We repent not to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven.

Several years ago, armed robbers visited the church premises of a famous Nigerian bishop and attacked some banks there. The bishop was greatly offended, and he cursed them. He directed his church members to pray that the wrath of God would be visited on the criminals. 

He also cursed kidnappers operating in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. He asked God to kill them all. He said: “We place a curse on their roots wherever they are, and we pray that thunders of heaven will strike, and the judgment of God will come upon them.”

Later, the bishop also descended on the Fulani herdsmen after they killed a member of his church. He led the members of his congregation in a fiery prayer saying:

“Except I am not sent, their end has come.  Fulani demons, in the name of Jesus their end has come. God curses and I will curse.  Jesus, release your curse upon these wicked men. The Holy Ghost curses: Paul, full of the Holy Ghost, looked at that demon called Elemas and released a curse upon him and he went blind the same time.” 

“Holy Ghost, release your curse on these wicked men.  They just crossed the red line. Some 42 children, not even adults; they were mocking Elisha. Elisha turned back and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And 2 she-bears came out of the woods and destroyed 42 of them. For mocking the church of Jesus Christ, I decree your destruction now. Any authorities or personalities backing you, their generation is cursed.”

“Nobody dares a lion’s cub when the lion is awake. And in the name of Jesus, whose I am and who I serve, every gang of men from within and outside the country responsible for sponsoring these wicked men, I curse your root forever.” 

“Everybody stand and release curses praying in the Holy Ghost. Release the curse of the Lord, the curse of Jesus, and the curse of the Holy Ghost upon these wicked men. From their beginning to the end, release the curse of God upon them. Cursed art thou and your generation after you. Cursed be these Fulani herdsmen, cursed be their roots, cursed be their strongholds, cursed be their generation.”

He ended this “prayer” by saying: “In the name of Jesus Christ we have cursed.” And his people said: “Amen!”

Response to hatred

This is not the way of a true disciple of Christ. According to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, sons of God love their enemies and repay evil for good. They do not swear or curse. They do not go to prayer meetings to curse others.

Jesus says to His disciples: “All men will hate you because of me.” (Matthew 10:22). “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20). He even forewarned us about the thinking of the Boko Haram: “In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (John 16:2).

Nevertheless, He says: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44).

We are not to rain curses on our enemies like the famous bishop above. Instead, Paul says: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14).  Peter echoes this: “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9).

James goes further: “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both saltwater and fresh.” (James 3:8-12).

Apparently, some pastors are too big to obey these simple commandments. They not only violate them; they lead others in doing so. Jesus warned us against this tendency. 

When the Zebedee brothers wanted Jesus to emulate Elijah by sending fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that denied them free passage to Jerusalem, Jesus rebuked them. He told them: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56).

Without repentance

The pat answer of the born-again Christian is to insist that the Boko Haram have not repented and therefore should not be forgiven, forgetting that: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29).

When we are saved, we are quick to forget the nature of our salvation, and sometimes even begin to look down on non-Christians. The truth, however, is that we do not have any righteousness of our own. “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’” (Romans 3:10). As Christians, our righteousness is: “the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:22).

We are saved by grace and not by merit: “For by grace (we) have been saved through faith, and that not of (ourselves); it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We must not forget that we did not repent to be saved, but we are saved to repent. We repent not to be forgiven, but we repent because we have been forgiven. The goodness of God leads us to repentance and not vice-versa. (Romans 2:4).

Thus, Jesus says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16).

One of the fruits that we are appointed to bear is the fruit of repentance. John the Baptist points this out to Israel: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8). This fruit comes after salvation and not before.

A paralytic was carried to Jesus by four men. The first thing Jesus said to him was that his sins are forgiven. But the man did not ask for forgiveness but for healing. There was no indication that he had repented of his sins. Neither did Jesus require a prior commitment of repentance from him.

God does not wait for us to repent before drawing us to Himself. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8-9).

Therefore, we must forgive even the murderous like the Boko Haram: “For if (we) forgive men their trespasses, (our) heavenly Father will also forgive (us). But if (we) do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will (our) Father forgive (our) trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

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