Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 14
January 13, 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. Praying "For" Them Who Despitefully Use You.
- A. The Textus Receptus has "pray over"; the Nestle/Aland 26 has "pray around". This difference in prepositions may have arisen because of the Matthean text (5:44) where there is, apparently, a different kind of transmission difficulty in the manuscripts. The editors of the Nestle/Aland 26 did not even make any reference to the difference, assuming that the Textus Receptus simply had no credibility at this point.
- 1. The difference is instructive. The preposition "huper" in Greek has the root meaning of "over" and is typically used in situations in which the idea is that something stretches "over" another so that, often, there is an idea of protection from "something from above". This is the preposition that is often used with the concept of "instead of" as a basis for "vicarious" action. The preposition "peri" in Greek has the root meaning of "around" and its uses can be traced to that idea. There is this textual difference: Matthew's quote of Jesus has to do with those who "persecute" you (and the textual evidence is that he omits Luke's idea of "despitefully using", though there is a conflation in some manuscripts that import Luke's idea) and Luke's has to do with those who "demean you". So Matthew records Jesus as saying, "Pray over those who persecute you" and Luke records Jesus as saying, "Pray around those who despitefully use you".
- 2. The difference may well be discovered in the meaning of "pray" and in the nature of the offending action in the light of the overall contextual issue of "loving your enemies".
- a. The word for "pray" is a combination word that weds a third preposition ("pros") with a verb that indicates a fairly strong "wish". "Pros" means "near" as well as "facing" so that one gets the idea of a fairly close, face to face position. Wedded to "wishfulness", it strengthens the "wish" and, thus, turns it into "prayer" as the main response we ought always to give to our "strong wishes". The picture is of us speaking "face to face with God in regard to our wishes."
- b. So, Jesus seems to be teaching us to "give vent to our strong wishes" to God in a setting where our enemies are "despitefully using us".
- c. What does "despitefully use" mean? The word derives from yet another preposition (epi) which means "upon" and is connected to a word that signals "insulting treatment" [see Liddell-Scott]. In other words, the picture is of a person heaping upon another "insulting" treatment, either by word or action. Insulting treatment is treatment designed to humiliate; i.e., to devalue. Love is just the opposite: it places value upon.
- d. Thus, Jesus seems to be saying that when another demeans us as His disciples, we are to exalt him/her in real value and express our desire for their good to God. If this is Jesus' meaning, "pray around" takes on the meaning of putting a hedge around the offender so that the things that are causing the insulting behavior might be blunted and, perhaps, even removed. Typically, people of no value in their own eyes demean others as a way of retaliation and self-exaltation. The only way that can be altered is for them to come to believe that Someone loves them -- and they will not generally see that except in the lives of that Someone's disciples.
- B. Jesus' Reasoning.
- 1. Enemies end up being destroyed.
- 2. Salvation requires an end to the enmity.
- 3. Enemies do not "get saved" until they understand that God loves them and has made a provision for their forgiveness.
- 4. Human beings cannot see God or the truth about Him except through the lives of those whom He uses to make manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
- 5. Loving one's enemies are those enemies' only hope: otherwise they perish under wrath.
- 6. Doing good to someone's enemies is an application of Romans 2:4.
- 7. Blessing those who "wish for" your destruction confuses the wish.
- 8. Praying ("strongly wishing for") "around" those who "seek to devalue" you makes the process one step closer to the possibility of repentance.