Jesus told us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to bless them instead of cursing them (Romans 12:14). However, there are some passages in the Bible where God’s people call for the wicked to be punished. David, in some of the Psalms, appeals to God regarding His enemies. He prays, “destroy thou them, O God” (Psalm 5:10), and “break their teeth, O God, in their mouth” (Psalm 58:6). David even goes so far as to say, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Psalm 58:10). How do these reconcile with Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and pray for them? Should we take these as just David venting his anger and as soon as it was released he would not truly desire his enemies to see such a grim end? Were these appropriate for only the Old Testament in keeping with the principle of divine justice that God would curse those who cursed the nation from Abraham (Genesis 12:3) as well those who disobey God who are among His people, as Moses describes in Deuteronomy 32?
No, there are New Testament verses that call for divine vengeance on the wicked in certain circumstances. Romans 13:1-4 argues that Christians should submit to governmental authorities because they function as God’s minister to execute wrath on evildoers. It is important to note that David’s “imprecatory” psalms (where he is calling for his enemies to be punished) are not intentions of personal vengeance, but rather an appeal to God to exact vengeance. One of the ways God does this is through judicial proceedings. The “eye for an eye” of the Old Testament is not a barbaric code for personal vengeance but rather an instruction to deter crime by prescribing the judges to levy punishment in proportion to the crime committed (Deuteronomy 19:16-21). Justice from the authorities rather than personal vengeance is what is called for.
The call for a curse on evildoers is also on the condition that they are impenitent. We are to desire that men come to repentance like God does (2 Peter 3:9). Peter pronounced a curse on Simon the sorcerer for his wicked request to buy the power to give the Holy Spirit, saying “thy money perish with thee” (Acts 8:19-20). But Peter also appealed to Simon the sorcerer to repent (Acts 8:22). Simon was receptive and asked for prayers (Acts 8:24). Did Peter still desire the sorcerer’s death after this penitent request? Certainly not. Those who follow the course of Simon’s temptation, but are so hard-hearted that they refuse to repent, promulgating a false gospel in order to use their followers, are not pleasing to God. Paul called for such people to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
There are those extreme cases where after repeated attempts to get the wicked to turn from their ways, they show that they are dead set on assaulting God and His people. In such situations, it is proper to request divine justice. God’s justice is represented by those souls who had been slain for the word of God crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10). In a nation, as ours, where Christians are not having their blood shed for following God’s word it is easy for us to say that we should never call for God to punish the wicked. But to Christians who are experiencing extreme persecution by wicked men who have continually spurned all appeals to cease from their violence there is solace found in these passages that call for God to punish the wicked. In such extreme cases, as Paul did, we can ask the Lord to repay evildoers according to their works (2 Timothy 4:14).