“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14 )
If you have not come from the Third Way Cafe website via “Sip of Scripture”, this scripture is themed “Paths of Peace” in the book 366 Ways to Peace . The double exhortation to bless and not curse is pure Paul. This portion of chapter 12 outlines the expectations of living a life that is guided by the rule of love. And while peace and shalom do not necessarily spring from the rule of love, neither do they exist in isolation from each other.
The exhortation to bless and not curse could be taken directly from the Mennonite rules of living book. The Anabaptist, while be persecuted, would not curse or berate their persecutors but would often times plead with them not to sin by believing wrongly or punishing those who were only trying to remain true to worshiping God. Having only recently concluded a year’s long look at Anabaptist thinking, the connection between this verse and Anabaptist thinking is crisp.
But however strongly the Anabaptists felt about blessing and not cursing, the impetus did not last many generations. When the Anabaptists/Mennonites from the 1950’s and 1960’s (the generation who were my mentors and forebearers) talked about living in peace, it was more a matter of not being pulled into the drama and chaos of the world, but living apart in peace. The blessing was more a matter of “do what you will, but don’t involve me in it and I want bother you.” And “turning the other check” was more turning away and not reacting to the violence used against one. Not the firmest of building blocks toward peace. So it came as somewhat of a surprise that peace could actually be translated into actions rather than passively observing. Who knew that ‘bless” was an active verb?
The struggle was that protesting and demonstrating against violence was seen by the faith group of my youth as cursing or stirring up trouble, and that was not the ‘Mennonite’ way to approach things. Mennonites have come a long way in advocating for peace, and have found multiple ways to so. As Will said yesterday, Mennonites do not see themselves as ‘peaceniks’. Neither are they, as a group, people who see themselves as ‘blessors’. But we are learning.
May you, gentle reader, be free from persecution. And if or when you do feel pressed upon, may the Lord of Peace give you blessings to speak that come easily to your mouth. Selah!