~ “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.”
I often think of persecution as only relating to those who are outwardly suffering for their faith. While this is certainly one form of persecution, I have not much experienced it at this level. However, there are many ways in which this verse applies to us regardless of location or the presence of those hostile toward Christ. We all are persecuted, and we all have the natural inclination to respond with cursing. How do we respond with blessing instead?
To be persecuted is to be mistreated, harassed, or troubled. You can see how this relates to us. There are always those who, whether intentionally or unknowingly, mistreat us or cause us trouble.
I remember a situation when I was being chewed out for something I did not do. The person was very upset and making sure I knew it. I remember the feelings of anger that started to come up. However, Jesus was at work in me and my response was calm.
Cursing is to speak evil against someone, not just using curse words. Having a negative verbal response to the offender goes against Christ’s command. Furthermore, we are to go beyond not cursing our enemies, and are to bless, love, and do good to them. Jesus is also concerned with the response of our thoughts and attitude toward that person. It is impossible to bless and show love to someone when we are holding their actions against them.
To bless one who is persecuting us is to show love to them like Jesus tells us to. We are not blessing wrong actions, but the individual, who needs Christ’s love.
No matter our good intentions, our natural response is to speak against those persecuting us. We tend to rely on the strength of our flesh to protect us. In James 3 we learn “no man can tame the tongue.” This is a problem because, if I cannot control my tongue, how am I supposed to follow this command? I am being told to keep under control something that I cannot. Who knows what I will say (or think) in the heat of the moment? Fortunately God has provided a solution to our problem.
Stephen was stoned for preaching Jesus to the Jews. As they were stoning him he blessed them by saying “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Paul was one of the recipients of Stephen’s blessing and was greatly used by the Lord. A few verses back we see what caused Stephen to respond in this way. He was full of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:4 says we are to walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. This is how we overcome cursing and respond with blessing. Our nature was to follow the flesh, but we have a new nature. We participated in Christ’s death on the cross when we believed on Him. We no longer have to serve the flesh because we are already crucified to it. How does this work out practically? Next verse, Romans 8:5. Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. What you plant in your mind will bear fruit in your thoughts and actions. Jesus tells us what we need to dwell on in order to abide in Him. He tells us to keep (on our minds) His commandments, and we will abide in His love. (John 15:9)
We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Fill your heart with Jesus and His love by meditating on His commands and words, and He will produce the fruit of speaking blessing to your persecutors.