The Second Worst Enemy of Relationships

The Second Message in the RelationSLIPS series.

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Imagine something with me, imagine that you heard one of your grade school teachers passed away. She wasn’t necessarily one of your favorites teachers because she was so stern and cranky, but you feel you should go and pay your respects. You attend the funeral and the minister stands up to give the eulogy and in the midst of listing off surviving family and sharing some pleasant memories he says, but man was she a liar and a thief. You didn’t want to leave anything nice laying out when she came over because she would rob you blind and then lie to you about it.

That would be quite shocking. It would be off putting.

However, we’ve probably all been to a funeral where someone has said something along the lines of, oh yeah, he loved his family and he loved to fish, but you better not cross him because he would tell you what he really thought of you.

Or, we’ve been to funerals where people say something like, she was so sweet and nice, but you didn’t want to make her angry because she would put you on her list and you would stay there…

For some reason, we romanticize anger and bitterness.

We justify with statements like, that’s just how I am- always have been, always will be.

For some reason, even within the church we don’t seem to think that anger and bitterness are a big deal.

If we had a member that every time the offering plate passed instead of putting money in they took money out, any church would deal with that…

However, anger & resentment often just persist in many churches and it’s never dealt with…

What I hope that you will see this morning is that bitterness, resentment, anger, and the like are terrible on relationships. They are just as serious as any other sin.

When Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, he included anger and bitterness in a list of sins that included lying and stealing.

They weren’t lesser sins, they were just as likely to hurt the ministry of the church as a member that was a liar and a thief…

Let’s take a look.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32

More than most, the church at Ephesus was a diverse church. It was made up of people from different backgrounds and Paul wrote to them encouraging them to be unified, that’s what the beginning of this chapter calls for, earlier in the book he points out that no longer do God’s people worship divided by nationality or gender as they had in the Jewish temple, but rather God had brought them all together.

Nothing should keep them apart.

In the next chapter Paul is going to begin talking about the formation of marriages and families and the relationships between boss and employee

So you’ve got these multiple entities-

Church, Family, Business and all of them are made up of relationships so Paul is warning them about the threats to those relationships, what can come in between them, what can wreck them.

He talks about theft, he talks about immorality, he talks about lying, and I think we can all agree how each of those brings great distress in any relationship.

I’ve been in churches and worked for companies and had friendships that were ruined by all of those…

But Paul keys in on this one major threat to the relationships that make up families, churches, businesses, and communities.


Paul’s pointing out that God has brought you together,

do not let these other things pull you apart.

Sometime resentment wrecks a relationship because one person in the relationship is bitter at the other person in the relationship, but often times resentment hurts a relationship between two people because one of the people in the relationship is angry at someone else entirely.

Marriages have been ruined by one spouse’s resentment of his or her parents.

Friendships have fallen apart because one friend’s resentment for his or her boss.

Distance grows between parents and children because of the child’s resentment of a friend.

Resentment lets people who did you wrong ruin what is right in your life. 

You ever snap at your kids because you come home mad at a co-worker? Are you ever cold with your spouse because your frustrated with a problem client? Are you ever sarcastic with your parents because a kid at school made fun of you?

Those are just small examples of daily frustrations interfering with relationships that have nothing to do with the frustration itself, if those frustrations aren’t dealt with, if they stay within us even after the sun goes down, if they fester, they slowly and increasingly effect all of our relationships….

Unresolved anger doesn’t just dissipate.

It doesn’t just go away.

It grows into bitterness and resentment.

Anger spoils in a day.

Resentment is spoiled anger.

Paul says, do not let the Sun go down on your wrath.

Deal with it.

It will turn rancid. It will become awful.

Yesterday’s unresolved frustrations will turn into tomorrow’s bitterness.

  1. Resentment helps evil. (26-27)

“Neither give place to the devil.”

Scripture tells us that there is a very real, personified evil.

Satan desires to cause as much chaos as possible.

He wants to ruin as many marriages as possible.

He wants to end as many friendships as possible.

Split as many churches as possible.

Paul says that bitterness gives him “place.” This word literally means footing. It gives him a place to put his foot in the door.

It gives him a key to our lives, a place where he can creep in and do all kinds of damage.

Bitterness is like giving a kleptomaniac a key to your house.

