Bless and Curse Not
INTRO: Good morning. In our study of Romans 12 so far we have given a lot of attention the various commands and admonitions that are given with a very real sense of imperativeness for the Christian. These are things that make up spirituality and none of them are optional, there are none of these commands that Paul presents in this chapter that we can simply ignore.
As we studied from the beginning of the chapter we found that these are more than just a list of commands. Let’s go back to the beginning of what we are studying and in the very beginning look at the direction the Apostle is headed as he writes. What he's also providing for us is a character description of the Christian, a description of a transformed or renewed mind, a different person. We see in verse 2 Paul starts by saying; Be not conform to this world to be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Paul is talking about being transformed, about a renewal, not only outwardly in the use of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, but also as a renewing of our minds. A revision in the way we use our mind both in the way we view the world and our understanding of the Creator. These verses that follow this admonition are not simply disconnected commands. They provide an overall character description of what the transformed person looks like, what the renewed person looks like, the Christian.
Let’s review this before we begin looking at verse 14. What we're looking at here is the type of person that God wants us to be. Thinking about the transformed Christian whom we have seen so far in these verses, what has Paul told us that we need to be? He says we need to willingly give our bodies as a sacrifice to God and that consists of obedience to God's will, and moral purity.
• The transformed Christian needs to be humble and think of others more than themselves.
• We need to use our God given gifts to serve the body of Christ, to bless others and not hide our blessings.
• We need to love genuinely or without hypocrisy and we are to cling to what is good and hate what is evil.
• We need to treat our brothers and sisters with kindness and affection.
• The Transformed Christian will work diligently.
• We will patiently endure persecution.
• We will pray often.
• We will give to the needs of our fellow saints and as we mentioned last week we will practice hospitality to those who are strangers, to even those who are not Christians.
When we take in all of these things together and we look at this character, this transformed individual, we recognize this is not the ordinary person. To become this person takes a great deal of work. Much of this description we might view as countercultural, because of the society we have grown up in it's not something that comes naturally. We will need help and that is something that's going to come through our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s influence in our life, through the Word of God, and our working diligently to be the kind of people that God wants us to be. That is a transformation that Paul, up to this point, has described in the details of these commands.
I. Bless: - Look with me at Romans 12:14 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” What Paul says here may very well be far more transforming for some of us then anything previous. By that I mean, it is one of those attitudes and actions that is intensely difficult for us in the world in which we live. Satan has placed obstacles in our way and our culture says not do what Paul tells us here. It something that comes only through the power of the spirit in a person's life. I know with my own temperament just how difficult this can be. When I am wronged and my temper flairs it is very, very hard to think, and much more difficult to follow what Paul says. I absolutely will need help.
A. As I struggle to understand how this is going to work for me I wonder; what does Paul mean with these words? What is the definition or the concept of this command? What is commanded when Paul says we are to bless and not curse?
1. Certainly the word bless is a very common word in the scriptures. The word “bless” in this verse is translated from the Greek word (εὐλογέω eulogéō, yoo-log-eh'-o) meaning “to praise, celebrate with praises”, “to invoke blessings”, “to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers”. From this we get the word “eulogy” which means to celebrate with praise.
2. It means to say something good about somebody and so we think about a eulogy at a funeral where someone gets up and talks about the good traits or characteristics or achievements of the individual who's passed away. It is to celebrate the life of the individual, to look at what's good in their life and that's the concept of the word here in the original sense of the word “bless” as it is used in the scriptures.
3. Albert Barnes says the word bless here means to speak well of or not to curse or to slander but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy or if there is nothing that we can commend—to say nothing.
4. It’s to look at the life and character of someone that we don't like or that doesn't like us and to be able to bless or praise them, to celebrate who they are, to say good things about people that are enemies.
5. Comprehending this helps us understand how difficult and counter this is to the way that we often react to those who persecute us and sometimes try to destroy us. I may say good things or praise the good qualities of someone but it also includes the aspect of wishing them well. Not just to say good things about what they have done in the past but to also wish them well in the future.
B. Compare this to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:44. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says; “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,”. What Jesus presented was something that these people had never heard before in terms of practical living.
