The practical awe of God

On 1st January this year, I said I wanted to get my awe of God back. Then thinking about Lent I wanted to build on the idea that God’s gifts are practical, The Holy Spirit equips us to minister in whatever way we minister.

I ended up with six steps, no not really steps as they are not consecutive, six questions about how your life relates to God, to other people and how I can relate God to other people. To look at all aspects of life, there is no barrier between spiritual and physical. I got these questions from an internet search and I do not know who came up with them. If they are yours please reply so that I can give credit where it is due.

The question today is, How do you bless those who curse you?

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

God speaking to Abraham in Genesis 12:2

A long time ago in a land far far away, everything was about blessings and curses.

International treaties were in the form of blessings if the treaty was adhered to and curses if it was broken.

Business agreements were in the form of blessings if the contract was adhered to and curses if it was broken.

Mariage agreements were in the form of blessings if the contract was adhered to and curses if it was broken.

If anything could be described in the form of blessings and curses it was described in the form of blessings and curses, and everything could be, so everything was.


That would make a good start to a story. But as far as I can make out it is the truth. All the dealings that are done in Genesis conform to details found about the Hittite civilisation, which disappeared around 1200 BC. The agreement between God and Abraham followed this form.

In the New Testament, the term “Bless those who curse you” is found in the Gospel of Luke, right after a version of the Beatitudes which, unlike Matthew’s Gospel, contains curses as well as blessings.

20 Jesus looked at his disciples. He said to them,

“Blessed are you who are needy.
    God’s kingdom belongs to you.
21 Blessed are you who are hungry now.
    You will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are sad now.
    You will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they have nothing to do with you
    and say bad things about you,
    and when they treat your name as something evil.
        They do all this because you are followers of the Son of Man.

23 “The prophets of long ago were treated the same way. When these things happen to you, be glad and jump for joy. You will receive many blessings in heaven.

24 “But how terrible it will be for you who are rich!
    You have already had your easy life.
25 How terrible for you who are well fed now!
    You will go hungry.
How terrible for you who laugh now!
    You will cry and be sad.
26 How terrible for you when everyone says good things about you!
    Their people treated the false prophets the same way long ago.

27 “But here is what I tell you who are listening. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who call down curses on you. And pray for those who treat you badly.

Luke 6:20-27 NIRV

The style is still the same as for Abraham. Jesus is talking of blessings and woes (here how terrible it will be) in what would have been understood as a covenant agreement. Good things happen in you keep the agreement and bad things if you break it. But Jesus is subverting the covenant language. With Abraham God promised to curse those who curse him, but instead of saying that God will curse those who curse us, which is what extending the covenant with Abraham to us would do, Jesus completely turns it on its head. The onus is not on God to do the blessing and cursing, the onus is now on us. The justice of God, Jesus tells us, does not lie in revenge.

“Bless those who call down curses on you,” says Jesus. It is all part of unwrapping what he meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” Jesus takes a while so that we do not take loving enemies out of context. Not only don’t curse back at those who curse you but bless them. I think that the context of popular horror films has given us a picture of what a curse means that is not helpful, but if I said, “Bless your abusers,” you would probably think I’m mad. It feels wrong. This is the sort of shock Jesus’ teaching would have got.

After unlocking one point, Jesus gives us a list of things which we are supposed to tackle in the same way as he does with love your enemies:

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged.
Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. 
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.

These are not simple rules, but issues to be worked through in the way Jesus told us to work through the Love your enemies issue.

I think one of the issues in my losing awe of God is that I have seen this as a list of rules, I have never really worked through them as issues. Come Holy Spirit, you have work to do in me.

One thought on “Blessings

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