Today I was pondering Jesus’ words when he said, “Bless those who curse you”. I have often thought of the sentiment behind the verse as meaning that we should pray for those who do hurtful things to us and speak hurtful things about us.
But today it struck me a different way.
Jesus’ instructions are always taking us the extra mile. They are always getting us past that “comfortable religious ritual” into the uncomfortable “death to self, but alive in Christ” heart attitude. It’s not the hardest thing ever to pray for someone who has hurt you. Yes, it can take some overcoming, but we can slide into it without too much depth of struggle or thought.
“Lord, please bless _______”, we might mumble. “Please rescue them from their [*insert sin here*].” There. We did it.
But today I realized, Jesus is presenting us with two overt expressions of feeling here.
When someone curses you, they don’t just sit on their beds at home, mumbling under their breath. Well, maybe they do…but that’s not usually the full measure of it.
No, no, no.
They’ll yell in your face. They’ll barrage you with text, emails, letters, phone calls (sometimes even face-to-face….though this is super rare, because it takes courage) full of their hate. They’ll find people to tell about how awful you are. It doesn’t matter if these people have any idea what is going on or not…or if they even know you – but they WILL know about what a terrible person you are.
So, in the same way, God calls us to actively BLESS those same people. “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
We aren’t called to sit mumbling on our bed. We are called to be up, actively looking for ways to speak well of these people to those around us. We are called to think the best of them and their intentions, and look for ways to pour care and real love upon them. This is the way of God’s world. This is the way of Jesus Himself.
As I stopped again to think about this, as the morning went on, I realized this very thing is what Jesus Himself has done. He doesn’t ask us to do the impossible. He has shown us that the impossible IS POSSIBLE, as we walk in the Spirit.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In the midst of the cruelest hate and unfair accusations, Jesus speaks well of those surrounding Him like dogs to devour Him. He doesn’t ask for fire from heaven to consume them for their sins. He doesn’t ask for God to discipline them. No…as He hangs on the cross – the most tortuous and embarrassing death you can imagine – He pleads with the Father for their forgiveness.
And likewise, He was there on that very cross for millions to come after who, like those standing there in the flesh, mocked Him, spoke ill of Him, and who would break His good laws day after day after day without remorse or care.
So He could heap blessing upon us! He suffered and died so that He could look for ways to bless us, so that He could intercede before the Father on our behalf – to speak well of us before the Throne of God, even when we fail. Jesus died, and rose in power and glory so that He could call us Sons and Daughters, and lead our wandering, sinful hearts out of the mire and into newness, and cleanness and beauty and joy and LIFE!
When we fail, and break His heart, He comes before the Father and says, “That is my child. Have mercy, Father.”
Can we not now “go and do likewise”?