1. That's how Jesus presented it. In verse 43 – “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” Jesus tells them you have heard that this was the way to behave, but I say unto you this is what God wants. This is the character of a child of God. When someone persecutes you, pray for them.
2. When someone spitefully uses you or tries to destroy you, seek that person's good. Certainly that is just the opposite of the way the world reacts to those who are enemies, both then and now.
C. In 1 Peter 3:8-9 the Apostle Peter said – “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”
1. Peter says that we should not return reviling for reviling but be willing to return a blessing or praise for those who would persecute us. To say something good about somebody that says something bad about us. Why?
2. Peter explains, so that we can get a blessing. We must be willing to behave in a very countercultural way, say something good about somebody or wish something good about someone who is trying to harm us.
3. The command you see is far reaching. It has not only to do with what we say or refrain from saying but also what we think, what we wish for, what we pray for, what we desire.
II. Do not curse: - For those who are enemies in the latter part of this command, Paul says “do not curse”.
A. The word “curse” here is contrasted with the word “bless”, and is from a Greek word (καταράομαι kataráomai, kat-ar-ah'-om-ahee) which means “to doom”, “to wish evil” upon someone else.
1. It's the aspect of saying I hope this happens to them or when something evil does happens, saying I'm glad that happened to them.
2. The word curse in the English language is rather harsh to us, isn't it? We don't often use the word. In fact in the English vernacular the only time we might use the word curse is when we're speaking of someone who is using profanity or profane language. We say “you shouldn’t curse”.
3. Although a curse may very well be involved in some of the profanity used, the real gist of the word here in the original language is the idea of wishing evil on someone or something.
4. It includes the reproachful or insulting words that are said about someone else in a desire to hurt their feelings or to bring evil upon them in some way.
B. Jesus cursed, and gave us an example. He cursed the fig tree on the way to the city of Jerusalem.
1. Remember what happened to that Fig tree? It died because that was the aspect of the curse. It was to say a word or speak something that would bring bad things upon the one who was being cursed.
2. The pagans did a great deal of cursing in their religious rites where individuals would be placed under a curse. It was viewed as a way, in terms of pagan religion or false religion, to manipulate the future of an individual that you didn't like so that bad things would happen to them. Those people could expect evil things because they were under a curse.
C. Paul uses that terminology to describe those who try to justify themselves under the law. Those who were under the law were condemned by the law that they were under. Galatians 3:10 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.''”
D. Albert Barnes comments.... “It is to implore a curse from God to rest on others; to pray that God would destroy them. In a larger sense still, it means to abuse by reproachful words... or to express one’s self in a violent, profane, and outrageous manner.”
1. I look at that definition and I think to myself “well I'm not a cursing person.” That is not so hard. I don't have to worry about that much.
2. I wonder though, the car that flies by me when I am doing the speed limit and I think to my self; “where is a policeman when people do things like that?” Isn’t that wishing ill on them? A person that passes me in a no-passing zone going up a hill, what if I think to my self; “I hope they make a stupid move like that when there is a car coming.” Isn’t that a curse?
3. I think we recognize the context in which Paul is giving this command, to not curse but rather to bless, really is something we have to apply to ourselves and must apply to ourselves because of the great tendency for us to have the wrong attitudes and actions toward those around us.
E. What about our view of those who do not like us? Are we just like the people around us?
1. Are we really different in the way that we think about our enemies and people who are not Christians, the people of the world?
2. I believe that particularly in our society today, in our very divided society today, in the war stricken society of today, this is a pertinent question for the Christian to ask themselves.
3. What do we think about Muslims, terrorists, people of different cultures whose religion itself may teach them to want to destroy us and our religion? How do we feel about people like that?
4. We often view ourselves as Americans and of course we want to be patriotic and show our patriotism. Yet, sometimes that boils down to an attitude that is what Paul describes “as a part of the world” and not a part of the Christian.
5. We might justify ourselves by using insulting language against someone who is our enemy, not recognizing that Jesus said you can't do that, you're a child of God.
F. The command here is presented in the negative do not curse. Sometimes it's more difficult to refrain from doing what comes naturally than it is to do something in a positive way. Do not wish evil upon your enemy. Do not pray to God to bring evil upon your enemy.
