Love Does Not Curse, But Faith Does
Why does Jesus curse His accusers (Psalm 109:20), but say, “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you”? (Matthew 5:44) Jesus did not curse anyone from the cross. Instead, He prayed for everyone who cursed Him, slandered, mocked, and spit on Him. Does God contradict Himself? No. The answer, as Dr. Luther writes, is that: “Love does not curse or take vengeance, but faith does.”
What Dr. Luther means is that in matters having to do with God—God as He is not preached, revealed, and worshipped in Christ Jesus—there is only wrath, vengeance, cursing, and horrible judgment. In Christ Jesus—God as He wills to be preached, revealed, and worshipped—there is only forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation, and no curses or judgments because in relation to our Savior we are justified by His grace through faith.
Since faith must preach the Gospel, the backspin of the Gospel is cursing false gospels. Anything that deprives faith of Christ suffering and dead for sinners must not be allowed to stand. In this way then, in His ministry, Jesus was always opposed by those who preferred a “better” gospel than the powerless, foolish message of good news Jesus claimed to deliver on His Father’s behalf. The religious leaders tried to silence the Gospel, claiming it was powerless and ineffective, lawless and immoral. As a consequence, Jesus condemned them with the harshest words, even referring to the Jewish religious leaders as “sons of Satan.” In this way, Jesus shows us that when the Gospel is attacked, we Christians must pray for God’s vengeance to fall on anybody who attempts to obstruct or destroy the Good News about Christ Jesus.
Out of Love for Our Neighbors
On the other hand, for the sake of love, we should never avenge ourselves for what is an attack on the Gospel. Instead, we are taught to love our enemy, pray for their conversion, and to protect and defend their name and reputation. Similarly, we Christians in our vocations may judge and condemn a murderer to death for his crime, but not to satisfy our need for justice. We do this out of love for our neighbors and to protect them in such a way that they are freed to hear and learn the Gospel. Then, as Dr. Luther writes, “it is the same as if God had done it, because His ordinance is doing it.”
But where love is necessary we pray for our enemies and bless them in the hope that God will repent and convert them to the Gospel.
So far as faith is concerned attacks on the Gospel call for us to curse and judge its accusers, just as Elisha (2 Kings 2:24), Zechariah (Zechariah 3:2), and Paul (Acts 23:3) show us. Not for our sake, however, but for God’s sake, for the sake of saving faith. These “curses of faith,” as Dr. Luther refers to them, do not stand silent, but prays against the enemies of the Gospel that God’s furious anger may shut them up and carry them away in a flood of condemnation. It is thus permitted for us Christians to curse the enemies of the Gospel, but not those who attack us for personal reasons.
We Christians are taught to follow the example of Savior Jesus and all His saints, cursing and blessing in God’s Name, applying Law and Gospel like a doctor who applies medicine to a stubborn, diseased patient with threats of suffering and death, while treating another desperately ill patient with medicine that heals him in an instant. Therefore, where faith is in charge we Christians curse and condemn the enemies of the Gospel. But where love is necessary we pray for our enemies and bless them in the hope that God will repent and convert them to the Gospel. Or, as Dr. Luther liked to say, “In matters of faith, we yield nothing. In matters of love, we give up everything.”