“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them: pray that God will bless them”
Recently as I was getting ready to speak about the persecuted church at a conference I received a phone call from a friend who had committed to pray not just for his persecuted family, but for the persecutors too. He asked me the following question;
What does it really look like to bless those who persecute you?
I’m not sure if you agree, but I think this has to be one of the most read, but least practiced verses in the Bible!
As I spoke with my friend about some of the struggles we both faced trying to get our heads around this verse, I told him my thoughts; I think we find this verse difficult because we often apply our westernised understanding of ‘blessing’ to this statement. Let me clarify.
Give the people committing these atrocious acts against our brothers and sisters in Christ all the good things in the world; money, health, great jobs, great marriages, brilliant kids and a get out of jail free card.
Bless (save) those who persecute the church and in doing so persecute you, Jesus. Draw them to you and save them from an eternity in separated from your love.
We need to change our understanding of the word ‘bless’. It’s not all about materialistic increase, but about salvation. As Christians we are not called to stand for these abuses of human rights, and we’re definitely not called to ask God to give them more ‘stuff’ because of their actions.
We need to change our understanding of the word ‘bless’. It’s not all about materialistic increase, but about salvation.
What we’re called to do is eagerly and sincerely desire their salvation and to intercede for our brothers and sisters who may not be able to pray this prayer because of the experiences they’re currently facing. Can you imagine how difficult it is for the people who are the victims to pray this prayer? We are called to intercede for them and on their behalf ask God to bless (save) those committing these acts.
If we re-align our understanding of the word ‘bless’ then it undeniably impacts our next prayer – for those who suffer persecution. I know I can so often use the word ‘bless’ in my prayer life, that it becomes somewhat watered down and covers almost anyone and anything I’m praying for… but, if we’re asking God to save the unsaved then when it comes to the victims of persecution, we’re going to need to better articulate what we desire for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Essentially my prayer goes from bless those who suffer for your name to more specific requests like… give them strength, protect them, give them shelter, refuge and let your presence be known to them.
So, here’s the challenge. As you pray for the persecutors, the persecuted and your own relationship with God:
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.