Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious
group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children
of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian
This page is one of a
series looking at ways the Family uses prayer.
Is it legitimate to pray that
bad things happen to one’s enemies? Aren’t there many examples in the
book of Psalms when David prayed that his enemies would be defeated? Is
that the same as ‘cursing someone?’ Is it scriptural for a Christian to
curse, or pray against his or her enemies?
Family doctrine and practices
In the Family, there is an
officially sanctioned teaching that Family members may ‘pray against’ or
‘curse’ their enemies. This kind of prayer is usually reserved for
people who instigate legal action against the Family as a whole or who
provoke negative media attention, although it is not uncommon for Family
members to ‘pray against’ relatives who cause them serious trouble. When
Family publications address such large scale problems, they frequently
include prayers or ‘prophecies’ specifically cursing enemies of the
The rationale for such practices
lies in the conviction held by Family members that they are true
Christians, held by God in such high esteem, and accomplishing such an
important work for Him that no person should ever stand against them.
Any person who attacks the Family, whether in word, or through media
attention, or via legal proceedings is therefore seen to be attacking
God’s work. Attacking the Family, therefore, is tantamount to attacking
God. Family members, therefore, feel justified in praying that God
Himself would hinder or harm His own enemies.
A typical example of Family
members ‘cursing’ or ‘praying against’ someone may go something like
this: the leadership of a Family home receives word that the Family is
under severe persecution in some part of the world. The ‘persecution’
may be legal proceedings of some description, accompanied by negative
media attention. The Family members in that home may then gather for a
prayer meeting in which they present a long series of specific prayer
requests to the Lord. This prayer meeting is not called solely for the
purpose of cursing someone, nor does that become the main focus of the
meeting. Prayers are offered for the specific Family members involved in
the situation, the leadership, media spokespeople and lawyers, following
which people may pray against the people who instigated the legal
proceedings, those who incited the media, the opposing lawyers, as well
as any individuals who are seen to be personally attacking the Family,
whether through the law, the media, or otherwise. The prayers against
these ‘enemies’ may or may not be referred to as ‘curses’ by Family
members. Regardless of the exact terminology used, the principle is
exactly the same. These prayers may be of a general nature: “Lord,
confound the prosecuting legal team!” or more specific: “Make them lose
their evidence!” There may be calls for unrelated problems to occur:
“Send financial trouble to them so that they cannot proceed against us!”
In serious cases of prolonged persecution, the Family has called for
personal harm to come upon the offending person. These prayers are often
angrily vehement; they express loyalty to the Family and opposition to
its enemies. They implicitly presuppose that the Family’s work is God’s
work and therefore when someone attacks the Family, they are in reality
The scriptural justification for
this kind of prayer is taken almost exclusively from the book of Psalms.
For example, the “Word Basics’, which is the official Family Scripture
compilation book published in 1990, contains a 10 page section on the
topic of persecution. Beginning on p.230 there is a long list of
references, mostly from Psalms, which are introduced as “The Psalmist’s
prayers and curses against his enemies− and for the Lord to protect His
people from them.” There are passages in this list from over 50 psalms,
including many like these:
Ps 5:10 Pronounce them guilty, O
Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of
For they have rebelled against You.
Ps 6:10 Let all my enemies be
ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed
Ps 7:16 His [the wicked’s] trouble
shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come
down on his own crown.
7 When he is judged, let him be
And let his prayer become sin.
8 Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.
The purpose of this list is to
provide Family members with over-whelming scriptural precedence for the
practice of praying against one’s enemies, and also to make it easy for
Family members to locate biblical ‘curses’ that they may claim in prayer
against their own enemies. There have also been other published lists
similar to this one.
The study on this web page does
not examine the question of whether the Family is actually held in such
high regard by God that the enemies of the Family may be counted as the
enemies of God. That is a question which only God Himself can answer.
