And YHWH said to Abraham, get yourself up and go from your land, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation; and I will bless you; and I will make your name great. And be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you; whereas the one who belittles you, I will curse; and in you will be blessed all the kinship groups on the earth. And Abram went just as YHWH said to him.—Genesis 12:1-4, Christopher J. H. Wright in The Mission of God, 200, emphasis added
When God called Abraham, God made a promise to bless him, but he also called Abraham to obedience. As Christopher Wright shows, the call to obedience was a call to be a blessing. In many ways the story of Abraham, like the story of Israel, like the story of the church, is a story of God’s blessing and humanity’s failure to be a blessing to the surrounding people.
In our day to day work and life, God wants us to be a blessing even where it’s hard. He wants fathers to be a blessing to their wives and children. He wants mothers to be a blessing in their work place and among their friends. He wants older men to be a blessing to younger men, older women to younger women, men to women, and rich to poor. God wants us to see our entire lives defined by his call to be a blessing.
To be a blessing sums up what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 5:43–45; Matt. 15:1–9;). To be a blessing is at the essence of any morality that Christians should strive to achieve. It’s the kind of morality or holiness or ethics that matters to the people around us. God doesn’t want us to fix the world; he wants us to be a blessing to the world.
It’s hard to be a blessing to friends and family, people who know us too well. It’s hard to be a blessing to strangers, people who don’t know us at all. It’s even harder to take the call of God where it hurts, to be a blessing to people who hate you and seek to harm you, but in the book of Romans, Paul draws upon the language of God’s call to Abraham and applies it to every Christian in the most challenging experiences of life. He says,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-15,19-21)
This passage is a call to be a blessing, but it’s also a passage of resistance. It’s a call to stand against violence and evil; it’s a call to bring the powerful to their knees through love. Paul calls us to resist evil with love that exposes pride and hate for what it is: foolishness in light of eternity. God calls us to be a blessing to our enemies, to reveal their oppression and to shame their actions through love.
The call to be a blessing goes both ways. It calls the powerful to humility, and it exalts the lowly through restoring human dignity. It demands that we interfere in injustice, that we get involved in people’s lives, that we seek to help and love. To be a blessing means to stand up for the powerless and to give voice to the voiceless. To be a blessing means to seek the salvation of all people, even those we don’t like—the people we want to call enemies. And this call to be a blessing is especially important for people in power: it’s a call to use power and authority for good, to be a blessing.
If you want to know what the Christian’s life looks like in your situation, ask yourself one question: how can I be a blessing to the people around me, even to the people who hate me?
The call to be a blessing connects Christian love and the Christian mission to our ordinary, everyday situation. God calls you to go and be a blessing.