Posted June 9, 2011
Anyone who puts a curse on another is certainly not Christian, but more like a pagan–that’s the word Jesus uses for a person who does what you did (see Matt. 5:47). It is most certainly not reflective of the Spirit of Jesus, who commanded us in Luke 6:37:, “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Many Old Testament passages say the same thing (Deuteronomy, Leviticus, etc.) Even St. Michael the Archangel refused to curse Satan, but simply said, “May the Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1: 9).
Read carefully the four things that Jesus commands us to do with our enemies: “Love your enemies (i.e. by benvolential love–wanting good for them, such as their repentance and their salvation–but not necessarily liking them); pray for them; do good to them (not just refrain from doing evil toward them), and call down God’ special blessings–not curses–on them.” (Luke 6:27-36).
Compare this with 1 Peter 3:9: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing,(the opposite of a curse!), because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Jesus says in Matthew 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Hate your enemy’ but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Part of that love is mercy toward others–even evil persons like Obama bin Laden. Pray for sinners to repent even in the last second of their life. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
Romans 12:17 says (quoting Deuteronomy 32:35), “Do not repay anyone evil for evil….live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room forGod’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay'”–(it’s not your right to avenge).
Verse 21 of that passage from Romans says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That’s the way God’s mercy works, hoping that the sinner repents. “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Jesus didn’t curse the repentant thief on the cross for his life of crime; instead he said, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” Christ died to save him, not curse him, but, through love, induced him to use his free will to repent.
The same is true of the worst terrorist of biblical times, Saul (who after his conversion was called Paul). St. Paul tortured and murdered and imprisoned hundreds of Christians before his conversion on the road to Damascus. He had even supervised and supported the killing (martyrdom) of the first martyr, St. Stephen. Yet Paul wrote 13 books of the Bible and became one of the greatest saints in heaven. We should likewise pray that all bad persons become good–not that they be cursed.
A curse is an act of vindictiveness–trying to “get even”–which is not a Christian but a pagan mentality. Of course there is a place for punishment of evil in society; criminals are to be restrained and imprisoned for remedial reasons designed to change their criminal behavior, and for restitution to society and also of course for public safety and to maintain law and order in society. Incarceration is designed also induce regret, repentance and hopefully also rehabilitation. But it would be a sin on the part of the victim of a crime, or the judge or jury to seek punishment of the criminal while desiring “to get even with him.” Remedial justice is proper, but vindictive justice is always a sin. That’s the mentality of resentment and pettiness and especially vindictiveness that underlies the pagan mentality of anyone who imprecates by invoking a curse on another.
Remember, a curse is, at least implicitly, a request for a demonic force (devil or demon) to serve you by implementing your hurtful—and therefore malicious—intent against another human being or the offspring of that person. That’s why it is one of the most serious sins a person can commit; it undermines the greatest of the virtues, that of charity (1 Cor. 13:13).
John H. Hampsch, cmf