It was just unexpected. After living in this small Midwestern town for a few years, I had nearly forgotten the perpetual state of suspicion and cynical disregard for life’s fellow travelers that marked living in bustling East Coast environs. Walking home from church not long ago, two teenagers drove by, and the one on the passenger side hoisted the single-digit signal of disapproval. Amazing how quickly the old reactions take over. At least the discipline of these years kept me from verbalizing, but my mind was certainly whirring with some unsanctified sensations. That was painful.
I think we get cursed more than we ever know – because don’t we curse others more than we keep track? The wisest man in the world acknowledged:
“Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 NAS) and, “Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound, and the winged creature will make the matter known.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20 NAS)
Whether it’s shouting at your team’s opponents or media pundits on TV, muttering about customers at the super-mart or fast food servers, cursing comes as naturally as noshing nachos. It’s not good, and it does not bode well for us spiritually.
Jesus has some things to say about this. I love this, because Jesus tells us not only what the solution is but how to do it:
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:27,28, 37NIV)
There is an important law of spiritual consequences here: there is spiritual reciprocity. When we judge others and condemn others, we bring condemnation on ourselves. When we forgive others, we are released from the debt which is ours before God.
But come on, that’s difficult. I’d say impossible. Love the way Jesus loved? Only through the love of Christ given to us, do we even have that to give.
“Bless those who curse you and pray for those…” It took me a long time to learn: this is literal and not figurative. In one seminary class we had to pray for our enemies each week. At first it was like a grudging kid’s prayer: ‘God bless Chrissy and Jamie – oh and that rat, Bobby…’ Then I got creative. ‘God bless them with the full weight of Your conviction – let them know how sinful they are being, and bless them with the gift of repentance...” (read in self-righteous and angry tones). It was only after some time that I started calling out real blessings –what you might pray for yourself and your loved ones. Pray THAT for your enemy.
It’s like giving donations: do you give up those old torn sweatpants that your wife wants you to throw out anyway, or that can of pumpkin leftover from five Thanksgivings past? Or do you donate new clothes that you wanted and go buy your favorite food to give to the food bank?
Would you pray the best of what you desire for the worst of your enemies? That’s eye opening. Correct that: that’s soul enlarging. That’s ‘Kingdom come’ kind of stuff. Find out that when you do that? God changes you. You may begin to realize how He sees them, remind you what He wants to accomplish in them, and hit home how far you are still from His standard of judgment, how you wouldn’t or couldn’t comprehend that unless Jesus demonstrated that.
Which is His point. Because then He gets the glory.
Next time you catch yourself cursing or being cursed, would you pray and bless? That’s what He does for you.