III. Why is this commanded: - When I think about this, I recognize how difficult it may be for us to practice this in our society. I wonder, why it is commanded. Why is this included in Roman chapter 12, in these commands of spirituality? What makes it an important element of being a spiritual person?
A. The first answer to that question is to recognize clearly—it is what Jesus taught. We recognize that Jesus acted this way. When we learn to react to evil people in a positive manner we truly follow the personal teachings of Jesus.
1. When Jesus was upon the earth He taught the moral and ethical way to deal with other individuals, both those that were friends and those that were foes. Since Jesus taught us how to deal with those who are against us, if we claim discipleship with Jesus Christ, we must learn to bless and not curse our enemies. That's clearly what Jesus taught.
2. He commanded more than just kind feelings toward an enemy. That's hard enough. Kind speech, to not say anything insulting, to not make fun of people that we may be tempted to make fun of, or to not wish evil upon other individuals. That's hard to do.
3. Jesus went further than that. He gave specific instructions about doing good things to people that are evil. Luke 6:29-30; “29. "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30. "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.” That's tough stuff right there. We should write that down and put it on the refrigerator because every day we can find an application for it.
4. In concise and profound language Jesus is presenting here a principal that impacts spirituality at every level. Are we the type of individuals that have the moral courage and the moral spiritual development to turn the other cheek? When someone strikes you on the cheek they mean evil for you. They want to inflict pain. They want bad things for you.
5. They immediately become your enemy or at least put themselves in the position of being your enemy and you are called upon to react. Jesus simply says turn the other cheek. Certainly we could see the application of that in the physical sense but can we see beyond just the aspect of someone slapping you on your cheek?
6. Jesus isn’t just talking about being slapped on the face. He's talking about every way that individuals would seek to harm us. When the Christian obeys this command, when they are able to forbear, turn the other cheek, they are acting not by natural instinct but rather they are acting in a way that's given only by the Spirit of God.
7. The only motivation that a person has for turning the other cheek is because that's what God tells them to do. That's a spiritual development in our life that we seek.
8. There are many times we fail, not because we don't know what God wants us to do, but because we don't care enough. I suspect we really don't desire to be spiritual people on the level that would cause us to actually bless those who desire to hurt us.
9. Sometimes just the opposite of that. We justify or rationalize the unkind words or attitudes towards others by looking at the person themselves.
i. That bad thing happened to them - they brought that on themselves.
ii. They set the stage for that by the way they treat other people. If he just wouldn't treat other people that way...
iii. How about, I wish they would get what was coming to them?
10. Now we might say that, never believing it would happen. We certainly would never slap them back. Yet, to wish that they would be slapped back is at the heart of what Jesus talking about here. That's the difficult part.
B. Can I get to the point spiritually where I do not even desire my enemy to have evil brought against him? That's difficult. Jesus points out how this behavior distinguishes the Christian from those around them in Luke 6:32-33 - “32. "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33. "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”
1. That's the way the world operates. That's the natural, instinctive way and Jesus portrays it here as that's the way sinners act, but that's not the way God’s people act.
2. If you just go along with the flow and act by your instincts what do you expect to get out of that? What credit is that to you? It does not distinguish you in any way from the people of the world. Sometimes we as Christians get caught up in the anger against those who have hurt us, as though somehow, by seeking our rights, we can make ourselves feel better. Certainly not spiritually.
3. To truly bless those who persecute us is to treat them as though they were our friends when they are not. To treat them as something that they are not, something that you aspire for them to be.
4. Somebody once said if you love your enemies you won't have any more enemies. They'll become your friends.
C. Obeying the command I believe demands a different perspective not only on ourselves and the culture in which we live but it demands a different perspective on God's work. Sometimes it is in doing God's work that we think we find the impetus to disobey this command.
1. I find it compelling to recognize that there were individuals who were in touch with God and His word, even prophets themselves, who wanted God to destroy the enemies of Israel. In fact, they argued with God about it. Habakkuk said How long before you're going to destroy these people? Jonah refused to go the Nineveh because what he did not want good for Nineveh. He wanted bad things for Nineveh. He did not want to bless his enemies. He wanted to curse them so he refused to go.
