Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14, ESV)

What does Paul mean when he tells us to “Bless those who persecute you?”  Do we need to say nice things about them while they are persecuting us?  The movie “Fiddler on the Roof” captures this conundrum very well:

Should we join the rabbi and say, “May the Lord bless our persecutor, and keep him very far away from us?”

Fortunately, we have some help in understanding what it means to bless.  The Zodhiates Complete Word Study Bible in its article for “bless” writes:

With the acc. of person expressed or implied, to pray for one’s welfare as God perceives it for His actions in their lives. Matt. 5:44 [TR], Luke 6:28, and Rom. 12:14 do not mean that we should say good things about those who curse us, but rather that we should invoke God’s blessing upon them by praying that they may be turned from their ways through God’s intervention in their lives.

We “bless” our persecutors when we pray that God will turn them from being persecutors to being God-worshipers.  We are not to curse them, which is to say to wish them evil, we are to wish them good not in their persecuting, but in God grabbing hold of them and changing their hearts.

It might help us when we pray to remember that God once grabbed us in our selfish, sinfulness and turned us into God-worshipers.