to bless or to curse…that is the question!

how do you respond to injustice?

let me just say that after i wrote that question…i sat and looked at my computer for a long time.  isn’t that the question of the ages?  it’s not like a little man sitting in front of his computer monitor…punching away on a few keys…is going to be able to answer that question in a matter of a couple of paragraphs…right?  countries…kingdoms…empires have risen and fallen without ever coming to the realization of how to best answer that question.  hundreds of millions have died…have been tortured…have been oppressed throughout history…because humanity’s answer to injustice…is violence…anger…hostility…aggression.  yes…that’s right…the ANSWER to injustice (in the kingdoms of the world)…is more violence…and it is a tired…worn-out pattern.

what got me thinking about this was our teaching a couple of sunday’s ago at the [living] room.  we had gotten to the point in Genesis where Jacob had deceived his blind father…Isaac…and received the blessing that his older brother…Esau…was to receive.  this ultimately led to a curse being given to Esau by his father.  of course…any way you look at it…this is injustice.  but to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of the injustice…we have to understand the power of a blessing and the power of a curse in Hebrew culture in the 20th century BC.

there is power in a blessing…and in a curse…given by sacred people in relation to God.  in ancient Hebrew culture…the blessing was everything.  they were not hollow…empty words…just thrown around.  they meant something.  they were extraordinarily powerful.  in fact…while there are many Hebrew synonyms for the word “curse”…there is not one synonym for “blessing,” or in Hebrew…berekah.  many believed that a blessing…or a curse…given by a sacred person…had power to influence God for the benefit or the injury of the recipient.

so who are these sacred people that could give a blessing?  in ancient Hebrew culture…it was the Patriarchs…Moses…prophets…priests…and fathers.  it was understood that these individuals were in close relation to God…and as a result…could extend this providential blessing or curse.  in fact…fathers were looked at as the “priests” of their family…which meant that they had a close relationship with God…and could pass along blessings or curses to their sons and basically chart the course for their son’s future.

so when Jacob deceitfully receives the blessing from his father…and Esau receives a curse…we understand that something profound has happened.  something that is lasting…something that has the power to completely affect each sons future.  that is why we sympathize with Esau in his emotional despair…however…the way Esau chooses to respond to injustice is to avenge his brother by killing him.

my question is this…if there is power in a blessing and a curse…given by sacred people in relation to God…and if the power of blessings and curses can affect individuals for the future…what does this mean for us?

there are really two operatives here:  sacred people and relation to God

so what happens when we…as christians…are described as a sacred people…a royal priesthood (1 peter 2:9) that is not just in close relation with God…but actually has God residing in us (2 corinthians 6:16 KJV)?  might it mean that God has given us the power to bless and curse people?

as a sacred people…we can use our relation with God…for the benefit or injury of others…through our blessings and curses.  in other words…in the face of personal or societal injustice…we…as christians…choose how to respond.  do we continue the endless, repetitive cycle of injustice by cursing people?  or do we choose another option…the option of a life transformed by the Spirit of God…that chooses to stop the tired, worn-out cycle of injustice by simply blessing?  if we are honest about the life and person of Jesus…we have no other choice than to pursue self-sacrificial love that blesses in the face of injustice.

the beauty of a blessing is that it is never to late to be given.  twenty years after Jacob fled from his murderous brother esau…they are finally reunited…in one of the most suspenseful accounts in the Bible.  as the two brothers approach each other…Jacob believes that Esau is still mad enough to kill him.  rather…Esau runs toward Jacob and embraces him.  it is never too late to choose to bless.

for those of you reading this…how does this change how you respond to injustice (no matter how insignificant)?  further…who have you previously cursed…that you need to bless now?  these can’t be just words on a page!  this has to take root in our lives and transform how we respond to others.  unless we decide that WE are going to stop the cycles by blessing rather than cursing…the cycles continue…and continue…and continue….

 please leave some feedback.

 brandon

9 thoughts on “to bless or to curse…that is the question!

  1. very, very hard thing to do. It is not our nature to respond to injustice with love and forgiveness. We are all fundamentally flawed by our original sin… yet we are still loved eternally by God.

    The scriptures that immediately come to mind are those of Matthew 5. Here Jesus said:

    38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    If I truly do have the power to bless and curse I should start considering heavily the impact of my words, thoughts and actions in everyday life. Another verse that come to mind is James’ message to the twelve tribes:

    James 1:19-27

    19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
    22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

    26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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  2. I was listening to Rob Bell the other day while I was running. It was his 12/3/06 talk titled ‘Calling all Peacemakers Part I’. He talks about the myth of redemptive violence. It was interesting to listen to him talk about how people, even ‘good’ people, use violence to control the bad guy.

    The perfect example he gave was Popeye. Bluto beats the snot out of Popeye for most of the show, but in the end, Popeye somehow finds some spinach and Popeye’s muscles buldge from everywhere. Then, the story takes a turn and Popeye (good) wins over Bluto (evil) through force, through ‘redemptive’ violence.

    Think of other examples. Tom and Jerry – Jerry wins by usually pounding on his adversary. Roadrunner – Wile E. Coyote ends up the victim of his own ACME products, but normally with the help of his would-be prey. What about whatever that cartoon is with the sheep dog and the wolf – the laid back sheep dog always ends up beating on the wolf before he gets to eat a sheep. The list goes on and on.