Neither does this particular study look at the signs that a truly
Christian organisation should show. Many of the other pages on this web
site provide specific details about current Family doctrines and
practices which are relevant to that question. This study looks solely
at the Family doctrine that a Christian may ‘curse’ or beseech God to
harm his or her enemies. What does the Bible say about that?
There are two modern meanings of
the word ‘curse’: foul language or profanities, and the occult practice
of invoking evil upon someone. Neither of these meanings describes
accurately the Family practice of praying against someone.
In the Family the term is
limited to prayers (usually addressed to Jesus) that some harm will
befall their enemies. Family members generally prefer the term ‘pray
against’ rather than ‘curse’ due to the occult connotations of cursing,
although the distinction between the two terms is more commonly that
harsh, severe prayers are ‘curses’ while milder prayers are ‘prayers
against’. This is not, however, an officially defined distinction.
In Bible times, a ‘curse’ meant
a “prayer for injury, harm, or misfortune to befall someone.” Curses
were addressed to pagan deities, not to God. They were believed to
possess their own power to bring about their fulfilment; the power to
fulfil the curse was thought to be contained within the curse itself
There are a number of words used
in the Bible which are translated ‘curse’. Various definitions are:
“execration,” which means ‘an appeal to some supernatural power to
inflict evil on someone or some group’ (Lewis); “to pray against, to
wish evil against a person or thing;” “to speak evil of” (Vine).
It should also be understood
that when the Family uses the word ‘persecution’, they are usually not
referring to general attacks on Christianity. Occasionally the word is
used to describe a specific situation outside the Family, such as
“Chinese persecution of underground Christian churches” or “Russian
persecution of believers during the Soviet era.” Usually, however, when
the Family talks of ‘persecution’ they are specifically referring to
widespread or serious attacks on the Family. An isolated court case
against an individual Family member does not constitute persecution
unless the consequences of those proceedings have a direct effect upon
the wider Family, or are part of a larger attack on many Family members.
The New Testament
The first passages that
Christians should examine when considering this issue are those where
Jesus Christ Himself discusses how to deal with enemies. Christian
theology states that the entire Bible is the revealed word of God which
contains God’s directions for us regarding Himself, sin and salvation,
ethics and so on. The New Testament is inextricably linked to the Old
Testament, and the progression and continuity between the two testaments
provide many valuable insights into the nature of God and His revelation
to the entire world. Christianity, of course, focuses on Jesus Christ
the Saviour, His death, resurrection and teachings. It is through the
New Testament teachings that Christians gain a fuller understanding of
Old Testament teaching. Therefore it is appropriate in this Bible study
that the words of Jesus be given priority over the psalms of David,
which are discussed later.
The Sermon on the Mount
In the Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew chapters 5-7), Jesus taught on a great variety of topics. It
seems that Jesus was talking mainly to His disciples, although the word
‘disciples’ in Matt 5:1 obviously has a broader meaning than ‘the twelve
apostles’ as only three of the twelve had been called thus far (Peter,
James and John). Of the others, Matthew was called in chapter 9 and the
remainder in chapter 10. Therefore His audience may have been a small
number of people who began following Him during His preaching and
healing tour of Galilee (Matt 5:23-25). The Sermon on the Mount
concludes at the end of chapter 7 with the words that “the people were
astonished,” which certainly indicates a larger audience than the three,
Peter, James and John. Most translations (apart from the NKJV quoted
here) say that “the crowds were amazed.”
The topics covered in the Sermon
on the Mount were extensive. The Beatitudes are there, as are numerous
exhortations on the role of true believers, the role of the law,
practical applications of the spirit of the law, attitudes in personal
relationships, sin, generosity, prayer, service to God, faith,
judgemental attitudes and obedience.
“You have heard… but I say…” (Matthew 5:20-48)
In the Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus made a shocking statement.