This May will mark the 30 year anniversary of the release of Star Wars – A New Hope.

A major point in the plot of that movie is that the incredibly powerful weapon of the Evil Empire, the Death Star, has a single, fatal weakness. A weakness that makes it susceptible to attack. The huge weapon is the size of a moon, but it has a weakness that can be exploited by a single well aimed blast from a small, one man space craft. The fateful death star exhaust port.


This past December with the release of a new Star Wars, we were given the backstory of how that colossal, powerful weapon had such a major defect.

Here, in Ephesians 4, Paul shows us how many strong relationships have been ruined-
How marriages that seemed so impenetrable have been wrecked
How lifelong friendships have unraveled…

It’s bitterness.

Some of you, your relationship has been most directly affected by your addiction, but your addiction is spurred by resentment.

Some of you, your relationship has been most directly affected by financial problems, but your finances are a mess because you shop to distract yourself from the low grade anger that constantly burns in your heart.

Some of you, your relationship has been most directly affected by your lack of communication, but the reason you don’t communicate is because whenever you do it’s more likely that the anger in your heart will boil over.

Resentment may not be the most obvious problem your marriage is experiencing, but it is likely the initiator of many of the problems that are affecting your marriage because it opens the door to attack.

It has been the fundamental, fatal flaw that has opened the door of attack.

You’ve tried to get the sin under control, you’ve tried to curb the addiction, become faithful, stop the shopping, stop the bickering, but until you get to the fundamental weakness that keeps opening the door to Satan’s attack, you’ll keep experiencing these setbacks.

Some of you need to change the locks on your relationship. You gave Satan a key to your house years ago and you keep coming home to a ransacked home. You do the hard work of cleaning up and replacing what was taken, but what you need to do is change the locks.

2.Resentment hinders the work of God. (29 & 30)

After today’s message we are going to shift our focus for the next two weeks. We are going to stop talking about the enemies of relationships and start talking about the purpose for relationships. God intended for relationships to be life-giving. He intended for them to add a great richness and blessing to our lives- He intended for them to help us become who we are called to be…

You’ll never get to experience friendships and relationships fulfill their purpose if you’re bitter and angry and hurt because you’ve got to let people get close enough to influence you and help you.

Bitterness doesn’t just make you unhappy because you’re angry and mess up your relationships, it messes up what God wants to give you through relatinoships.

Paul is writing this letter because he wants the Ephesians to experience the full blessing that God wants to pour down on them.

Earlier in chapter 3 he makes this clear.

Look over at 3:14-19 with me.

Paul’s prayer for them is that they would come to know, through love and common faith, through unity and growing together in Christ, the absolute fulness of God’s love, power, and majesty.

But in Chapter 4, when he’s speaking of stealing and lying and anger and bitterness, he says don’t give place to the devil and don’t hinder or give the Spirit.

If bitterness let’s satan into your life and relationships to wreak havoc, it resists the Spirits work in your life and relationships.

Resentment lets yesterday’s problems steal today’s blessings. 

Some of you don’t have a strong relationship today because of something that happened 25 years ago.

Your marriage isn’t close because of it, none of your friends are close friends, and your kids don’t even know you that well because you’ve been nursing a grudge all of these years.

You could be experiencing incredible community, great relationships, encouraging and life-giving relationships, but you’re keeping everyone at arm’s reach because of your bitterness.

I would love to dive into what this passage has to say about the work of the Spirit in our lives and the use of encouraging and edifying speech here, but we don’t have a whole lot of time to go into that now-

But let me just point out that the opposite of angry and bitter speech is edifying or building up….

Verse 30 says instead of angry defiling speech and clamor or drama, you should have edifying relationships…

Today you could be experiencing many life giving relationships but you’re bitterness is getting in the way….

3. Resentment hardens hearts. (32)

Do you remember how tender you were when you first got married or when you first started dating?

Is that tenderness still there?

Or has it turned into hardness?

Tenderness and kindness are close cousins. It’s hard to be kind when you’re not tender. 

Tender hearted…

When you’re in love your spouse can do no wrong. 

When you’re resentful, they can do no right. 

They can’t win cause the only thing that would satisfy you would be if they want back in time and fixed something that happened years ago….

The best way to come to grips with forgiveness is to experience it first hand…

Even as God for Christ sake hath forgiven you…