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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 perspective.

This page is one of a series looking at ways the Family uses prayer.

 

Praying Against Enemies

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 Family.

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 attacking God.

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 God!

Let them fall by their own counsels;

Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,

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 suddenly.

 

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.

 

Ps 109:7-8

7 When he is judged, let him be found guilty,

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?

Definitions

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 (Nelson).

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:

Lev 19:1-2

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:

Matt 5:17-20

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 body.

Love your enemies

Matt 5:38-42

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 shocking.

Matt 5:43-48

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 Luke:

Luke 6:27-28

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 bless.

Luke 6:35-36

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 merciful.

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.

Rom 12:1-2

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.

Rom 12:14-21

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 judged.

 

Prov 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”;

Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

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 without hypocrisy.

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.

James 3:7-12

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 at all.

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.

Paul’s example

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, imitate me.

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 people.

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 another person.

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 century sensibilities.

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 context.

Sixth, the meaning of the word ‘hate’ in the psalms should be understood. For example, The psalmist says:

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 of evil.

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

Lewis: WordWeb, A Lewis, 2004, Princeton University, NJ.

Nelson: Nelson’s 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, Nashville, TN.

 

 © 2006 Make Straight Paths

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