When we experience abuse from others, our natural response is to strike back. Our inborn sense of justice, coupled with our prideful desire to punish our offenders, prompts us to retaliate, returning hurt for hurt and insult for insult. However, God instructs us to do the opposite: to show love to our enemies! “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, 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” (Matthew 5:43–44). (See also Luke 6:27–29). One way we can love our enemies is by blessing them instead. In faith we choose to bless our enemies, even when we do not feel like it or when it feels unnatural because Jesus told us to do so.
Be an Instrument of God’s Love
What does it mean to bless someone? A spoken blessing is a positive, Biblical statement that invokes the blessing of God on the life of another. The power of spoken blessings comes from God, Who Himself “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Our words have the potential to do good or to do harm. The Bible describes the potential impact of our words in verses such as these:
- “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
- “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
- “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
A spoken blessing does good to those who hear it. In the New Testament, the English word bless is a translation of the Greek word eulogeo. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, eulogeo means “to speak well of, i.e. (religiously) to bless (thank or invoke a benediction upon, prosper):—bless, praise.” When you bless others, you direct God’s goodness upon them; you intercede for them—“stand in the gap” for them as you come boldly to the throne of grace in faith. (See Ezekiel 22:30 and Hebrews 4:16.)
When Scripture speaks of blessing those who curse us, this instruction goes contrary to our natural way of responding. Those who curse desire to invoke evil, calamity, injury, or doom upon another person and these curses can come in the form of harmful insults, profanity, reproaches, and all manner of verbal offenses. Many people struggle for weeks, months, or even years as a result of wounds caused by curses. Words can hurt! However, one way to overcome these hurts and to show forgiveness and love toward the one who has hurt you is to return upon them blessing for cursing.
The Apostle Paul gave this instruction to the believers in Rome: “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. . . . Recompense to no man evil for evil. . . . Avenge not yourselves . . . Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. . . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14, 17, 19–21).
Bless Those Who Revile You
One of the Biblical terms for someone who speaks abusive words is reviler. Reviling comes from a heart of scorn and contempt and is a means of verbally attacking a person as an expression of anger and hatred. A reviler intends to vilify, defame, bring shame, discredit, or attribute evil motives to another.
Ridicule is one aspect of reviling. To ridicule is to hold up a person or his ideas to laughter—to sneer, scoff, and belittle a person. Giving someone an insulting or demeaning label is a common method of ridicule. Reviling is a form of railing upon a person.
God’s Word condemns reviling. The Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian believers not to keep company with a believer who was a reviler (see I Corinthians 5:11), and he also said that revilers are among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God (see I Corinthians 6:9–10).
Jesus was reviled. Immediately prior to His crucifixion, Roman soldiers not only scourged Him; they mocked and belittled Him as well. (See Matthew 27:26–31.) The Apostle Matthew further tells us how Christ was reviled while on the cross:
They that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth (Matthew 27:39–44).
Yet, even while He was suffering the horrors of crucifixion, Jesus blessed His persecutors, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Follow the Lord’s Example
Jesus set the example that we are to follow, returning blessing for cursing and committing Himself into His Heavenly Father’s care. (See I Peter 2:21.) “When he [Jesus] was reviled, [he] reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (I Peter 2:23–24).
If we bless those who hurt us, God will take full responsibility for whatever punishment should be administered to offenders. It is our responsibility to overcome evil with good. Speaking words of blessing is one way to do that.
The Apostle Peter specifically addresses the need to bless those who revile us: “ [Do not render] evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. . . . The face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Peter 3:9–12).
Receive the Rewards of Blessing a Reviler
Freedom from an emotional, often vengeful, reaction and genuine love for an offender are the immediate rewards of blessing a reviler. When a person is reviled, the resulting anguish can easily develop into emotional grief and bitterness. However, if by faith that person chooses to bless his offender rather than curse him, evil will effectively be overcome with good.
Many people have testified to overcoming years of bitterness that began when they were cursed or abused during childhood. As these abused individuals blessed their offenders, often their bitterness disappeared immediately.
But how are you to deal with bitterness toward someone on whom you no longer have the opportunity to bestow a blessing, such as someone who has died since the offense occurred?
- Put your faith in God and His love for both you and the offender.
- Thank God for His power to redeem those hurtful circumstances and memories.
- Ask Him to give you wisdom and grace to forgive your offender and release you from your bitterness, even though the person may be dead already. You are still living, and you can still make choices that bring freedom and blessing to your life as you choose to forgive and bless instead of becoming bitter and cursing. (See James 1:5, John 16:23, II Peter 1:2, Hebrews 4:16, and James 4:6.)
Love Your Enemies, Because That Is God’s Will
Apart from God’s marvelous grace, you will be unable to bless those who curse you, but with God, nothing is impossible. In Luke Chapter 6, Jesus taught on this specific matter:
As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. . . . But love ye your enemies, and do good . . . and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (verses 31–36).