Here in Papua New Guinea, curses are a regular concern for most people. People fear curses all the time. They fear curses from ancestors, curses brought about by angry spirits, and curses cast by enemies. They see the effects of curses in all kinds of suffering, sickness, and death.
Just yesterday, the leaders of a village about 10 miles west of Mawerero sent me an inviation to come and help them lift an ancestral curse. The village name is Punyendeng, and the people there are afraid. Their great-grandparents, evidently, killed and consumed several missionaries a century ago. The inhabitants of this small village now believe that their current sufferings and struggles are the result of a curse brought on them for the deeds of their ancestors. Now they want me to come so that I can help them determine what kind of offering will lift the curse. Unfortunately, the curse is worse than they realize, and I am certainly not the cure.
The reality, of course, is that curses are real. In Genesis 3, God levies devestating curses upon man, woman, offspring, ground, and serpent. And from East to West, the effects of these curses can be seen. Some might be tempted to think that there may be some hope for the isolated wildernesses of places like the Finisterre mountians, but alas, this week alone two babies and a middle age woman died of varied illnesses. Sickness and suffering abound. Add to that the numerous earthquakes, landslides, and tropical storms that thrash these shores and you can almost hear creation groan under the curse to which it has been subjected (Romans 8:19-22).
All of us, including the people of Punyendeng, are under the curse of sin. None of us can pay enough or do enough or sacrifice enough to lift such a curse. This is part of what makes the good news of Jesus so good. He can release anyone from the curse brought on us by sin… from the sin of our ancestor, Adam, all the way down to the sins we commit ourselves everyday.
Jesus came over two millenia ago to become a curse for us by dying in our place (Galatians 3:13). That is good news to celebrate at Christmas. Indeed, it was for Isaac Watts who penned the familiar words of the hymn “Joy to the World” in the 18th century. In that song, he wrote:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, 1719
Far as the curse is found. Even way out here in the small villages of these misty mountains. The curse has made it here. Lord-willing, the good news of the cure will be proclaimed in the nDo language soon.
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