Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 13
January 6, 2008
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.
- I. Jesus' Continuation of Explanation Regarding the Central Thesis of the Kingdom of God.
- A. As soon as Jesus began to teach on the mountain, He set forth as strong a set of contrasts as possible: the poor/rich; the hungry/well-fed; those who weep/laugh; and the evil spoken of/well spoken of. This set of contrasts had its own backdrop -- the Kingdom of God; reward in heaven; treatment rooted in one's commitment/lack thereof to Jesus.
- B. From that initial set of contrasts, Jesus immediately moved to the issue(s) of how one is supposed to function in the pre-Kingdom/Heaven era.
- C. At issue in both of these "early" declarations is the same thing: the value that people put upon one another in relation to the value that they put upon God as an Integral Participant in their experiences.
- D. At issue is "response".
- 1. Enemies intend harm; they are to be loved.
- 2. Those who hate do harmful things; they are to be treated with goodness.
- 3. Those who curse you are to be blessed.
- 4. Those who use you badly are to be objects of prayer.
- 5. Those who use violence are not only not to be opposed; they are to be allowed to go further than they intended.
- 6. Even those who "ask" before they "take" are to be treated with generosity.
- 7. The bottom line: treat others like you wish to be treated (without making their willingness to do the same a condition of your action).
- E. Also at issue is response in a one-on-one reality. Nothing that Jesus taught can be applied "across the board" of the gamut of human experience. There is a significant complication that enters into every decision as soon as there are "others" directly involved in the consequences of the decisions that are executed. "Turning the other cheek", when it permits the brutalizer to go to the next "victim" unhindered, is not an aspect of Jesus' insistence. It is altogether one thing to "turn one's cheek" to a brutalizer when no one else is going to get hurt in the process and quite another when "turning one's cheek" will result in significant injury to others. Heaven will be turned into Hell if this distinction is not made. There can be no "bottom line" reality that does not include every possible experiential scenario. God would never command us to do something that He will not/does not do.
- 1. Jesus was not teaching "national ethics"; how nations are to treat nations.
- 2. Jesus was not teaching "cultural ethics"; how people are to relate to their culture.
- 3. Jesus was teaching "personal ethics"; what people are to do in one-on-one situations.
- II. The Issue of Blessing When Cursed.
- A. The most potent illustrations of a "curse" are found in Matthew 25:41 and Mark 11:21.
- 1. In the former, the "curse" is being relegated to eternal fire.
- 2. In the latter, the "curse" was being kept from fulfilling the "purpose for being".
- B. Blessing, on the other hand, is illustrated in numerous places in that "blessing" is a verbal pronouncement of exaltation above many others (Luke 1:28).
- 1. In Luke 1:28 "blessedness" involves being "highly favored" in terms of being selected to be the one who "gets" to have a significant part to play in an enormously significant plan. On this note, "blessedness" is not a matter of being given an easy life; rather, it is being given (as in many of the concepts of blessing in the Bible) an extraordinarily difficult life as the tool of God for great benefit for many. The bottom line is that one has the "status" of being chosen for a significantly beneficial work.
- 2. In Luke 1:42 "blessedness" results in receiving "status" in the eyes of those "in the know" as to what the great work is to be.
- 3. In 1:64 "blessedness" is the result of another's recognition of one's "status" as a "benefit-producer" (this same point is made in 2:28).
- 4. In 9:16 Jesus "blessed" the loaves and fishes. Then He turned them into the means of physical nourishment and sustenance for over 5,000 people (Note also 24:30).
- 5. In 13:35 Jesus told Jerusalem that her "house" would be left desolate until she came to recognize just Who Jesus is and what His impact of benefit was to be. This was fulfilled in 19:38 when the people cried out "Blessed is the King ... peace in heaven, and glory in the highest."
- 6. In 24:50-51, "blessing" His disciples was the last thing Jesus did while on this earth.
- 7. In 24:53, the last thing Luke told Theophilus was that the disciples were "continually in the temple, praising and blessing God." That's the last sentence in Luke's record except for the one word at the end of the sentence: Amen -- a hearty agreement that this is what should be.
- C. In both cases, at issue is the verbal expression of status: a "curse" is a declaration of worthlessness and a "blessing" is a declaration of "value". Since the essence of the word translated "love" in this context is "to assign value", this precisely fits into Jesus' declaration for the entire paragraph: Love your enemies. The recognition that they are highly valued for the benefit they produce is almost completely wrapped up in Jesus' words, "Rejoice ... in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven ..." (6:23). The fact of the matter is this: there is no reward where there has been no "endurance of evil".