When you have been hurt by someone in a significant way, the last thing you want to do is bless them. More of what comes to mind is how can you hurt them back, give them a dose of their own medicine or take revenge. That is our natural and instinctual response. But if you are a person of faith, you are challenged by this raw reaction because of a passage in the Bible that makes this response not an option. To me, this passage is one of the  most difficult to live out. It is found in Matthew 5: 43-48 (NIV). Jesus tells us how to treat those who curse us–and it is radical.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

When I read this passage, I think of the story of Corrrie ten Boom who after one of her lectures on grace, shook hands with a former Nazi prison guard from the concentration camps where her family was killed. What grace it took to do that. And now we watch as the Christians in Afghanistan are put to death by their enemies because of their faith. They are living this passage and are today’s heroes of our faith.

Most of us struggle just to love our enemies in everyday life. So what does it look like to bless an enemy in our interpersonal relationships? How do we pray for someone who curses us? The context of the passage seems to say, pray good things for that person who did you wrong. I am to leave my vengeance for God and approach this unloving person with the same love God approaches me.

Are any of you challenged by this? I certainly am.

As Jesus noted, it is easy to love those who are like us, who are on our side and treat us with respect. The challenge is to love our enemies, those who curse us, persecute us and spitefully use us. And while most of us have not experienced extreme persecution, we have been used by others and treated unfairly.

To respond in a biblical way is radical and countercultural. It begins as we cry out to God and say, “You know what happened. You see my pain. Your love can conqueror my unloving heart. I am to reflect you in all I do. Help me to give it completely to you. Chang my heart to love. I cannot do this in my own power. It is impossible without the Holy Spirit acting inside of me.”

Jesus tells us to bring those who curse us to the Father in prayer. Because we are the righteousness of God, we don’t allow those who treat us poorly to determine how we treat them. Instead, as we receive His love, we love back even though that love is undeserved. That was the model of Christ. He was treated horribly and eventually put to death by His enemies. It is only through God’s grace that our heart can be transformed to this radical response.

Now, to bless a person doesn’t mean you agree with what they did. It doesn’t mean they acted justly. In fact, it means the opposite because they are an “enemy.”But it is our heart that concerns the Lord. He wants it surrendered to the Holy Spirit living in us. Your “enemy,” like you, is also made in the image of God. Thus, Jesus tells us to pray blessings over that person. To bless means I pray for complete restoration and all God’s best for this person. But I am not blessing their actions in any way.

So Lord, hear our prayer. “We desire to be more like you. Help us bless those who curse us. Help us show your character in these situations, to be more concerned about being your child and emulating you than being right or getting back at someone. We can pray for that person as Jesus did, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:24). We can choose to love, not by our own power, but by yours.”

 

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