The rationale behind the difficult command to bless those who curse us
By Dave C. Chikosi
“I don’t like that. It doesn’t matter that it’s Jesus saying it, I don’t like that!”
My first response to this now-gone-viral visceral reaction by Rev Makandiwa to Jesus’ command to “bless those who curse” you was to give the good Reverend benefit of the doubt, and dismiss it as just another rhetorical device designed to catch the listener’s attention. Every preacher uses them every now and then.
But I also wondered if he had gone too far. I had only seen a very short video clip posted by critics and I don’t like sermon critiques based on three minute video clips. I recall the college professor saying something about a text without a context being a pretext? Or words to that effect.
Anyway, I thus decided to “go deeper” and get the bigger context. Turns out that the man of God has an unusual and quite novel exegetical approach to explain why Jesus would say something so unacceptable.
According to Makandiwa when your enemy utters a curse against you, God catches it in transit before it gets to its intended victim and turns it into a blessing. Therefore you must return the favor: you are the recipient of a blessing, albeit originally intended as a curse, and this is why you must send back a blessing, not a curse. As a matter of fact, you should thank God for your enemies. They are the “source” of your blessing. You may even want to pray for more enemies if you want to receive more blessings.
Rev Makandiwa is one of Zimbabwe’s most prolific preachers. He has a huge platform and hundreds of thousands of people listen to him. This is the reason why his critique of Jesus’s command produced an equally visceral critique of his own critique by hearers.
But critics need to be fair: Makandiwa’s dislike of Jesus’ command resonates with many people from a natural human standpoint. Our human nature recoils at the thought of loving someone who is trying to hurt us, blessing them that curse us, doing good to them that hate us or praying for those who despitefully use us, and/or persecute us.
I get that.
But the reason and rationale for responding to our enemies with love, not hate, is really not that complicated. Jesus spelled it out on the Cross: “They know not what they do.” If only the haters knew that when you curse and insult another human being (angry #ZimTwitter pay attention) you are in reality cursing God. This is an egregious misuse of the tongue and scripture has a warning on verbal abuse: “therewith (the tongue) bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God” (James 3:9).
Does anybody seriously want to pick a fight with your Maker? There is a song for that: “How dumb thou art! How dumb thou art!”
Secondly, if you are in the habit of cursing people and/or giving them the bird, know that it will come back to bite you in the rear end. It will boomerang. What goes around comes around. This is a clear teaching of scripture. What you give, it is given back to you “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give back into your bosom” (Luke 6:38). Additionally, someone has controversially observed that karma is a female dog. Be warned.
So yes, most of us feel the same way as Rev Makandiwa: loving our enemies does not come naturally. You don’t just wake up and send them flowers.
It takes nothing short of the supernatural power of God to be gracious to mean spirited people. Which is why the whole Sermon on the Mount, in which we find the command to love enemy, was given by Jesus for the same reason the Law was given by Moses ie to reveal our human weakness and inability to satisfy the demands of a just and righteous God. No human, apart from the New Birth, can truly love their enemy. Only the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit can do that. And that indwelling Presence was not available until after the Cross or post-Calvary.
It was not available before the Cross or pre-Calvary. Needless to say, the command to “Bless them that curse you” is pre-Calvary.