Heaping coals

Putting the transformed life into practice cannot help but change our relationship with others — even our enemies. As we near the end of our study in the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul is still working to help us deal with those who might choose to do us evil.

We’ve already learned not to repay evil for evil or to take revenge. Instead we’re to strive to live at peace with everybody. It’s a big order to fill. Thankfully, this verse gives use even more guidance on how to make it happen.

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”*

While it’s really hard to deal with an enemy, a person who claims to follow Christ, will do what is in contrast (or contrary) to what the world does. We will leave vengeance to God and, in a very practical way, do good to the other person.

By offering food and drink, we are showing hospitality — welcoming our enemy. 

Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. He did some very practical things to a person who would otherwise have been seen as his enemy — a Jew. What did he do? He bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey, carried him to an inn for rest, and paid the inn keeper to meet his needs for food and lodging.

He really heaped on the coals there!

I know. You’re probably wondering about that part of the verse. It doesn’t really sound very pleasant, does it. Who would put hot coals on someone’s head?

Can I put your mind at rest by saying it’s a figure of speech? Good, because it is.

To heap burning coals is to do so much good to them, that your enemy will feel sorry for what he’s done against you and seek repentance.

Have you ever experienced that? I have. It came in something as simple as privately mentioning that what my enemy thought she was saying against me in a computer chat to someone else, was really sent to me by mistake. I didn’t condemn her publicly, but just messaged back that I think she’d sent her message to the wrong person.

What happened?

She sent me a message that said, “I’m sorry. That was a very gracious response from you.”

Did I make my enemy my friend? Not really, but I did show so much kindness to her that she was sorry for her wrong against me.

The coals worked.

Facing those who don’t like us or actively work against us is not easy, but if we claim to live the Transformed Life, we must face them — with practical grace and kindness.

You’ll be blessed if you do.

Grace and Peace

*Romans 12:20 (NIV).


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