Matt 5:20 “For I say to you, that
unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This verse may be seen as the
introduction to a section where Jesus contrasts a legalistic application
of the Law with a deeper, internal living of God’s intention. This
section concludes at verse 48:
Matt 5:48 “Therefore you shall be
perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
This admonition echoes the
common Old Testament admonition to be holy:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to
them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’.
The emphasis in Matt 5:48 is not
whether or not it is possible for people to be perfect, but that God is
perfect, and as His children we should partake of His perfection.
Obedience to the Mosaic Law was an expression of holiness in that the
people were required to be holy because they had been chosen by the Holy
God. In the same way, Christians who recognise God as their Father
should partake of His perfection.
So it can be seen that Matt
5:20-48 is a section that gives insight into the perfection of God. It
rises far above the legalism of the Law, yet it in no way excuses or
justifies sin. This is how Jesus saw the Law, and this is where we find
principles we can use to understand the Law. In particular, here we can
find specific advice on how Christians should treat their enemies.
The Pharisees prided themselves
on their righteousness. It was a visible righteousness that focussed on
ritual and ceremonialism, but in Jesus’ view, it was not enough. For the
remainder of chapter 5, Jesus listed a number of ways in which the
religion of the Pharisees fell short of that which was required in the
kingdom of God. Under eight broad topics, Jesus gave examples of how a
legalistic approach to applying the Law could never be sufficient. Again
and again, He quoted an Old Testament law and expanded its application
far beyond what was currently being taught.
A common theme in this section
is, “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you.” Jesus does not
negate Old Testament law; He expands it and deepens it. He closes the
loopholes that a legalistic interpretation seeks to find by applying the
Law to the heart.
The principles that Jesus taught
here were not intended to be used as governmental law (how can one
legislate against anger?) but as guiding principles that should govern
the lives of believers. They are not exhaustive: they do not cover every
possible situation or circumstance, but they are exemplary, in that they
illustrate the depth to which Christians should go in their application
of biblical commands. They are not a mini legal code which Christians
may use to judge each other or which defines the limits of obedience.
They are Jesus’ examples of how the Mosaic Law should be applied, not as
an external set of rules, but as an internal law, written on the heart.
These examples are glimpses into the heart of God.
One misinterpretation that is
relatively common in the Family is the notion that some of these sayings
merely illustrate the impossibility of keeping the Law. In particular,
the Family quotes verse 28.
Matt 5:28 “But I say to you that
whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery
with her in his heart.”
It is taught in the Family that
Jesus was trying to prove that it is impossible for anyone to keep this
Law, and therefore He had to bring a new law, that is, the so-called
‘Law of Love’. Note that the
Law of Love
itself is covered extensively elsewhere on this site. However, one
should remember that in the first place, Jesus’ commands to His
disciples to ‘love God’ and to ‘love your neighbour’ were not new. Both
are explicitly stated within the Mosaic Law (Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18).
Secondly, Jesus did not imply that the Mosaic Law was too difficult, and
therefore had to be replaced by the law of love. To the contrary, He
condemned people who teach that the Law may be broken:
17 “Do not think that I came to
destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to
fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass
away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all
is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these
commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom
of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great
in the kingdom of heaven.
Third, Matt 5:28 is an
illustration of how the spirit of the Law should rule true believers’
lives. A true believer, therefore, knows that the Mosaic commandment
against adultery applies to all manner of sexual sin whether committed
in the body or in the mind. It is no more valid to say that the law
forbidding adultery no longer applies as it would be to say that the law
forbidding murder does not apply, on the basis of Jesus’ condemnation of
anger. God is perfection itself, and His children should draw ever
closer to Him, forsaking all manner of sin, not only the sins of the
Love your enemies
38 “You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to
resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn
the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your
tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go
one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who
wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
The quote ‘An eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth’ is written three times in the Mosaic Law (Ex 21:24,
Lev 24:20 and Deut 19:21). It was quite a well-known rule, yet Jesus
told His audience to refrain from personal retaliation. Within the
Family, and it must be said, in other places as well, a semi-serious
application of ‘turning the other cheek’ is, “Well, I’ve only got two
cheeks!” In other words, the implication is that after a limited amount
of non-retaliation, one was then within his rights to fight back.