2. What Jonah had to gain and Habakkuk had to be taught was a different perspective not only on the character of God but on God's work. We do as well. We're talking about those people that are persecuting God’s people, those that want to see God's work fail, working against the purposes of God. Wouldn’t it be better if God would just destroy all those folks? Wouldn't that be better? We could reason like that.
D. Jesus didn't reason it like that. Luke Chapter 9, turn there with me and read a few verses. Luke 9:51 – “51. Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52. and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?'' 55. But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56. "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.''”
1. There were several occasions when Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples focused on their perception of the work of God and what God was doing and what God desired to do.
2. One of Jesus’ sternest rebukes was to one of His closest disciples, when Peter says you're not going to die, we're not going to let that happen. Jesus said “Get behind me Satan for you mind not the things of God but the things of men”.
3. In a very similar way these disciples want Jesus to give them the power to curse the enemies of Jesus. These folks don't receive us, they are Samaritans. They're different than us. They want to hinder us. Let's call down fire from heaven and consumed them.
4. Jesus rebuked them and said do you know what manner of spirit you are of. Do not you understand that's not what I'm about? I did not come to destroy my enemies but rather to save them.
E. We need to sit back and look at how we perceive those we may consider our enemies, those who try to destroy us at some level and ask ourselves do we know what manner of spirit we are of as God's children and whose attitude we will portray.
1. Our main objective, like Jesus’, in viewing those who are enemies is not to condemn them or to destroy them but rather to save them. What we really want for these people is not that God would annihilate them but that He would save them and that we see them in heaven one day.
2. Hard to wrap my head around this but my worst enemy the person that hates me the most, that wants to destroy me, I want to be in heaven with that person. That's the perspective I need, that's a prospective of spirituality.
3. We know we are capable of this for God shows us we are. And indeed we have heard in recent times where someone was murdered or killed and a person that is a relative of the victim, the wife, or husband, or son, or daughter would go to visit the perpetrator of the crime, and tell them they forgive them.
4. We have heard of individuals where the victim interacted with the person who was the perpetrator and there were good things that came about as a result. Where the person was able to influence the enemy that hated them and treated them most unkindly simply by seeking what was good for them. I believe that's the clear indication of the power of what Paul is saying here in terms of developing spirituality in the Christian’s life.
5. Instances where the victim sought to bless their enemies not to curse them. What kind of impression would they make? What impression on the person that was their enemy? How about on the world?
6. Turn that around and ask that about yourself. What kind of impression would it make on you if your enemy came to you and blessed you? What would you think about that person? I'm compelled to believe that if my enemy treated me that way I would be forced to take a closer look at their god and their morality and their spirituality. I could not ignore it.
F. That's what Jesus wants us to understand. To live differently than the world around us, to live like Jesus lived, is to recognize that we are in a situation where we are “a city set on a hill” that cannot be ignored. We must live this way because this is what Jesus taught. This is what He commanded and also what He did.
1. This command is best exemplified in the life of Jesus more than any place else. There were others no doubt in scripture and maybe in our own experience where we recognize that they were able to reverse the situation and not treat their enemies with disdain.
2. When the sinless son of God hung on the cross being punished by men for things he had never done and treated with the greatest distain that could ever be reaped upon an individual—He prayed. He prayed with unimaginable mercy for those who were His enemies. “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke chapter 22.
3. Do we recognize the impact of those words? Why they are recorded? What do they say to us about the character of our Lord and what do they tell us about the character of those who would be followers of our Lord?
4. Jesus’ love for His worst enemies set Him apart from everybody else. It set Him apart from those that were on the ground looking up, set Him apart from us as we struggle with this very difficult command in our lives, set Him apart from even those who claim to give spirituality to others.
G. Muhammad had his enemies. He tried to kill them all or annihilate them all. There have been many other religious leaders who claim great power of spirituality who in no way matched the spirituality of Jesus because they could not do this. They could not look upon their enemies who wanted to destroy them, those who hated them, and show love. Jesus was unique in that regard, and He calls upon us to be unique as well.
1. This attitude transformed His disciples in the world of the first century and I believe will transform us. If we can learn to do this we will set ourselves apart.
