Romans 12:17-21

In Romans 12:17-21 Paul gives us direction on how to live with one another. He reminds us that revenge is not an acceptable way to treat each other. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. And our actions should be as Jesus would do them – living honorably and publicly for all to see. We need to get along with each other. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It isn’t about living in peace with those we like or can tolerate. Paul tells us to live in peace with ALL. Now it takes two to make peace, but we need to be sure our effort is to do such.

Bad things happen to all of us, and often there is another person or people involved. From my experience many of those bad circumstances and situations aren’t intentional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Paul tells us not to strike back.  His counsel isn’t that we shouldn’t do it most of the time, but he says NEVER. “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.” We often think that getting even or paying someone back for the pain they cause will make us feel better. It doesn’t. It won’t. And we need to leave it in God’s hands.

But Paul doesn’t stop by telling us to merely let God handle any retribution that might be needed for how people act. He goes much further and challenges us to be like Jesus in all our actions toward others.  “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.” Jesus told us the same thing in Matthew 5. We are to love our enemies and treat well those who treat us badly. And before we reject that, we need to realize it is exactly what Jesus did. Not once in a while, but everytime in His life.

Paul tells us that treating our enemy well is like heaping burning coals on his head. At first that may sound like inflicting pain. But Guzik writes “Is the heaping coals of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something bad? It most likely refers to a “burning conviction” that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start their own – an appreciated act of kindness.” In any case, it isn’t causing pain or suffering. Paul ends by telling us “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The reality is that we destroy the relationship of being an enemy by making them our friend. Good always wins out over evil!

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