Don’t Seek Vengeance; Do be Kind to Your Enemy
“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” (Romans 12:17–21 ESV).
“Heap burning coals on their head.” It is debated what this means, but in context it must mean that kindness instead of vengeance exposes the other person’s hatred even more starkly. This may lead them to shame or remorse and even reconciliation.
Two quick examples. I have counseled brokenhearted women whose boyfriend broke up with them to be nothing but kind. If instead she turns into a crazy woman and chooses to slander him to anyone who will listen, sends him hate texts, and threatens to sue him, he lays in bed and thinks, I made the greatest decision of my life. If she is kind to him, kind to his mother, and thanks him for the time they had together, he lays in bed every night and thinks, I have made the worst decision of my life. Burning coals.
I have a dear friend who had a key staff member that totally stabbed him in the back. They had a major falling out. It wasn’t pretty. Sometime later my friend took his family to a nice restaurant in the area. A little later this former staff member came in with his family and sat in another part of the same restaurant. My friend finished his meal. He paid for his meal and also quietly paid for the former staff member’s meal and left. What did that former staff member think as he realized the generous kindness from his detractor?
That is the power of loving our enemies. And isn’t this how God has treated us? Before you say, it’s wrong to not repay evil for evil, was God wrong when he loved us, his enemies? Was God weak when he gave Jesus hell instead of us? Our whole faith is built on God NOT repaying evil for evil. Instead, he met our spiritual hunger with the gospel of Jesus. He quenched our spiritual thirst with eternal water of eternal life.
How did God overcome evil? He overcame evil with the infinite good of his sovereign grace and sovereign love given freely to us by faith in Jesus.
What situation might God be calling you to apply this to this week? Who has wronged you that you could extend kindness to? Why don’t you pray about that and ask God what he would have you do?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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