When a Blessing Is a Curse
Of course, the same Jesus who said bless your enemies seems to have cursed them (along with his friends). So what gives?
What gives is that our understanding of what it means to love and to bless has become severely constricted in our sentimental age. We think that blessings should always feel good and that love is mostly about being nice. Jesus, on the other hand, specifically says that blessings sometimes feel like abject poverty, like grief, like starving to death, like being persecuted. And he showed his love for us by enduring the excruciating pain and abandonment of crucifixion.
Love always seeks the other's good, to be sure, but seeking the other's good is a complicated thing. How many parents have wished and hoped that their drug addicted son would hit bottom, would come to the point of complete misery and hopelessnessso that he would see God was his only hope? If this is not an imprecatory prayer, I don't know what is.
The difference between the Rev. Drake's prayer and those of desperate parents or even an angry Jesus is this: The Rev. Drake appears to have no love for his enemies but merely wishes them cursed. But is there not a way to pray for consequences, for painfor judgment! that leads to redemption?
I do not mean to suggest that all the curses and imprecatory prayers of the Bible (like Psalm 109, which goes on and on with curses) are models for us. Love and redemption do not often seem to be the driving motive! As C.S. Lewis, among others, has noted, the vengeful Psalms are but honest expressions of anger. The only thing they model is the freedom we have to be utterly vulnerable with God. But as Jesus taught, we are called to transcend vengeance with love, and curses with blessings.
At the same time, we are a naïve and sentimental people if we equate love with mere social grace and think that niceness will successfully confront the massive and intransient evils of our day, individual and corporate. Redemptionpersonal, social, and cosmiccomes only through suffering. The paradox is that while we should not wish pain on anyone, it seems to be a perfectly loving and realistic act to pray for it.
Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He explores this theme more fully in his Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God (Baker). You can comment below or on his blog.
Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Articles on Wiley Drake's request for imprecatory prayer include:
Buena Park pastor asks followers to pray for the death of his critics | His response comes after a call to the IRS about a political endorsement he issued on church letterhead (Los Angeles Times)
Audit may be part of IRS' investigation of church | A Wichita church being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for a possible violation of its tax-exempt status could soon be audited (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)
Wichita church under scrutiny from IRS | IRS investigating political activity, abortion battles (Associated Press)
Funding faith-based charities | The way has been paved for faith-based organizations offering social services to tap into government dollars. In Utah, however, it seems many groups either can't find the on-ramp, assume there's a roadblock or simply prefer to take different roads (The Salt Lake Tribune, Ut.)
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
- Christian Athletes Are Not Role Models
- On the Death—and Life—of Innocent Children
- Closer than Ever to the Breath of God
- Making Non-Sense of the Colorado Shootings
- Mastering the Golf Swing of Life