2. Remember Acts Chapter 7 where Stephen was being persecuted for what he was teaching. They rushed upon him and as the stones were crushing the life out of him he spoke the words of Jesus. He fell on his knees and cried out Lord do not hold this sin against them. That wasn't just saying kind things. He wanted these folks to get away with the crime so to speak.
3. You recognize the only way these people could ever be held guiltless for what they were doing was by the blood of Jesus Christ. That's what he’s praying for. That's what he wanted. He wanted them to be saved.
i. He wanted them to hear the message in such a way that they would respond.
ii. He wanted them to not be held guilty for this and spend an eternity in hell.
iii. He wanted not justice—but mercy!
4. Later Peter wrote 1 Peter 2:21-23 – “21. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22. "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth''; 23. who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”
H. How do we react to evil around us? It says here that Jesus left the example for us, He did not revile in return. When He suffered He did not threaten, but He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. The word for righteously could as well be translated justly or with justice.
1. Paul is going to say later on Chapter 13 of Romans that you and I have no right to seek our own justice; that belongs to God. Vengeance belongs to God and God said so. We can't go out in vigilante style and seek justice on those who do evil against us. God has not given us that prerogative.
2. That doesn't mean that those folks will not get justice because God judges righteously. It takes spirituality to commit myself to the justice of God, to say God, you take care of that. I'm going to treat this person with kindness. I'm going to treat this person with goodness. I'm going to seek good for them. I'm going to pray for them, pray that you would be able to save them in some way because Jesus tells me and shows me I must live differently.
3. Paul lived by this principle. He always sought to bless his enemies. In 1 Corinthians 4:12 he says; “And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure it;”
I. Some might well ask; what about the imprecatory prayers of men like David? You know there are a number of Psalms of David where he prayed for the defeat of enemies. Or like Elisha who pronounced a curse on the blasphemous young men in 2 Kings 2:24. There are examples in scripture where godly individuals, godly men, call upon God to react in some way to the evil embodied within their enemies and sometimes to act immediately.
1. One commentator I believe said it well. He said these did it by a special vocation, by the Spirit of God. That's exactly right. Some inspired men had the calling and aid to administer God’s wrath and judgment against sin because God gave them that prerogative. He gave them that power and He gave them the right to use it. He didn't give that to you and me.
2. What He gave us are the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ who when He was reviled did not revile. When individuals did evil to Him He returned it with good We then, are called to administer mercy and leave the vengeance to God alone.
God's people need to develop this transforming attitude. Certainly there can be nothing that would be more transforming in our attitudes than how we treat the evil around us.
I believe it's a very practical and powerful way to reflect Jesus in our life, to show that we really do intend to follow the teachings of Jesus in how we live. It’s more than Bible study and coming to knowledge. It is putting into practice, in the most difficult time in our life, when we are suffering, the practical teachings of Jesus in a way that makes a difference.
If we seek to destroy our enemies and they see through our attitudes and our actions that we really do not care about them, we'll have absolutely no basis on which to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make a difference in their lives.
It may be that through doing good to people who hurt us that we may open a door which God wants opened, and walk through that door with the gospel. I know that to be so because that's exactly how you and I were saved. We were not saved because we deserved it. We were not saved because we earned it. We were saved because we were treated good when we were doing bad. God returned evil with good.
In the process of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God opened the door to save us by giving us the life of His Son on the cross when we were His enemies.
In Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
10. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
We were enemies of God, made so by our rebellion against Him. Now we are the friends of God. His own adopted children and his family. Why? Because God did not curse us He blessed us. In that blessing is a call for us to look out for those who are our own enemies and recognize that we are under obligation not to curse them but to bless.
Through our blessing them God may very well be able to bless them in a way that you and I cannot imagine by making them His own children and saving them by the death of His son. That's what we must want and desire, if we are God's children.
That brings us to the invitation. If you’re here this morning and you have not confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, if you have not been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, the scriptures are very clear on this point—you aren’t saved.
We encourage you to take these necessary steps to secure your salvation today. We have no promise of tomorrow—we don’t know the day or the hour that our soul may be required of us.
If you’re here this morning and you need to confess a public sin or simply need the prayers of the congregation, we encourage you to allow us to pray with and for you.
If you have a need, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing.
Invitation song: ???
Reference sermon: David SchmidtPrint
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