Bless Those Who Persecute You: What? Really? Did Paul Just Say That?

Posted: October 13, 2014 in 99-Uncategorized
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Romans 12:14 — “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Here is an instruction on living the Christ-like walk that is difficult for us to practice with even the closest people in our lives much less a non-believer.

In the book of Acts, we find Stephen, the first Christian martyr, blessing those who had just stoned him to the point of death. How do we do this in our own lives? Proverbs 25:21-22 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” This kind of behavior is contrary to our human nature. Our human nature is to lash out at those who are our enemies. Our human nature is to lash out at those who have hurt us. Like a football team that has that killer instinct that grinds their opponents into the ground, we want to completely destroy our opponents. How does God expect us to be this way? It is so hard. I want revenge on those who have hurt me! For example, how does one respond, say, to a spouse that leaves you for another lover. How can I not hate them both and want to punish them for what they did? How can I not hate that person that screws you over at work and seems to have gained great advantage from it? How do you not hate that mean girl at school who has spread vicious rumors about you just because you were beginning to have some popularity? We deal with these types of situations throughout our lives. From kindergarten to the senior center, we have to deal with people who have made us angry, have taken advantage of us, or who were just downright mean to us.

God how do we do this one thing that you expect of us? The first thing is in submission of our will to that of God our Father. If we are truly submitted to Him as we say we are, we must give this up to Him. Let us take our anger out on God. I don’t mean being indignant with God or blaming Him but being like a child with a father. When the world dumps on us as children, we talk with our daddies. We ask him how we should respond. We cry. We vent our anger and frustration. We seek the advise of our dad. When we go to our eternal Father with anger over those who have hurt us, we vent. We cry. We cry out to Him. When we do this, it shows that we do actually believe that our unseen Father in Heaven is really central in our lives. Rather letting our anger fester and boil, we have a honest conversation with our Father. God doesn’t want our formula prayers. He wants to have real conversation with us. He wants us to express our true feelings to Him. When we let our anger rule our response, are we not playing god? We have been offended. We want to use our own power to respond. When we seek God, we are saying to ourselves that God is in charge. He really wants this type of relationship. He wants those real conversations instead of platitudes. He wants to hear when you are “so angry I cannot even see straight.” Be honest with your Father in Heaven. Seek His will. Ask Him how to respond. Ask for His help in controlling your anger.

Pray for those who persecute you!?!? Really? Paul, you have got to be kidding? How can I pray for a man who just stole my promotion from me? How can I pray for a man who just stole my wife? How can I pray for a person who assaulted my child? How can I pray for someone who just murdered someone I love? How can I pray for the drunk driver that just killed my family in a car accident? How can I pray for anyone who has hurt me? This is a tough one. There is a story I found on the internet that goes like this. A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People don’t want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People don’t want spiritual health. They don’t even want physical health. They just want to get even.” However, when we commit to pray for a person who has hurt us, we don’t like it at first. In the process of praying for a person who has hurt us, we may begin to see them as a human being rather than a demon. We may, through the Holy Spirit’s help, begin to see what that person’s motivations were for hurting us. We may never fully understand nor get to the point that we want to have lunch with them or even get to know them. However, prayer leads us to let go of our anger. Prayer allows us to see that person as one who needs God’s forgiveness of sin just as much as we did and still do.

A lot of times when people hurt us, it is because they want and relish that we will respond in kind. When we seek and plot revenge. Are we not letting that person, as the old saying goes, “live rent free in our head.” Give it up. When we let a person’s actions so consume us, it can lead to their own destruction. Let that not happen to us. A woman who becomes so scornful toward her ex-husband that she becomes so obsessed with destroying him that she loses sight of her life is an example. This could be a husband as well. They get so consumed with destroying their spouse that they lose every friend they ever had, may even lose their children, all to the point that all they can talk about is their ex. They have no life. Is that what we want to be. The best revenge is a good life. The best revenge is rebuilding and moving on. The best revenge is to show them that they did not destroy you. The best revenge is to to pray for them. The natural inclination of everyone is to respond with hate to those who have hurt us. Our greatest witness of what a Christ follower is really like is to respond to hurt with kindness. It ain’t always easy. When our core cries out to strike them down, we must have a renewed mind. When anger is the common answer, we must respond in love. Does this make us doormats? No. We do not respond to others by letting them run over us but we do go against our nature and respond in love not hate. The old saying two wrongs don’t make a right is it. We must seek God first. We must pray for those who have hurt us. We must let the Holy Spirit govern our response.

How can we teach someone about Jesus Christ if we respond in exactly the same manner as an unsaved person? If we respond to the world around us in the same way that they do, how can they see Jesus? If it is our commitment to carry the gospel to the world, the world must see a difference in us? They must see that we are different in a way that they want? Lord, help us all as Christ followers to be in the world but not of it. Our response to hurt is the most telling tale of how we are different than the world. All the theology of Christianity is meaningless if we do not respond to the world any differently than they do. Lord, help me to seek your will always. Even when someone has licked the sugar of my Corn Flakes. Help me to seek your will for my response. Help me to take myself off the throne of my heart. Help me to seek how to glorify you and make Your Son’s name famous rather than to meet my needs for revenge. Help me. Help me. Help me with this one, Lord. Amen and amen. Gotta say amen twice on this one. Lord. So be it and So be it til I believe it.

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