Recently, during a physical therapy session my therapist told another person in the gym space to “not curse people”. Previously, this person, for only a minute or two, was saying nasty things about a few staff members. Why do I bring this story up? That phrase “curse people” struck me. I remember growing up being taught not to curse, but to particularly not curse AT people. Those two phrases to “curse people” and to “curse at people” are not conveying the same message. The former is focused on the being of the person and the later is in direction to the person. All this got me pondering on the idea of a curse.
What is a curse?
A few weeks ago I finished reading the book of Deuteronomy. In the 28th chapter of that book God, speaking through Moses, gives a lists of blessings for the Israelites if the Israelites obey His given commands. Yet, God, also gave, a much longer list of curses if the Israelites disobey those commands. This act of God helps us to understand that there is a solemnness with curses. This solemnness begins to show us that curses are a serious thing. On the other side of the coin, there is also what a curse is intended to do. The intention of it contributes to the seriousness of a curse. Thus, a general definition is that a curse is act, spoken or done, that seeks to have an evil and harmful event befall another.
To Curse: An Act of Prayer
In the modern and postmodern mind curses seem to be something antiquated merely relegated to the past. In a past, where magical folks like witches used curses to exact their revenge to gain justice or the fulfillment of their desires. However, those with a biblically crafted mind know otherwise. The ability to speak a curse can also take the form of a prayer. A prayer to God to harm another. Psalm 109 is an example of this kind of prayer. In Psalm 109, the Psalmist is praying to God that he be vindicated and also have vengeance over his enemies by God’s curse striking them. This example is merely one of many prayers that are curses. The book of Psalms has many other examples like psalms 37, 55, 58, 59, and 137. Even the words of Christ about shaking the dirt from one’s shoe when hospitality is denied to his follower. In this gesture the gift of peace of God given to people is removed from them (Mt. 10:14). These words of Christ take on a type of curse seen through the presence of God being removed from a place and its people.
The Curse of Sin
Now, the biblical concept of a curse is not something that can be easily dismissed. Why? Because, throughout the life of the Church one way sin is understood is via the concept of a curse. The curse of sin has been inflicted upon humanity by our own acts against the will of God. To see sin in this way reveals to one’s mind that our sinful acts speak an evil against God, but in a twisted way, that spoken evil comes with an affliction that happens to us. We see this concept of the curse of sin worked out in Romans 5: 12-21. In this section, Paul takes the people on a journey from Adam to Jesus. In that journey, Paul writes about how that curse of sin, via the fall in eden, brought death into the world because of disobedience. Disobedience brings about a condemnation that is fully realized and executed through death. Yet, by Christ, the one who obeyed God to the point of death, a new life is ushered into the world. A life that we can have in and through Christ.
Freed from Our Curse
This post goes up on Good Friday. One of the things this high holy day tries to show us is the relationship between our sins and Christ’s embrace of the Cross. The Cross is the ultimate sign of God’s love for us. Only love makes obedience possible. Thus, when a drop of doubt against God’s love enters the heart all a person needs to do is gaze upon the Cross. In that gaze, the heart is open to God’s testimony to his love for us. Out of love, Christ desires to obey the Father fully on our behalf out of love. In Christ’s obedience through love he takes upon himself the curse we brought upon ourselves through disobedience. Disobedience that was heralded to the presence of sin in world. Christ suffered to the full our curse, thus saving us from its cold embrace made known ultimately by the hands of death.
Again, on Good Friday, it is always important that we ask ourselves “why did Jesus die upon the Cross?” He died because of love, love for the Father and us. For me this year, as I seek to grow in His love, the reality of sin, and its curse, helps me to rejoice in the reality of His Cross. By the Cross of Christ, sin’s curse is drawn out of me. Via that sweet wood of the Cross the accursed and stony heart, crafted my sin, is removed from me. What exists in its place? Christ’s sacred heart! Christ’s heart of flesh that the Prophet Ezekiel wrote about during the exile (Ez. 36). Again, Christ’s love removes that curse of sin! Thus, this truth will shape my gaze as I look upon my crucified Lord. May Good Friday remind us about the depth of God’s love for us, so as Christ tells us we can “… bless those who curse you, [and] pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).
All the greatest pains become sweet for whoever looks at Jesus Christ on the Cross. ~St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi