Have you ever been purposefully hurt by another person? Be it verbal, physical, emotional, it all hurts us down to our core. Sometimes it can even be accidental, yet when we are hurt by another person we can tend to see everything as purposeful. I don’t know about you, but in these situations, my natural response is generally to strike back. My prideful nature prompts me to “get them back” and return hurt for hurt (eye for an eye). I can quickly jump into all sorts of vengeful, resentful thoughts when someone hurts me.
Yet, Jesus instructs us to take a radical and counter-cultural response when it comes to dealing with those who hurt us. Let’s take a look at how we are called to respond and dive into the realities of what that looks like.
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What Does the Bible Say About Those Who Hurt Us
In Luke chapter 6, we get one of the most challenging teachings of Jesus in the whole Bible. It isn’t challenging in the sense of being hard to comprehend the meaning like in some of the parables. Nor is it challenging to understand because of vastly different cultural contexts. Rather, it is challenging by the very nature of what it asks us to do.
But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also, And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” Luke 6:27-31 (HCSB)
See what I mean? This passage is easy to comprehend, but our whole being presses on us the difficulty of actually living in this way. Just as quickly as we can think of ways we can get better at this way of treating people, we also can think up excuses as to why our less loving behavior was (or still is) justified.
Why Should I Love My Enemies
So you are probably thinking who on earth wants to love their enemies and bless those who curse them? Like I said above, our natural inclination is to retaliate against those who hurt us. Yet, only the disciples of Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, can bless and turn away from their initial response to retaliate with all their might. When someone treats you poorly, you have a choice. You can do it your way or we can do it God’s way. Thankfully, we have the perfect example of what it means to live this out.
God the Father planned to rescue us from our sin before the foundation of the world. In the Old Testament, He laid out the commandments and laws for the Israelites and entered into a covenant with them in which they were able to have their sins forgiven and be reconciled to God through a system of sacrifices.
However, God’s ultimate plan was to completely save us from our sins through the ultimate sacrifice. In order to do this, God sent His Son, Jesus, to purchase our forgiveness and redemption by laying down His life on the cross. And God the Spirit overcame our pride and opened our eyes to see the authority of Jesus and His righteousness over all things.
Jesus is able to give us such a challenging directive of loving those who hate us because He actually practiced what He preached. He died on the cross willingly for those who hated Him, even those who were actively killing Him. Our life is made new because of the undeserved mercy of being blessed by Jesus when we were his enemy.
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:21-23
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:14-18
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots.” Luke 23:34
not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this so that you can inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Proverbs 25:21-22
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32
Christ is the perfect example of loving those who persecute you, going so far as to lay down His own life. We must learn to imitate this self-sacrificing love if we want to be able to show those that curse us His love. When we understand that Christ is our full source of contentment and security, we will be motivated to bless those who curse us because their hurt does not define us. If you see and savor the mercy we have in Christ, you will seek to be merciful towards others.
How To Love Your Enemies
Apart from God’s immeasurable grace, you will not be able to truly love your enemies. Our response to those who persecute us shows the nature of our hearts. Christ’s disciples are to be characterized by actions of love – loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, and not retaliating against violence.
We are called to be image-bearers of Jesus, blessing those who curse us. We are returning blessing for cursing and committing ourselves to Heavenly Father’s care. Faith in Christ and embracing His love will allow us to bless those who persecute us. He commissions us to act with love, kindness, and generosity towards all – even those who persecute us. He calls us to bless those who curse us and be a light into their lives.
Bless Those Who Curse You
Remember that once upon a time we cursed God yet He forgave us. And He chooses to use even those who have cursed Him for His good. Think about it…how did God deal with us when we were in our sin? Did He extend His grace and mercy? Yes! He sent His Son to die for us, showing us mercy when we deserved wrath.
The ability to bless those who persecute us is a gift from God. We can not do this on our own. We must look to God to help us long for their everlasting salvation. Blessing those who persecute us reflects the goodness and righteousness of God. It reflects His love and mercy. A blessing has the potential to accomplish the greater good.
Put your faith in God and His love for both you and the offender. If we bless those who hurt us and love our enemies, God will take full responsibility for whatever should be administered to the persecutors. It is not our job to judge or condemn but to love even the ones that hurt us. And speaking words of blessing is one way to do that.
Share the Gospel
Persecution also causes us to not only rely on the truth of God’s word but “it will lead to an opportunity for you to witness” (Luke 21:13). We can respond with anger or we can demonstrate the grace and mercy that God showed us through Jesus on the cross. “For I will give you the words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15).
Even in the midst of imprisonment, Paul used his situation to share the gospel (see Philippians 1:12-13). It didn’t matter where he was, Paul used his circumstances as an opportunity to preach the good news of the Gospel. While his commitment to Christ led to his arrest, Paul used his imprisonment and persecution in the cause of Christ. In spite of all that had been done to him, he preached lovingly. Paul’s difficult circumstances led to new opportunities for gospel witness. By standing firm and sharing the Gospel, especially in the hard times, you will see Jesus Christ continue to bring about His good work in you, and others, to completion.
Prayer for our Enemies
Prayer is an attitude of the heart. Praying a prayer of blessing over a persecutor is a tall order. But every time you do it, you will find your heart being changed into one more like Christ.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” Luke 6:28
The bitterness and anger you held will be released. Ask God to give you grace and forgiveness for those who hurt you and release them from bitterness in your heart. You can choose to forgive and seek blessing for even your enemies instead of being bitter and cursing others. Thank God for His power to redeem the situations that hurt you the most.
In the end, God’s goodness will prevail over evil. When Christians respond to their enemies with love and blessings, evil will not stand a chance. We must release those who persecute us to God. He is the ultimate judge of each person’s actions and he knows their heart. We must trust that God is righteous. Ultimately, we can trust in God that those who have persecuted us will see their day before Him, just as we will. Therefore we can release the burden of holding on to bitterness, and give our burdens to God.
Personal Note: If you have ever experienced persecution or abuse from another person then I am so sorry that you had to experience that. I want you to know that you don’t deserve that and that you are loved and cherished by the God of the universe. This post is going to talk about loving those who harm us, even those who persecute us. However, I don’t want to make light of abuse or make it sound like I am condoning allowing someone to continue to abuse you. If this is happening to you, here are some resources for getting help. You are not alone. I also don’t want it to seem like I am comparing any hurt caused to me to be equivalent to what you have gone through. Even though I may not know you, I am praying for hope and peace for you that can come from Christ Jesus.
Be sure to also read:
- 4 Powerful Ways Christians Should Respond to Gossip
- Checking Your Spiritual Blind Spot
- What Does the Bible Say About Judging Others
**Verses used in this post were taken from the HSCB Translation. To see more information about the copyright, please visit our Scripture Citations.