However, in this passage, Jesus does not imply any limit. He was
contrasting a legalistic spirit of retaliation with the spirit of mercy,
grace and forgiveness. The reference in verse 41 (“whoever compels you
to go one mile”) was not to a Mosaic law, but to the fact that in those
days Roman soldiers had the authority to force civilians to carry loads
for them. Jesus’ suggestion that Jews should display a spirit of
generosity towards their hated conquerors was probably extremely
43 “You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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, 45
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise
on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the
unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do
not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your
brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax
collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father
in heaven is perfect.
Again Jesus quoted the Old
Testament, and expanded it to encompass the depth of a loving God. It is
here that we find Jesus’ principles on how to deal with our enemies: we
are to love them, bless them, do good to them and pray for them. While
most other Bible translations include a shorter version of this verse,
the direction is explicit: love your enemies and pray for them. This is
remarkably clear. Jesus said that if there are people who persecute us,
we should pray for them, not pray against them. He said the reason is
that “you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” In other words, that we
should be like God, who treats all with impartiality. It is not enough
for Christians to be loving to members of their own church or to their
friends or relatives. Christians should extend God’s love to all others,
specifically including their ‘enemies’. How should Christians love their
enemies? Jesus said, they should pray for them, not pray against them.
Again, the reason is that in so doing they partake of God’s holiness.
These verses are repeated in
27 “But I say to you who hear: Love
your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse
you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
Here, ‘enemies’ includes people
who hate you, people who curse you, and people who mistreat you.
Non-Christians may curse, but Christians may not. Christians should
35 But love your enemies, do good,
and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great,
and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful
and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is
The reason we should love our
enemies is because that’s how God is. He is merciful, so we should be
merciful. He is kind, so we should be kind. He is loving, and so should
we, not just to our friends, but even to our enemies.
Bless and do not curse
The book of Romans is divided
into two parts: the first is an exposition on the doctrines of sin,
salvation, grace and faith, the second contains many practical
exhortations. In other words, the first section (chapters 1-11) deals
with what to believe, the second (chapters 12-16) explains how to live.
The second section is introduced
by the well known verses on yielding to God’s will.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not
be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect
will of God.
Paul says that in light of the
doctrinal teaching he has just concluded, Christians ought to be willing
to yield their lives to God; they should live in a godly way. True
Christianity will have a visible effect as a result of correct doctrine;
it will manifest itself in various godly ways.
Paul then goes on to explain
exactly what he means: the remainder of the book gives numerous examples
of how Christians should live. For example:
Rom 12:9 Let love be without
hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
In other words, sincere love is
the mark of true application of Christianity. A Christian who lives in
grateful yieldedness to the mighty God who graciously bestowed unmerited
salvation on him will hate evil and cling to good.
14 Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with
those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set
your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise
in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have
regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as
much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not
avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written,
“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“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.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good.
Here again is a very clear
instruction: when confronted with persecution, a yielded Christian will
not curse his persecutors. He will not seek vengeance or retaliation,
for it is the Lord’s place alone to judge, not ours. God is the judge,
not us, as the Bible explains in many other places:
Matt 7:1 Judge not, that you be not
Prov 20:22 Do not say, “I will
Wait for the LORD, and He will save
Rom 12:18 (above) exhorts us to
live peaceably with all men, if it is possible. Does this mean that if
we do not find it within ourselves to live at peace, or if we can’t
quite bring ourselves to pray for our enemies, then we may pray against
them instead? No, firstly because Rom 12:14 specifically forbad cursing
enemies: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”.
