Friday, April 28, 2006

Paul on Blessing Your Enemies

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
God knows how to deal with your enemies, and He doesn’t need your help. He is not out to destroy them, but to give them opportunity to repent, so He can bless them.

If you try to repay evil with evil, you do not settle the score, but only make things twice as bad. For then there will be two acts of evil instead of one, and the evil you perpetrate is just as damaging to you as the one perpetrated against you. No, always meditate on and present what is good, and let that become evident to all.

It may not be possible to live at peace with all men — some just will not have it, and you cannot make them wear it. But you can control what you do (one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, Galatians 5:23). Regardless of what your enemy may say or do, your efforts must always be toward peace. That is where the wisdom of God is found (James 3:17).

Now Paul quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22:
If you enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.
You are not going to be able to starve out your enemy and have any satisfaction from it. Any evil you do to him will boomerang against you — it’s a matter of seedtime and harvest. But the kindness you show will heap coals of fire on his head. That is, it may well cause him to come to repentance (earlier, in Romans 2:4, Paul said that the kindness of God leads to repentance). But if not, God knows how to deal with the matter.

So the best option is always to respond with good, not evil. If you try to repay evil with evil, you will yourself be overcome, swallowed up by your own evil. Good is greater than evil and must eventually overcome it — for God is great and God is good.

Return evil for evil, and you will have to deal with the consequences yourself. Keep doing good, and let God deal with the consequences, and you will get the reward.