When we spend time around fellow Christians, we should be treating each other with Christian love. We should be kind, courteous, considerate and caring for one another. However, when we are around people of the world, they can be rude, selfish, boastful, inconsiderate and even hateful; they may cut in front of you, hurt you, revile you, steal from you, and lie to you. It is easy to be loving when around Christians that exhibit the characteristics of Jesus Christ. But how do you respond to people when they persecute you and abuse you?
Paying them back for what they do to you, or taking vengeance, is not the answer. Romans 12:19 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Vengeance only belongs to the Lord; it is not ours to give.
Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Jesus said that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” I understand this to say that He sends His blessings on both the good and the evil individuals. In the same way, He wants you to give your blessings to both those who are good to you and those who are your enemies.
Jesus said for us to love our enemies. People in the world were enemies of God by their sin, yet God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for them. To be like God, we also are to love our enemies by treating them with kindness and patience and seeking their good.
Next, Jesus says to bless those who curse you. Paul wrote in Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” The word curse here means to wish evil against a person. Do you ever wish that harm would come to those who harm you? Do you wish that God would give them what they deserve! You are told to “bless those who persecute you.” Blessing someone implies that you want good to come to them and you may be asking God to help them, meet their needs, and give them good things such as health and safety. Blessing instead of cursing is exhibiting a Christ like attitude. When Jesus was on the cross, He could have easily called down curses upon those that unjustly put Him there. Instead, He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The attitude of Jesus was to bless those who persecuted him and not to curse them.
If you were to curse those who curse you, you would be responding to them in the same way that they treated you. It would be like fighting fire with fire. They curse you and you curse them. While they may have cursed you first, it doesn’t matter; you become as guilty as they are. Most people in the world expect that when they say or do something bad to someone, that individual responds in kind. But when you bless them, they don’t know how to take it. Sometimes it stops them and they don’t know how to proceed. The leading Jews brought Jesus to Pilate to have Him crucified. Mark 15:3-5 “And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, ‘Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!’ But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.” Pilate expected Jesus to defend Himself against the accusation of the chief priests or maybe to curse them for their false accusations. When Jesus said nothing, Pilate marveled. People in the world will likely marvel if, when you are cursed, you do not curse them in return but instead bless them.
Then Jesus said to do good to those who hate you. Paul taught in Romans 12:20-21 “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God wants us to understand that we are not to attempt to overcome evilness with more evilness. Doing good to an evil person can be more powerful than doing evil. I encourage you to pray to God that He would help you respond with good.
Finally, Jesus says to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Perhaps you could pray that their heart would be changed. Perhaps you could pray that they would stop their evilness towards you. However you pray for those who persecute you, you are asking God to intervene and work His purpose in the situation. In His wisdom, God knows how to deal with those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Those in the world love those who love them. They greet those who greet them. They are friendly to those who are their friends. If that is all you do, you are like everyone else in the world. God wants you to love and bless your enemies and in this way you will be very different from the world. It won’t be easy to love and bless your enemies. But you will be like Christ if you do. You don’t have to like what someone does to you. I think it helps to look beyond the actions of an individual to see them as a soul that needs Jesus in their life. Perhaps they are harming you because they have suffered in their life from others who have harmed them. When you see them as a soul that needs salvation, it may be easier to ask God to bless them.
I encourage you to love your enemies; bless those who curse; do good to those who hate you; pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Then you will be like your Father in heaven.