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Posts Tagged ‘curses’

This is just a sketch, and by no means a complete treatment. Feedback invited. It also serves as a footnote to the teaching on “The purpose and the problem of Psalm 139,” so you will need to look at that to understand this.

1. You can ask God to act for justice, to right wrongs done against you. The persistent woman in Luke 18 is praying for justice and in context is a model of prayer for the disciples. There is no need to think that this is teaching us to call for non-redemptive judgment. It can be seen as a call for redemptive judgment and also as a call for the kingdom to come (v. 8).

This is how I read Revelation 6:10, where the martyrs pray, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” It should be seen as a variant of the prayer – “Your kingdom come, bring forth justice! And don’t forget us, Lord!” The focus is on timing. But they are reminded to be patient and to defer to God’s timing.

But there is a tension in these prayers, as noted in the teaching on Psalm 139.

2. You can announce God’s judgment upon an evildoer. This is not you calling on God to judge someone in a destructive way, but God speaking through you to proclaim this. Here are some examples –  Jesus announcing woes in Matthew 23; Peter speaking to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5; Peter speaking to Simon in Acts 8; Paul speaking to Bar-Jesus in Acts 13.

3. A curse is involved in church discipline contexts, but it is meant to be redemptive. A formula for excommunication is taken from the synagogue context and used in the church. It goes like this – “let _____ be anathema.” Anathema means cursed. The idea is that one who is excommunicated is turned out of the community that bears God’s blessing and is given over to Satan and the world – which is a curse. But the judgment is to be redemptive, because the hope is that this very action will cause the person to wake up and turn once again to God. (See 1 Corinthians 5:5).

When Jesus says in Matthew 18:17 – “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” the phrase, “let him be . . .” is the anathema formula. He is to be seen as outside the church.

This, then, is the background for 1 Corinthians 16:22. Paul says, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” Paul is speaking of the Corinthian Christians. Here we see the anathema formula – “let him be accursed (anathema). He is saying that any believer who has no love for the Lord is to be disciplined.

This is also the case with Galatians 1:8-9 – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” In both v. 8 and v. 9 there is the anathema formula. Paul is saying that false teachers should be disciplined and excluded from the church. This is not an invocation of a non-redemptive curse. It is redemptive because it is a part of the church discipline context

William Higgins

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