From the Word
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:14–21, RSV
The apostle reminds us that we are to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner toward our persecutors, who, to a great extent, are to blame for the distress of the saints. It is well to observe that we are not merely advised, but commanded, to love our enemies, to do them good and to speak well of them; such is the fruit of the Spirit. To “bless” our persecutors means to desire only good for them in body and soul. It is inconsistent for a Christian to curse even his most bitter enemy or an evildoer; for he is commanded to bear the gospel upon his lips. The dove did not bring a poisonous branch or a thistle sprig to Noah in the ark; she brought an olive leaf in her mouth. So the gospel is simply a gracious, blessed, glad and healing word. It brings only blessing and grace to the whole world. No curse, only pure lips of blessing and not of cursing. If they curse they are not the lips of a Christian.
It is necessary, however, to distinguish between cursing and censuring or reproving. Reproof and punishment greatly differ from cursing and malediction. To curse means to invoke evil, while censuring carries the thought of displeasure at existing evil, and an effort to remove it. In fact, cursing and censuring are opposed to each other. Christ himself censured, or reproved. He called the Jews a generation of vipers, children of the devil, hypocrites, blind dolts, liars and the like. He did not curse them to perpetuate their evils; he rather desired the evils removed.
But the strong argument is urged that the saints of the Scriptures not only censured, but cursed. Jacob cursed his sons, Reuben, Simon and Levi. A great part of the Law of Moses is made up of curses. What shall we say to these things? We answer: Without the Spirit’s direction, no one can rightly understand and imitate such examples of cursing. When the devil, through his followers, resists and obstructs the Word of God—the channel of blessing—the blessing is impeded, and in God’s sight a curse rests upon the blessing. Then it is the office of faith to come out with a curse, desiring the removal of the obstruction that God’s blessing may be unhindered.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 20–21.
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