and over, but we are not in the fullness of that
forgiveness or love because we are blocking it by our continuance
in that sin without trying to give it up.
And that's what holding a grudge does to you. It makes you
unhealthy-you have a dis-ease-physically, emotionally, and
spiritually. No one is healthy who is separated from God. We put
ourselves in danger to continue in our specific sin that we are
unwilling to give up.
God forgives, but in the Gospel of John we read that Jesus
warns a man whom he has healed when he sees him a little later. He
warns him that if he doesn't stop doing what he's doing, he will
lead himself right back into the disease.
God forgives, doesn't hold the sin against us, but God does not
take away the consequences of that sin. In this day and age we are
experiencing the consequences of mankind's sin against nature in
the generations that have gone before us, the abuse of God's
creation, and future generations will bear the consequences of our
actions and non-actions as well. We can lighten those
consequences, but not do away with them altogether. Perhaps we can
eventually turn the negative consequences around, but just saying
that acknowledges that there ARE negative consequences.
Lastly, it is very important to recognize that the result of
the grudge in our lesson today was that someone lost their head.
When you hold a grudge, in essence it's like detaching your head
from your body, making it impossible for the forgiving, healing
love of God flowing into your heart to have any affect on your
mind. And at the same time, you are so bound up in the negative of
the grudge in your mind that you are killing your physical body
because you aren't able to send it anything positive; you aren't
able to nourish your body with the wonderful words and teachings
that Christ has implanted in your mind for the benefit of your
body and soul.
When you hold a grudge, instead of binding yourself to Christ
in love, you are binding yourself negatively to someone else.
Instead of turning control of your life over to God, you have
negatively turned over the control to someone who only sets off
negative emotions in you. Holding a grudge keeps you in a constant
state of dis-ease, whether you are conscious of it or not, a dis-ease
somewhere in your physical body, your emotional body, your
spiritual body-maybe all three-that separates you from the
fullness of God's love and forgiveness.
So, examine yourself carefully. See if you are holding any
grudges. Maybe you could ask a good friend that you trust to help
you recognize any grudges that you don't want to admit to. And if
you find you are holding any grudges, then, immediately start
working on giving them up, letting them go, for the sake of Jesus,
the best example of a friend-a friend who laid his life on the
line for you and me, not just that we would have eternal life, but
that we would experience the fullness of life here and now, and be
the fullest, positive, beneficial expression of the person God
created you and me to be.