Should Christians Pray God’s Wrath Upon Their Enemies?

Should Christians Pray God’s Wrath Upon Their Enemies? March 17, 2022

There are a lot of Christians out there praying for God’s wrath to fall on Vladimir Putin these days.

Putin, The President Of Russia, Politics, Government

Image via Pixabay

 

The question is, should we?

It can be argued that there is a basis in Scripture for it.

The famous and brutal and confusing “imprecatory Psalms” are perhaps the best examples of this.

Here is part of Psalm 68, as King David prays against his enemies:

 

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
    Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
    when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
    like a stillborn child that never sees the sun. (Ps 68.6-8)

 

Not exactly the type of Scripture we typically meme about or write in a greeting card!

There are a number of other passages like this, where the complainant calls upon God to violently deal with their enemies.

During COVID-19 in Ontario, there were people using this as a basis to pray judgment against the government for making decisions that some did not approve of.

I have heard preachers use it to pray wrath against people criticizing their ministries.

Christian leaders have spoken this way against other believers with different theological convictions.

And some now are calling for it against our political enemies who are objectively doing evil things against the innocent in Ukraine.

“It’s in the Bible!”

So is slavery, sex trafficking, and genocide. Just because it’s “in the Bible” does not mean that the Christ-follower should automatically do it.

So should the Christ-follower pray God’s wrath and judgment upon their enemies?

No, I don’t think so.

But it is admittedly a tricky issue.

The basis for praying this way seemingly has reasonable grounds for two reasons:

1) You can indeed find examples in Scripture.

2) You are leaving judgment in God’s hands instead of taking it into your own hands, which is also a biblical idea (e.g. Rom 12.19).

However, we are also challenged by other teachings from Jesus and the apostles. Here are a few:

 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5.43-48)

 

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village. (Lk 9.51-56)

 

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23.33-34)

 

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Rom 12.14)

 

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13.10)

 

12 When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly.  (1Cor 4.12-13)

 

It is hard to imagine the way of Christ being consistent with praying curses and wrath upon our enemies.

How can loving our enemies ever mean cursing them?

How can we think that Jesus wants us to pray this way when He rebuked the disciples for wanting to pray this way over the Samaritans?

How can the prayer of forgiveness for His enemies that Christ modelled on the cross be laid aside to pray for wrath and judgment instead?

How can we hear the command “do not curse” but then add our own “Unless…

How can loving them mean hoping for and praying for harm upon people, when “love does no harm,” (Rom 13.10)?

How can responding to curses with blessing be laid aside to respond instead with cursing?

 

The imprecatory Psalms are biblical. These other passages are also biblical.

So what are we to do?

Anabaptist always choose the way of Christ in these moments.

Even as we believe in and wrestle through the tensions of the God-breathed Scriptures that sometimes seem to stand against one another, if there is ever a moment when there is Scripture on both sides and we aren’t sure what to do and we have to make a choice, we choose the way of Jesus.

We do this because anyone who claims to be Christian must follow in the ways of Jesus (1Jn 2.6).

David was inspired by the Spirit to write his Psalms, even the imprecatory ones, and we revere them as God’s holy Word (even as the imprecatory Psalms are, shall we say, complicated to wrestle with!).

At the same time, since then, Jesus arrived with a new Kingdom on earth (Mt 3.2), and calls us to follow Him in that Kingdom in the ways of the King, and so that is what we do.

We aren’t under David’s Old Covenant with God, and David didn’t live in the age of the New Covenant inaugurated Kingdom here on earth.

And there doesn’t need to be any conflict in the Scriptures beyond that understanding. It is simple enough.

David was acting as led by the Spirit in that age, and Jesus shows us how we are to be living now in this current age.

If the teachings of the New Covenant ever seem to conflict with the Old Covenant, we choose the New, because the Old is obsolete to us in Christ (Heb 8.13).

So we pray fervently for God to save lives in Ukraine, to stop evil, to push Putin back, to end the war.

If God wishes to judge him, He will judge him.

But also, let us call upon God for mercy for a man who is obviously twisted in many ways. May God save his soul. May God purify his heart. May God bring him to repentance and salvation and freedom. May God release him from the grip of the enemy of our souls. May God forgive his sins, as He forgives ours. May God turn this life around.

When we pray thusly, we pray as the Church is called to pray.

Judgment belongs to the Lord. The Gospel of grace is given to us for the world. Intercession for the leaders of this world is our job, even the evil who oppose God (1Tim 2.1-2).

And so we pray and we bless, as we are called to pray and to bless.

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