… as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless (Romans 12:14)
We have reached the 14th verse of the 12th chapter and it is a continuation of something Paul began in verse 9. Paul was sounding a theme when he said, “Love must be sincere.” Then he went on to say how we are to put the gift of grace in action, both to our brothers and sisters, and to the world—even our enemies. The keynote of this them is of course . . . love. I contend that love is the determining factor in both our attitudes and our actions. The love of God motivates us; leads us to possess the correct attitudes toward the world—and to portray the correct actions as well.
So tell me, what attitudes are we supposed to possess toward our brothers and sister—as well as the world? How are we supposed to manifest this in our daily lives? Don’t forget, I already said that the love of God is the foundation that undergirds everything a believer should possess, and I can think of several important ways these are manifested.
The first comes by an unexpected response. Read verse 14 again. “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse, bless.”
If you take a stand as a disciple of Jesus Christ, one thing is certain: you will face opposition from the world. In fact, the Scripture itself promises us that if we live godly lives we will suffer persecution. Jesus pointed out, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the prophets were persecuted and we would be persecuted as well. This persecution comes in various forms, from subtle to overt. It could be as simple as not being included in a certain circle of friends, to being ridiculed publicly by some. In some places in the world today, Christians are openly persecuted by the state. They cannot work; visit their families; are arrested and beaten. Others have their children taken away. Others who publicly share their faith are thrown in prison or executed.
How are we supposed to react to those who persecute us? When someone puts a gun to your head, how are you supposed to react? Are you supposed to get angry and strike back somehow? Do you gather an army to fight against those who are oppressing you? That would be the most natural reaction of someone who does not know Christ, to call down the curse of God on them. That’s what Jesus’ disciples’ wanted to do! They wanted to call down lightning from Heaven and strike those “Unbelievers down.” Ooh, how tempting that would be, right?
However, this is not how a Jesus-person would respond. According to this verse, we are to bless those who persecute us. The word for bless in Greek is an interesting one. It is the word eulogeo. It comes from two Greek words, the first, lego, which means “to speak;” and eu, which means “well.” Huh? What it is saying is that we are to “speak well” of a person. You might recognize a word taken from that Greek word: “eulogize.” is taken from this Greek word. If you go to someone’s funeral, they will (generally, that is) say something nice about the deceased. That is what we are to do with our enemies. We are to bless, eulogeo, those who persecute us. That is the Christian response and it is an unexpected response. It testifies to the world that we are different. I realize that isn’t easy, but that is what we are called to be like.
In one of his sermons, D.L. Moody portrays the Lord Jesus giving direction to Peter after His resurrection. He says, “Go, find the man who thrust his spear into my side and tell him there is a much quicker way to my heart. Find the man who crowned me with thorns and tell him I should like to give him a crown of life.” This is the character of our Lord! He always practiced what he preached. On the cross, he prayed for those who hung him there. A thief who had cursed him had the gates of paradise opened to him as he turned to Christ. This kind of attitude caused the Roman Centurion in charge of the crucifixion to say, “This was the Son of God.” Do you want to see Jesus manifested in your midst? Take on this attitude. Do you remember with Stephen was stoned? Did he throw a bunch of nasty curses to those throwing stones at him:
“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep” —Acts 7:54-59
The only way to silence Stephen was to kill him. They tried to oppose him by debate, and that failed, so they intensified the level of opposition to persecution, and then death. When we are persecuted, we should rejoice, just as the early church did, because they saw this as a sign of victory, not of defeat.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome