How did God deal with us when we were lost in sin and walking in ignorance? Did he damn us to hell forever? Did he curse us with eternal judgment? No. He sent his Son to die for us, showing us mercy when we deserved wrath.
That is the pattern we must follow when dealing with the lost. Otherwise, we will only repeat the cycle of hatred and anger.
Earlier this week, in response to my article “Gov. Christie Signs Discrimination into Law,” someone we’ll call “h.b.” posted this comment: “What Brown is telling is lies, and he has an iq of a 5 year old. I have a phd in homosexuality.”
Later in the day, after my colleague and friend Matt Barber retweeted the article, calling it a “must read,” h.b. had some choice tweets for Matt and me, writing, “------- ***holes with an IQ of a 5 year old,” followed by, “f***king s***heads who should get brain cancer and not exist anymore.” (All the profanity was spelled out in full.) That sounds like a curse!
I tweeted back, “May God's truth and grace be yours! Also, you posted that you have a PhD in homosexuality. Where did you earn that?”
When I clicked on h.b.’s twitter page, I found similar comments blasting other Christian leaders (although with the wish for brain cancer), sometimes in response to a simple gospel message that wasn’t confrontational in the least, and when I read the tweets, my heart went out to h.b.
There was a time when I too was full of anger, profanity, and uncleanness, and rather than smiting me in judgment, God pursued me with his convicting love. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). And Jesus set the pattern for us!
Here are five reasons why we should bless those who curse us.
1. This is the way of a Jesus revolutionary, emulating the example of our Father. The Sermon on the Mount is a counterculture, kingdom manifesto where Jesus calls us to live by different principles than the world and religious establishment) live by. And in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave this explicit command: “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” (Matt 5:43-44).
When we do this, we are emulating God himself, who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). This is part of our calling to “be perfect” as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).
2. God demonstrates extraordinary longsuffering towards those who walk in ignorance and unbelief. A few years ago, there was an atheist-inspired internet sensation featuring thousands of people who recorded short video clips of themselves claiming to blaspheme the Spirit. As I watched the clips, I said to myself, “Not too long from now, many of these people will be gloriously saved, sharing internet testimonies and thanking God for his mercy.”
As Paul explained in 1 Timothy 1, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. . . . for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim 1:13, 16).
3. When we bless, a blessing is returned to us. In many, many ways, we reap what we sow, and that’s one of the reasons Peter gave this exhortation to his readers: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet 3:9).
What do you want to inherit, blessing or cursing? That’s what you should speak to others.
4. Words of grace and patience produce more good fruit than words of anger and frustration. There are certainly times when it is right to correct and even rebuke, but we must always do so in love (Ephesians 4:15) and patience (2 Timothy 2:24-26), remembering that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1).
A few months ago, I was reminded that we really don’t know what’s happening in a person’s life. I had challenged the views of a woman who consistently defended abortion on Christian websites, and a few days after our last interaction, she posted this note publicly on my Facebook page: “I want to apologize for writing crazy comments about killing babies about your article. I was trying to live without God and his principles in my life. I thought about the happiest time of my life. That was when I was going to church and living for God. Please pray for me. Thank you.”
Here was a hurting woman, wanting to come back to God, yet I didn’t have the slightest clue that this was what was fueling her pro-abortion fire. Sadly, all too often I have been guilty of responding to people quickly rather than thoughtfully, thereby hardening them in their position rather than helping them to see the error of their ways.
5. When we bless those who curse us, we break the cycle of anger and hatred. This was Paul’s counsel to the Roman believers, following Proverbs 25:21-22: “‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:20-21).
Let’s break ugly, destructive cycle of the flesh and follow in the footsteps of our Master who forgave those who crucified him.
It is the path to life and blessing – not just for us, but also for those who oppose us.