I have to smile as I think about what crossed my mind today in reading the following verse:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.*
In the South, we have a way of saying things nicely, or in other words, saying what we don’t mean. We use the word bless that way a lot! I can prove it by this funny video. I really am telling you the truth!
So, obviously, as I read Paul’s words to the believers in Rome, I need to look at the word bless in a different light. I cannot bless those who persecute me for my faith in a way that really means I’d like God to rain hail and brimstone down on them.
Apparently, Paul knew Roman believers were a lot like American Southerners, because he told them very specifically in the second part of the verse: “bless and do not curse.”
Easier said than done, Paul.
Maybe the easiest thing to do in this situation is to say nothing. We can’t always be trusted with the words we use, so how could we then bless without cursing?
Do good to them instead.
Does that sound familiar? It should — because Jesus said it.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.*
Not as easy as a quick “bless you,” is it? Well, that’s the tricky thing about the transformed life — it’s not meant to be easy — it’s meant to draw people to Jesus.
What good does it do to wish evil on those who treat us with contempt? None — for us, for them, or for the Kingdom. But what difference does it make when I pray for those who hurt me, turn the other cheek, or do to them as I would have them do to me? That’s where God works the most in us and in them.
You may never know the persecution felt by those like Stephen or Paul or Christians in lands like China, North Korea or the Middle East, but if you live the transformed life, opposition will come. What will you do?
Bless or curse?
A life could hinge on your response.
Grace and Peace
*Romans 12:14 (NIV)
*Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)