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Romans 12:14

Facing Persecution

14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

With this verse, Paul turns from describing the elements that should comprise the internal relationships of the church to those that the church should have with the surrounding community. He also departs from his pattern of using descriptive participles to describe the relationships and uses the imperative instead.

Dunn points out that the use of the word "bless" by the early church differed from the typical Greek usage where it meant simply "to praise or speak highly of someone." The Christian meaning of the word is much stronger, being derived from its equivalent in the Hebrew language. It means, "to ask God to treat the person with favor." This is reminiscent of what Jesus had taught in Matthew 5:44 . "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" There we see that blessing those who persecute you actually means to pray for them.

Persecution is not simply a possibility for the Christian who is living an obedient life; it is a fact that most will face every day of their life. Jesus warned His disciples, saying, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22) And again, He said, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." (Matthew 24:9)

Hatred is something that we have difficulty dealing with. Our natural instinct is to hate back, fight back, and curse the ones who hate us. It is even more difficult to love those who act out that hatred by persecuting us. Their persecution can take many forms. It can range anywhere from speaking a few angry words against us to killing us. It is not natural for us to love those who would want to kill us. We have enough trouble loving one another within the church.

Nevertheless, we should remember Paul's words from Romans 8:36-37, "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." No amount of persecution can defeat us. In fact, persecution makes us stronger and, even in death, we are more than conquerors. So there is really no reason to strike back at those who hate us.

"...and curse not..." Cursing is the opposite of blessing. It means to ask God to harm your enemies. But those enemies might one day be your brothers or sisters in Christ. We cannot forget that Paul was a persecutor of the Christian community before his Damascus Road experience. Would we want to answer to God for having prayed for Paul's destruction? Of course not! We do not know whom God has predestinated to be among the chosen, so we are commanded to bless and not to curse all people.

At the time of this writing, persecution in the United States is very mild but it does exist and is steadily growing in its intensity. Every Christian who is actively involved in doing God's will can expect to experience some form of persecution. Jesus said, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20)

Before The Throne:

If you have not experienced any form of persecution, praise God for it but also ask Him whether or not it is because you have not been following His command to make disciples. If you have been hated for your faith, rejoice in it and pray for those who persecute you. Ask God to help you love and forgive your enemies. Pray for the Christians around the world who are suffering imprisonment, beatings and even death for their faith.

For Further Study:

** Job 31:29-30; Matt 5:44; Luke 6:28; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; 1Cor 4:12-13; 1Thess 5:15; Jas 3:10; 1Pet 2:21-23; 1Pet 3:9;


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