    In all cases, ‘good’ wins over evil. And in all cases, violence is the reason they won. Do you realize that our kids watch this stuff? Not Tom and Jerry or the Roadrunner, we used to watch that. I don’t even konw if those are on TV anymore. But they see this played out everywhere. At school, in parenting, on TV, in their own back yards. Dalton, my son, and his best friend Tyler save the world every day in the back yard or in the basement by beating on the bad guys.

    Redemptive violence is a learned reaction. What would it take to help us all learn redemptive peace? What would our world look like if our kids were victors over evil through blessings?

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  3. If you sum this up by using the litmus test of “Love your enemies” you may just be getting close to the Spirit of this message and not so much the letter of it. What Jesus meant by “Love you enemies” as I understand it now is not so much the “enemies” you may think of first. Individuals I may believe as my enemies may be the enemies my government has already chosen for me…i.e. terrorists, or the guy who stole a girlfriend, etc, but I believe Christ was meaning something deeper….If you believe that an enemy is someone you have ever looked past or veered away from…someone who you have ever had a dis-love for, these are the enemies I believe are what Christ is referring to. This may come as a harsh reality to you as it did for me. When you think of the marginalized, the poor, the mistreated, the people currently in the belly of injustice you usually do not think of these individuals as enemies, but have you ever looked past them on to better things or simply said “thats a shame” and moved on? When you discover the spirit of what Christ was saying when he said “Love your enemies” I think that you can fully grasp and really give root and understanding to why Christ chose to seek out the weak…the powerless…the people who actually needed help. When we see Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman we see him going where no other Jew would step foot. The whole “Jews do not associate with Samaritians” was a real life paralysis in those days that separated kingdoms. What is separating your kingdom from someone else’s kingdom may be just a region of town or a commonly held view about a certain racial or cultural group. What Christ’s message of Love confirms is the fact that we are not to be choosy as to who receives blessings and who receives curses. We are already empowered…actually the Spirit, the same spirit within all believers is power to give love and that is what we are called to do.—This is tough though—we understand this is what we are to do, but the response is difficult. When we learn of this reality we try to engage, but it just does not ever seem to be enough. People are dying all around and we see social injustice everywhere. What our first response should be is prayer for the church as a whole and our brothers and sisters in Christ in the world. Remember we are all connected through the Spirit for His purposes. If you are trying to find ways to connect with the church abroad or just in our backyard some resources are Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com)and Sojourners (www.sojo.net). These sites have stories of individuals on the front lines that you can pray for. Another way of response I have found is simply serving those you would have previously not served…Sacrificial love….loving unconditionally is truly a beautiful way of contributing to God’s message of justice & reconcilliation. Also going through this response and contributing to the purpose was never meant to be something you do alone…..Christ’s set up His church to move as a unit….having the church as a unit moving in his prescribed direction wipes out injustice. When we move against His purpose we slow this big train of love down and grieve the Spirit. Today I want to move with the train that is is body of Christ, don’t you!? Praise be to Him!!!!!

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  4. Brandon, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your articles. I am so proud of you and what you have become. You are a wonderful husband, father, provider and you are such a good example for all who know you and I couldn’t be more blessed. I know I don’t tell you this enough but always know that I love you and you make me a very proud mom.

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  5. Brandon, this helped me out more than you could know. Honestly, I’ve never looked at the cyclical pattern of injustice/curses in that way. My perspective has literally been changed entirely. I also think, paralell to what you were saying, that it’s not our responsibility to impose the consequences of injustice on those performing the unjust acts, that’s God’s job. So all we must do is show our love, making sure it’s an honest and genuine GODLY love. I don’t want to negatively react upon personal injustice anymore. I want to bless and love that person and let God take control of in consequences that may need to insue. Thanks. That really helped me……

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  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and make it available to others. I was googling searching for certain words to help my sisters in the struggle they are going through, your site had just what i need it when i need it.

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  7. can any one help me i lost a son 7 years old 1973 my daughter died 10th dec 2005 just geting to come to terms with my daughter dying my wife has just found out she has treminal cancer i cant live like this i think there is acurse put on our family nearly every one has lost son our we have all turned ill if ther is any person that can help please

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  8. I have been trying to apply this biblical instruction in my life by praying for the “difficult to love” people in my life. We are supposed to love the “hard to love” as Christ does. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past trying to figure these people out, or being angry with them. The bible says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44) This wasn’t easy at first, but as I kept doing it, I started to see these people in a different way. Maybe it’s their rough exterior or sin that is so difficult to love, but the actual person inside is a valuable soul and worthy of our love and compassion. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the result of what my prayers have done, but I just pray for them to be blessed, have good health and happiness and that God would draw them near to Him and they would experience His love. I’ve read in the bible that what we wish on others (or pray for) we will get back on us. So it is extremely important to bless and not curse. If loving enemies was easy, everyone would be doing it. Christians have the Holy Spirit in us and God to help us do what does not come naturally. It is thru God and not of myself that I can pray for my enemies.

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  9. Thank you so much for your challenging thoughts on blessing! We are carriers of more power than we can ever conceive. So much of that power is released through our emotions, thoughts and words.

    May you start a revolution, my friend…one of powerfully blessing. Einstein said that if only 1% of the population were willing to died for peace, wars would be ended forever. So, if those of us who are Christians were willing to die to our vengeful tendencies and become people of blessing, what would that mean? …A revolutiion, it seems!

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