21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)
– Paul quotes this passage in Romans 12:20 and then advises “to overcome evil with good.”
– Vs 21 suggests a simple response that ignores the fact that he is your enemy
– Vs. 22 – “What does it mean to “heap burning coals on his head?”
In what way does responding to his need rather than to his being your enemy do that?
– The Lord’s role is not to punish my enemies but to reward me for my behavior: the focus is not at all on the enemy bu ton my response and on my reward from the Lord
Oh the energy wasted imagining our enemies getting their just reward (as we see it anyway)! Oh the confusion we generate between justice and revenge in our imaginings. Oh the depth of our flesh-ness in our first response being to ignore or even punish our enemies.
Paul quotes this passage centuries after its writing. It fits very well with Paul’s argument and reminds us that the biblical revelation is a unified one. The God of the Old Testament is not really a proper designation for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Jesus, Peter, and Paul.
Proverbs suggests a way that goes against my “human nature,” my fallen inclinations. To respond in love and not revenge is not what we want to do apart of the transformation of Christ in our lives. I cannot will myself to love, to respond in goodness – I have to do it and ask God’s help in making it more who I am and less forced. More my character than what is often my character.
Loving God, help me this day to do the hard living and loving that you demand of me – to give food to my enemies rather than to give him grief, to give water to a thirsty enemy because he needs it and because I need to do it. Transform me that my character and my inclinations will more and more be this way and less and less my own. May I, in short, love and live as Christ did toward his enemies and does still. Amen.