Jesus’ instruction that His listeners should “bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:28) demands a whole different kind of motivation than His listeners had. In Jesus’ message recorded in Luke 6, Jesus contrasts the normal human sentiments of hating our enemies with loving those who express hate toward us (Luke 6:27). Jesus challenges His listeners to have a righteousness that is internal and deep-seated—that would truly change the way they treat each other. He wanted them to go beyond simply obeying the Law of Moses and instead treat each other with true love—even doing good to those who hated them.
One of the ways Jesus challenged His listeners to express this love was that they bless those who curse them (Luke 6:28). The term translated “bless” is the Greek word eulegeo, which could be translated as “pray for.” In fact, Mathew records a similar exhortation by Jesus that His listeners pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). To bless one’s enemies is not just to do them good, but actually to ask God for their well-being. Jesus emphasized the importance of doing good to one’s enemy in subsequent verses: turning the other cheek (Luke 6:29), giving to someone who steals from you (Luke 6:30), treating others the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31), lending, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35), being merciful (Luke 6:36), and forgiving (Luke 6:37).
It is one thing to bless or pray for someone who is doing good to you, but to bless or pray for those who curse you is very different. To curse (kataromenous) is to cause harm or to persecute (as in Matthew 5:44). Jesus is telling His listeners that the way to respond to one who seeks to harm us is to pray for his good. Obviously, if we are motivated by self-interest, we would never pursue the good of our enemies. But Jesus is challenging His listeners to work from truly selfless love and concern for the other. When we are acting for the benefit of someone else—even when it is undeserved—an incredible side benefit is that we ourselves are blessed. Jesus says that the reward for such behavior is great (Luke 6:35). He adds that, if we are forgiving, we also are forgiven or pardoned (Luke 6:37). If we give, it will be given to us (Luke 6:38). To bless those who curse us requires that we are motivated by a desire for their well-being. When we treat others with that kind of love, God sees, and He rewards.