Second, Rom 12:18 explains that our part is to live peaceably: “as much
as depends on you.” The KJV renders this verse:
Rom 12:18 If it be possible, as much
as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (KJV)
The modern meaning of ‘as much
as lies in you’ might be something along the lines of ‘if you’ve got it
in yourself, if you possess the capability.’ However the word translated
‘lieth’ in the KJV (NT:1537) is a preposition that denotes origin
(Strong), or in the current context, ‘as far as depends on you’
(Thayer). Therefore modern translations are correct in updating the KJV
English which did not carry the current modern meaning at all.
In other words, if there is
contention between a Christian and his enemy, the enmity must not come
from the Christian. He cannot control the actions of the other person,
but he can control his own actions, so he should live in peace “as far
as it depends on” him (NIV).
Judgement wholly belongs to the
Lord, as Rom 12:19 says, “give place to wrath”, or “leave room for the
wrath of God” (NASU). Let the Lord take care of it. He does not need any
prompting through prayers against the wicked, vengeance wholly belongs
to Him, as the quote from Deut 32:35 states (“Vengeance is Mine”). The
Christian’s part is to pray for, bless, live in peace, and even go so
far as to give food and drink to his enemies.
There can be no possibility of
praying against an enemy while at the same time giving him food and
drink, for that would be breaking the exhortation in Rom 12:9, to love
Out of the same mouth…
The book of James contains a
well-known chapter on the tongue. The tongue, says James, is an
untameable fire, a world of iniquity, a restless evil, full of deadly
poison. Regardless of the ways we can tame and use animals, we can’t
tame our tongues. Our tongues may become wild, dangerous killers.
7 For every kind of beast and bird,
of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by
mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of
deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we
curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the
same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought
not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from
the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a
grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
The word ‘unruly’ (NT:182) in
vs.8 means “unstable, inconstant, restless”; ‘curse’ in vs.9 (NT:2672)
means “to curse, doom, imprecate evil on”, and ‘similitude’ (NT:3669) in
vs.9 means “likeness” (Thayer).
Here again, the Bible is clear:
it is not fitting for a child of God to curse people. James is
particularly concerned about hypocritical Christians who say different
things at different times, sometimes blessing and sometimes cursing.
Just as springs cannot produce two kinds of water simultaneously, and
trees cannot produce two kinds of fruit, neither can people both bless
and curse. In other words, if someone says he or she is a Christian, yet
curses people, or prays against them, according to James, that person’s
Christianity may be suspect. Christians just will not curse people.
Christians who pray against other people may in fact not be Christians
James also gives the reason why
Christians are not to curse people: we are to see people as being made
in God’s likeness. Just as Jesus explained God’s impartiality in sending
the weather (Matt 5:45) and Paul emphasised God’s unique place as the
one and only judge, James also refers the matter to the Lord. Sending
curses is an affront to God, in whose likeness people are created.
1 Cor 4:12 And we labor, working
with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure
When Paul was persecuted, did he
pray against his tormentors? Did he curse them? No, he blessed them.
This word ‘bless’ (NT:2127) means “to speak well of, i.e. (religiously)
to bless (thank or invoke a benediction upon, prosper)” (Strong). Paul
asked God for a blessing on his persecutors. In his second letter to the
Corinthians, Paul listed some of his persecutions.
2 Cor 11:24 From the Jews five times
I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with
rods; once I was stoned;
Paul received far more
persecution than any Family member ever did, and indeed, more than most
Christians. Yet he endured, he bless, he remained patient. Should we do
the same, or was this just a facet of Paul’s character? Just a few
verses later, he says:
1 Cor 4:16 Therefore I urge you,
Curses in the Law
There are specific commandments
within the Mosaic Law that forbad cursing God or one’s parents, both of
which were crimes carrying the death penalty (Lev 24:15-16 and Ex
21:17). It was also forbidden to curse the ruler of the people and deaf
On the other hand, there are
whole sections of the Mosaic Law that list curses that would befall
people as consequences for such actions as idolatry, disrespect to
parents, theft of property, a range of sexual sins and so on (Deut
27:15-26). These are not expressions of divine revenge or anger but are
predictions of the evil that will befall people that engage in such
sins. They are certainly not written to justify God’s people sending
curses on their enemies. In fact, for the most part, these curses list
the consequences that were to befall God’s people, not their enemies,
should they stray from the Law.
