Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
In Romans 12, Paul said if you are a Christian, then you will have a radically different response to wrongdoing than the rest of the world does. He said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (12:14). The word “bless” means to speak well of someone else. When we bless the name of God, we say something positive about God. But “bless” also means to do good for other people. When we talk about God blessing us, we do not mean that God just says nice things about us; He does something on our behalf. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So when Paul said, “Bless your enemies,” he was saying, “Do something good for your enemy.”
There are two main objections to this idea. First, some people say, “This is an impractical command.” It is a sweet sentiment, they say, but it does not work in the real world. The reason people feel that way is they have tried to apply this passage to situations God never intended. For example, some people use this passage as a defense of pacifism–not going to war for any reason. But this passage does not deal with nations; it is talking about individuals. Other people misapply this passage as against the death penalty. But the death penalty has always been part of God’s plan. God said in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.” Other people mistakenly apply this verse to physical abuse, saying if your mate is physically abusing you or your children, then you need to stay in that relationship and bless the person who is hurting you. No. All life is sacred. This principle applies only to the area of personal offenses. Paul described how Christians are to respond when they are wronged.
Second, some people say, “This is an impossible standard.” They think Paul was speaking idealistically. Remember, though, that Paul was not writing this as an armchair theologian. He knew firsthand about blessing those who had persecuted him. It was the Jews who were primarily responsible for persecuting Paul, yet in Romans 10:1, he said, “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”
How do you respond to your enemies? Do you bless them, or do you persecute them? If you are having trouble identifying an enemy, here are some questions to ask:
- Who do you criticize most often?
- Who do you tend to think about when your mind wanders?
- Who do you try to avoid?
- Who would it give you absolute delight to hear had suffered a misfortune?
If you have a person in mind, then that is your enemy. It may be an ex-mate who wronged you. It may be a business associate who cheated you. It may be a friend who betrayed you. It may be a church member who offended you. Whoever your enemy is, Paul said to bless and do not curse.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living With Your Enemy” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.