Has anyone ever written you a note to say, “a curse be on you”?
In the first century A.D., normal letters were handwritten and all ended with really nice words that said something to the effect of, “May you prosper!” The letters all read almost like Chinese New Year greeting cards.
The Apostle Paul, though, had his own way of ending letters. He liked to end with a special wish of love. So, he might say something like: “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” That’s how he ended 1 Corinthians.
Yet, right before he wrote that love-filled ending, he said this in his letter: “If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.” (1 Cor. 16:22)
What? How can Paul say “a curse” be on anyone? That sounds severe, unchristian, so unexpected.
“If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him.” How can Paul say this, especially since earlier he writes: “When we are cursed, we bless” (1 Cor. 4:12)?
How can he say that since even another time Paul says: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14)?
So, what gives? How can Paul talk about love, and forbid cursing, and then turn right around and curse someone?
Well, the word Paul uses in Greek when he says, “a curse be on him” is not the normal word for curse. It’s a special word used six times in the New Testament. We see it in sentences like, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed,” or a better way to put it in English might be, let him be “outcast.”
OK, so what does Paul mean by that? Well, he is not talking about non-Christians. He is, instead, talking about those who pretend to love Jesus but who in reality don’t, and their lives prove it.
When, though, you join a church, you are not saying you are perfect and that you don’t need some help in being real. You are saying to a group of other believers, something like this:
“Look, I’m having a hard time in this life, living as God wants me to. Please, would you love me enough to bring correction when needed? Would you hold me to God’s standards, and help me to be real? Would you love me enough to pray for me? Love me enough to encourage me? And, enough to be frank, and correct me, if I’m going off beam? Would ya?”
“You see, sometimes I need a sincere word of correction, even a warning to take a long hike just to think about things, to make sure I’m not just pretending to be a Christian.”
Well, having even one good friend around like that may seem like a curse, but really, it’s not. You see, any warning that you are about to go off the cliff is quite loving.
So, if you see a brother or sister who professes Christ begin to take a spiritual left turn, while they pretend to be a Christian, why not go ahead and do the loving thing and warn them that God does not bless those who pull away from him. God only likes to embrace prodigal sons and daughters who come to their senses and run straight to him.
So, it’s a very good thing to warn people, to remind them of what God really wants for them, to tell them that they should run back to the Father. It can mean life or death.
And, why not, while you’re at it, remind yourself that the Lord only draws near to those who draw near to him. Even you.
Now, that’s something to Celebrate!