These sections of the Mosaic law
stand in stark contrast to the concept of a person sending a curse onto
The Word Basics on persecution
The Word Basics, the
Family-produced scripture reference book, has a section on
‘Persecution’, which is ten pages long and lists hundreds of verses.
Interestingly, Matthew 5:44, where Jesus exhorts Christians to pray for
their persecutors, is not mentioned at all.
The overall message of this
Word Basics section is that Family members in particular may expect
persecution because, it is said, they have a righteous message. In fact,
persecution is taken as proof of the Family’s righteousness, according
to the opening verse.
2 Tim 3:12 Yea, and all that will
live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (KJV)
This verse states that
persecution will be the result of a desire for a godly life (NKJV). It
does not, however, state that persecution proves righteousness, or that
all persecution is the result of a godly life. In fact, Peter points out
that suffering may come from either doing good or evil.
1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if it
is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
The Word Basics lists
verse after verse giving the benefits of persecution, and verse after
verse exhorting Family members to be fearless, joyful, courageous and
willing in the face of persecution.
The flaw in this section lies in
the underlying, unstated assumption that whenever the Family is
attacked, this constitutes an attack on Christianity, and therefore may
be seen as ‘persecution.’ In the first place, Christianity as practised
by the Family is suspect. This web site details many specific areas
where the Family holds to unbiblical doctrines.
Second, the Family’s definition
of what actually constitutes ‘persecution’ is rather loose: if an attack
on the Family comes in the form of legal proceedings for the custody of
a child, or governmental investigations of child abuse, these can hardly
be termed attacks on Christianity. When there are reports or suspicions
of child abuse, governmental authorities are legally and ethically
responsible to investigate them to the utmost length possible. Family
members should not be surprised that they come under extra scrutiny,
considering that their children are raised in a well-publicised,
sexually free atmosphere. Neither is it an attack on Christianity if a
scandal magazine or TV show decides to do a sensational report on the
Family. These magazines or productions make money from scandals: sex
sells. What better subject than a secretive organisation that mixes sex
and religion? It can also hardly be called persecution if there is a
concerted effort to limit the unaccountable methods of fundraising
common to many unscrupulous groups. The Family has chosen a financial
system that is not based in any country, which therefore avoids for the
most part, the paying of corporate tax. The officially promoted methods
of personal fundraising are also untraceable: door to door sales,
personal requests for financial pledges, and magazine subscriptions. It
is not persecution of Christianity if a government acts to curb such
practices. An ‘attack’ may only be called persecution when someone is
harmed in some way for no other reason but that they are a
Bible-believing Christian. The persecutor will not be seeking the
custody of a child or financial redress for injury caused, but will be
attacking solely because of the Christian’s faith. This kind of attack
rarely occurs to the Family.
Third, if a Family member is
‘persecuted’ because of the unorthodox and biblically-questionable
beliefs of the Family, this cannot be termed an attack on Christianity.
It may be an attack on the Family, but then the use of the ‘persecution’
verses in the Bible are unjustified.
The book of Psalms
Finally, it is necessary to look
at the psalms.
It is well-known that a number
of the psalms contain very strongly worded prayers for the defeat of the
wicked. These are known as the ‘imprecatory psalms’. There are, however,
a number of points that should be made before these particular psalms
are taken as justification for Christians to pray against their enemies:
Firstly, as Christians, the
words of Jesus should be kept foremost. He said to “love your enemies”
and to “pray for those that persecute you.” All the psalms, as well as
the curses in the Mosaic Law, should be seen through Jesus’ words. He is
our Lord, and His words take priority over the psalmists’.
