What does it mean to bless our enemies and those who curse us?


Actually, the command to bless others even though they may not seem worthy of our blessing is to be found throughout the Bible.

We read in Matthew 5:44: “But I say to you, love your enemies, BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Compare, Luke 6:27-28).

Romans 12:14-20 adds:

“BLESS THOSE who persecute you; BLESS AND DO NOT CURSE… Repay no one evil for evil… If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves… If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

1 Corinthians 4:12 states: “… Being reviled, we BLESS; being persecuted, we endure…”

1 Peter 3:9 adds: “… not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

The word “bless,” in the context of the above-quoted Scriptures, conveys the meaning of “calling down by prayer a blessing on him who persecutes us.”

The Greek word for “bless” is “eulogeo.” It is a compound of “eveu,” meaning “good” or “well,” and “logos,” meaning, “word, something said, speaker.” It can include “thought.” The word for “bless” means, then, “to speak well of” or “to invoke blessings upon a person.” (Compare Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, No. 2127, and W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

When we bless someone, we refrain from cursing him. We bless with our lips, by what we say, but our blessings of others need to come from the heart; not only from our lips. Psalm 62:4 warns us not to behave like the wicked, when they bless others: “They only consult to cast him down from his high position; They delight in lies; They bless with their mouth, But they curse inwardly.”

The Hebrew word for “bless” is “barah” and means, literally, “to kneel,” and by implication, “to bless God (as an act of adoration) or man (as a benefit).” (Compare Strong’s, No. 1288).

A good example of how to bless our hateful enemies can be seen in Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:60, when both Jesus and Stephen asked God to forgive their enemies and not to charge them with their sin of murder.

When we bless those who curse us, we do this with our mouth–but our words must be coming from the heart. This includes, praying for them. Our prayer could include, asking God to grant them repentance so that their sins may be forgiven. It could include asking God to prevent them from continuing their evil deeds, since their attitudes and conduct harm themselves and others.

Our prayer might include the plea to God to let our enemies see that what they are doing is wrong. We are not to avenge ourselves because we know that God will avenge us–and if this means that God will allow or bring trials on our enemies to bring them to repentance or a recognition of the evil of their doing, then that, too, would be a blessing for them.

The commentary of Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says about Matthew 5:44:

“Bless them that curse you – The word ‘bless’ here means to ‘speak well of’ or ‘speak well to:’ – not to curse again or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or, if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him.”

Blessing would mean not to slander our enemies or to speak evil of them, by inventing facts or “adding to” the truth. It does not mean hiding the facts if there is a need to speak out, but even then, we must be sure that we do not speak or act with hate and with a desire to avenge ourselves (2 Timothy 2:17-18, 20-21; 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:18-20).

John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states about Matthew 5:44:

“… when wicked men curse you, as Shimei cursed David, do not ‘render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing’; give good words, use kind language, mild and soft expressions; such as may either win upon them, or put them to shame and silence: ‘bless, and curse not’; the latter belongs to them, the former to you; ‘let them curse, but bless thou’: curses better fit their mouths, and blessings thine. Blessing here, does not signify praising them, for that would be sinful…”

He adds in his comments about Romans 12:14:

“… bless them; that is, to pray for them, that God would show them their evil, give repentance to them, and the remission of their sins; which is the order Christ gave to his disciples [in Luke 24:47] and encouraged to an observance of, by his own example [Luke 23:34] and has been followed herein by his disciples and apostles [Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 4:12]. Moreover, by ‘blessing’ may be meant, giving them good words, mild and soft answers, ‘not rendering evil for evil, railing for railing’ [1 Peter 3:9]; but, on the contrary, blessing, in imitation of Christ, who, ‘when he was reviled, reviled not again’ [1 Peter 2:23]…

“… and curse not: to have a mouth full of cursing and bitterness [Romans 3:14] is the character of an unregenerate man, and what by no means suits one who names the name of Christ; for blessing and cursing to proceed out of the same mouth, is as absurd and unnatural, as if it should be supposed that a fountain should send forth sweet water and bitter, or salt and fresh [James 3:10]…”

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible writes about Romans 12:14:

“Bless them, pray for them, and on no account curse them, whatever the provocation may be. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in your Lord.”

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states about Romans 12:14:

“Bless, and curse not – Bless only; or continue to bless, however long or aggravated may be the injury. Do not be provoked to anger, or to cursing, by any injury, persecution, or reviling. This is one of the most severe and difficult duties of the Christian religion… To curse denotes properly to devote to destruction. Where there is power to do it, it implies the destruction of the object. Thus, the fig-tree that was cursed by the Savior soon withered away [Mark 11:21]. Thus, those whom God curses will be certainly destroyed [Matthew 25:41; that is, if they remain under the curse and refuse to repent]. Where there is not power to do it, to curse implies the invoking of the aid of God to devote to destruction. Hence, it means to imprecate; to implore a curse from God to rest on others; to pray that God would destroy them. In a larger sense still, it means to abuse by reproachful words; to calumniate; or to express oneself in a violent, profane, and outrageous manner.”

When we curse someone and wishing him ill and longing for his destruction, we are motivated by Satan the devil; not by God. When James and John, the “sons of thunder,” asked Christ whether they should command fire to come down from heaven to destroy and devour the Samaritans who had refused to provide shelter for them, Jesus rebuked them and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).

Satan is called the destroyer (Revelation 9:11–the Hebrew word for Satan, “Abaddon,” means “Destruction,” and the Greek word for Satan, “Apollyon,” means “Destroyer”). On the other hand, Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 3:17; 4:42). We need to follow Christ’s example, not Satan’s. Moses prayed to God to relent from killing the nation of Israel when they had greatly sinned against Him (Exodus 32:7-14); and Abraham asked God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten righteous (Genesis 18:20-32).

In conclusion, we must be careful not to curse anyone, including our enemies who are hateful towards us and try to do us harm. Vengeance is God’s alone. Rather, we are to bless our enemies and pray for them, asking God to help them to see the evil of their ways and to repent. Our love towards all men will
be seen if we do good to those who hate us, and our righteous attitude will also be manifested when we ask God to do them good. God is kind even towards the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:35). He shows His perfect love for mankind when He “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Jesus said that we must become perfect in love as our Father’s love is perfect (compare Matthew 5:46-48).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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