If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.
Scholars believe the phrase “heap coals of fire on their heads” refers to an ancient Egyptian custom whereby a person publicly demonstrated contrition for wrongdoing by carrying on his head a pan of burning coals to represent the burning pain of his shame and guilt. The point of the illustration is that when we love our enemy, we become the burning pan of coals on his head. Our love and good works toward our enemy is a painful reminder to him of his evil deeds and (hopefully) shames him into wanting to correct his ways.
The apostle Paul quotes this Proverb in Romans 12:20 to illustrate the “Principle of Replacement.” This principle says that it’s not enough just to passively receive your enemy’s actions, or even to receive them with a view toward God’s intervention and justice. Instead, we are to do the opposite of what our enemy is doing.
God’s plan is for you to replace your enemy’s evil with good; to replace his hatred with love; to replace his unkindness with kindness. Only in doing so will we keep the total reservoir of evil in this world from getting bigger and bigger, which is what happens if we repay evil for evil. To think in accounting terms, the only way we can cancel out the evil done to us is to pay it back with good, thereby keeping the “books” balanced. To add evil to evil just puts us further and further into a deficit of good in the world. If we take vengeance into our own hands, we become the one who suffers. But when we love our enemy, we become a reminder to him of what he has done.
-from The Jeremiah Study Bible
Like Sam’s question yesterday in regards to when he’s feeling anger toward someone, “Who’s the one really losing here?”
This also reminded me of a gripping story about Martin Luther King I read this week:
Once, in Birmingham, when King was giving a speech, a two-hundred-pound white man charged the stage and began pummeling King with his fists. As King’s aides rushed to defend him, McWhorter writes:
They were astounded to watch King become his assailant’s protector. He held him solicitously and, as the audience began singing Movement songs, told him that their cause was just, that violence was self-demeaning, that “we’re going to win.” Then King introduced him to the crowd, as though he were a surprise guest. Roy James, a twenty-four year old native New Yorker who lived in an American Nazi Party dormitory in Arlington, Virginia, began to weep in King’s embrace.
“So keep awake! You don’t know the day or the hour.”
Jesus tells us in multiple places to stay awake, keep alert, be prepared. Keep current. He IS returning. That is a reality, whether we talk about it much or not. And being prepared was a stern and clear part of His teachings.
I believe it’s the Delta Force who are required to always be within one hour of readiness to go anywhere in the world for any mission. They never have more than two alcoholic beverages in a day & always have a bag packed. Now that is prepared. They can’t be resting on training from a couple years ago, or even a couple months ago. “Well, I hope my aim is still pretty good from that college marksmanship class I took 12 years ago!” Yeah right.
Same with us, if we’re serious about being an apprentice of Jesus, then we keep current with Him. We don’t depend on a decision made years ago, or a time when we were close to Him back in the day when we had more time. The five silly girls in this parable weren’t really serious, plain and simple. Perhaps they thought they were.
When we say we don’t have time for something, what we’re really saying is that we value something else more.
A friend of mine has been thinking a lot lately about being prepared [not fearfully, mind you, but wisely] for when this country takes the serious nosedive. This is another good picture. Prepare for the inevitable. Abundance leads to complacency. Complacency leads to apathy. Apathy leads to defeat and collapse. It is a matter of time.
We cannot afford to be complacent spiritually, or even physically. This is life. This is reality.
Are you awake?