Romans 12:14-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with 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.
Read I was recently reading these verses, inspired and encouraged by the commands to love the people in my life who are not easy to love. But when I came to verse 20, I stopped. “Heap burning coals on his head?” Excuse me? I had read that verse before, but for some reason it really bothered me. My thought process went something like this: 1) I know that the Bible is true. 2) I know that God is good. 3) I know that God is just. 4) But why should my motivation to be kind to someone actually be hurtful?
I asked my dad that question and together we researched it. That verse is not instructing Christians to hurt their enemies. In fact, just a few verses before it, it says that vengeance is the Lord’s, not ours. This verse rather means that by doing good to those who hate us, we will inspire them to follow our example.
Think about it. Has there ever been a time when someone was really nice to you when you were mad? How did that make you feel? It probably infuriated you, but at the same time, you probably were ultimately encouraged to control your emotions in the future. It’s difficult to be genuinely mad at someone who is kind to you.
These verses are all about loving others. Loving others means genuinely grieving with others who are grieving, whether they are your friend or foe. It means genuinely rejoicing with people who are rejoicing, returning kindness for pain, keeping the peace. In everyday life, maybe this looks like rejoicing with a friend who got into your dream college even if you did not. Maybe it means that, during small group, you listen to someone else and grieve with them the loss of a pet or a grade or a place on the sports team, rather than talking about yourself. Maybe it means going out of your way to patiently help someone with their homework, even if the reason they don’t understand is because they were playing on their phone during the lesson.
As Christians, we’re called to forgive because we were first forgiven, extend grace because we were first extended grace, and to love with reckless abandon because Jesus first showered us with His love.
Ponder How can you better engage with those around you and take the focus off yourself and shift it on others?