Secondly, the psalms were not
written with the intention of expounding doctrine to its readers. They
contain song, praise and prayer, and they reflect the psalmists’ faith,
but they are not doctrinal expositions. Therefore, they may not be taken
as explicit doctrinal instruction in the art of cursing people.
Third, they are prayers and
songs addressed to God, not commands from God as to what
we should do. They contain the heart-cries of a number of psalmists in a
variety of situations. In joyful exuberance, desperation or guilt, the
psalmists present their victories and defeats, their joy and their anger
to the Lord. They are beautiful examples of honest prayer, even though
many of the passages appear overly vindictive to our 21st
Fourth, although the psalmists
list personal injuries, their calls for vengeance are born of the
insults committed against righteousness itself. It is God’s honour that
has been insulted, and the psalmists call for divine vengeance, not
personal revenge. There is no mandate in the psalms for pronouncing
curses on personal enemies.
Fifth, the psalms are songs and
poetry. As such they contain picturesque, figurative language. A proper
interpretation comes from understanding the principles behind the
language, rather than a shallow imitation of the words in a personal
Sixth, the meaning of the word
‘hate’ in the psalms should be understood. For example, The psalmist
Ps 139:21 Do I not hate them, O
LORD, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise
up against You?
While the word ‘hate’ (OT:8130)
can mean ‘despise’, it can also mean ‘be unwilling or unable to put
with’ or ‘reject’. In Ps 139:21, the psalmist is expressing his complete
inability to put up with people who have rejected the Lord. He does not
justify personal vindictiveness.
Seventh, the psalms are whole
units. This means that verses are not to be taken out of the psalms
and used on their own. The message of each psalm for Christians today
does not come from individual invective verses, rather from the psalm as
a whole. The expressions of faith and trust that usually accompany each
psalm set the tone, not the calls for divine vengeance. Each psalm
usually expresses absolute trust in the Lord’s justice and mercy. Psalm
139, which contains the verse quoted above proclaiming hatred of those
that hate the Lord, actually displays a remarkably different message
when read as a whole. Of its 24 verses, only four contain imprecations
against the wicked. The 18 preceding verses contain eloquent praise for
the wonder of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. In the
concluding two verses (following the imprecation), the psalmist
prostrates himself before the Lord for His examination. As a whole, the
psalm then is a song of praise to the Lord, it extols the greatness of
the Lord. The imprecatory section should be seen then as the psalmist’s
commitment to the ways of the Lord and his personal rejection of the way
Thus it can be seen that while
many of the psalms contain raw emotion of many kinds, they do not
justify a vindictive attitude, whether in action or in prayer.
Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on
the Mount gave the command that should govern all our attitudes and
action when faced with trouble of any kind. He put Christians under
obligation to love their enemies and to pray for them. Our love and
prayers for our persecutors reflects our sonship of the Lord God, who is
the righteous judge of all. Paul explained just as clearly that
Christians should bless, not curse their persecutors. Strangely, these
commands are absent from the Family’s scripture compilation on
‘persecution’. The book of James implies that people who curse others
may not in fact be Christians at all. Finally, the book of Psalms does
not condone or justify Christians sending curses on people. The
conclusion can only be that it is unscriptural to ‘pray against’ or
‘curse’ one’s enemies.
Lewis: WordWeb, A
Lewis, 2004, Princeton University, NJ.
Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson, 1986, Nashville, TN.
Strong: Biblesoft’s New
Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew
Dictionary, J Strong, 2003, Biblesoft and International Bible
Translators, Seattle, WA.
Thayer: Thayer’s Greek
Lexicon, JH Thayer, 2003, Biblesoft, Seattle, WA.
Vine: Vine’s Expository
Dictionary of Biblical Words, WE Vine, 1985, Thomas Nelson,
© 2006 Make Straight Paths