Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. (Romans 12:14)
How to treat those who hate you
Brother Paul, in Romans 12, gives a number of instructions to the saints in Rome, beginning in verse one with the exhortation to “… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Appropriate words from a man who told the Corinthian saints, ” … I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and the Galatian saints, ” … I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). The words of our text are equally appropriate coming from a man who himself suffered persecution often (2 Corinthians 11:35, 2 Corinthians 12:10, and 2 Timothy 3:11). Yet, unnatural human bent being what it is, Brother Paul’s instructions are much easier said than done.
Let’s face it, when someone harms, offends or angers us, the nearly automatic tendency is to want to respond in kind. So also, when people persecute us, our inclination is not to bless but, rather, to curse. But now I’m going to say something you’re not going to want to hear: with very few exceptions, we Christians in North America and Europe haven’t the remotest idea of what it means to be persecuted. Further, as Christians who are not of heterosexual orientation, we are reviled because of our sexual orientation rather than because we are Christians – except for the disgust that some non-heterosexuals have toward Christianity and, indeed, toward religion in general. Also, given the fact that Brother Paul wrote our text to Christians – and the fact that the persecution he was writing about was specifically because they were Christians – hostile behavior toward us because of our sexual orientation doesn’t qualify as persecution in this context. Does that mean we are allowed to curse and bless not? No. Jesus said in Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the on cheek, offer also the other … ” He also said, in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” It’s clear that we are not to treat others the way they treat us. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” In Romans 12:19-21, Brother Paul refers to passages in the Old Testament as he writes, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I appreciate the opportunity to write about this particular topic because it has been a topic of which the Lord has been sharing some things with me in my prophetic ministry. In Matthew 24:9, Jesus said of the Church in the last days, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake.” Notice what Jesus said here: that we would be hated by the whole world not because of our sexual orientation but, rather, because of Him. The Church in the last days will be delivered up to the authorities to be afflicted and killed. Everywhere on Earth, Christians will be hated as never before. There will be widespread afflicting and killing of God’s New Testament people. Some of that persecution occurred in the first and second centuries; but in the last days it would be far worse as loving God becomes a crime. But, Jesus said in Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Saints, let me share a story with you. My adoptive mom called me last Christmas Eve. Now, she has not experienced Acts 2:38 salvation. Rather, she is merely religious in that she believes in God and goes to this or that non-evangelical church. But as we were talking on the phone, out of the blue she told me about watching a television report about Christians in Viet Nam who were being imprisoned and killed for their faith. She has never talked about such things before, so this must have really touched her in some special way. I pray that the Lord will use her remembrance of that report to draw her to Himself.
Even now, saints in Asia, Africa and the Muslim nations are suffering unspeakable horrors because of their faith in Jesus. In those lands, loving God IS a crime and those saints are outlaws! Afghanistan, following the lead of many other Muslim nations, passed legislation last year making it a crime to convert to Christianity, for Christians to try to convert others to Christianity, and for booksellers to sell anything that criticized the Muslim religion. At least one of the students killed in the Columbine High School massacre, and several of the students killed in the massacre at the high school in Paducah, Kentucky, were killed for having faith in Jesus. Christians in Sudan told an American Christian visiting there that they would not trade places with Christians in North America because, they believe, the persecution they suffer makes their faith stronger, more vibrant, more real than ours. As I watched that report on television, the Lord told me that these saints in Sudan were absolutely correct. A number of self-appointed Christian leaders here in America are trying to prevail upon Congress to pass legislation that would require sanctions against nations that persecute Christians. While such misguided attempts to stop the persecution are well intentioned, they amount to an attempt to prevent Bible prophecy from coming to pass. Also, as history has shown, the Church in those lands where there is religious freedom has become like the Sardis and Laodicean churches of Revelation 3 – either having a reputation for being alive but actually being dead, or having material wealth and self-sufficiency but being spiritually lukewarm and blind and naked and impoverished. Further, the saints undergoing persecution aren’t asking us to stop the persecution. Do you know what they’re asking us for? They’re asking us for Bibles! There was a teenage girl in Pakistan who shared her faith with a girlfriend at school (no, they weren’t lesbians). That so-called friend told her family, who responded by kidnapping the girl, raping and brutalizing her before forcing her to sign a certificate of conversion to Islam and killing her. The girl’s parents only learned about what happened to their daughter when they received the certificate in the mail. Then, the girl’s family was subjected to attack by people in the community. By the way, forced conversions are against the law in Pakistan. And what of the Church here in the United States? Ted Turner makes fun of his Roman Catholic employees because they get the ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday and we call it persecution. The Supreme Court decides that schools can’t require students to pray and we call it persecution. That is utter nonsense! If we want to know what persecution is, we need only to ask our brothers and sisters in places like China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sudan to share their experiences. The persecution that our brothers and sisters in those nations experience every day will come to North America and Europe; you mark my words. When that happens, the Church in North America and Europe won’t know what hit it. Millions of Christians on those continents will be ashamed of His name and deny Him as Brother Peter did on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Now, back to our text.
Brother Paul affirms Jesus’ own teaching on how we are to behave toward those who persecute us. In Apostolic churches, we require at least two witnesses of scripture, in context, to establish a doctrine. Between Jesus and Brother Paul, blessing those who persecute us is thus firmly established as Christian doctrine. If we do otherwise, we are committing sin. If we are obedient to Jesus, we have no choice: we MUST bless, and curse not.
Author, educator, theologian and scholar Rev. Chancellor Carlyle Roberts II was ordained a minister of the National Gay Pentecostal Alliance and has served as a pastor, Bible teacher and Sunday school teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies (religion and special education) and a graduate certificate in global studies and is the author of God in Three What? An Examination of the Use of Persons in the Trinity Doctrine, We Believe: A Commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D., Pure As He Is Pure: My Struggle With Homosexuality and Homesick.