Take the Unexpected Path

Nov 10, 2015 1476


Do not take revenge, my friends,…On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head (Romans 12:20).

Jesus has turned the value system of our world on its head. For the world, the honourable response to insult and injury is revenge, but for the followers of Jesus, it is forgiveness. When you forgive someone you are saying that you are prepared to accept the cost of his wrong on your own shoulders and that you want him to be in God’s kingdom with you. You become like the father of the prodigal son who accepted his wayward son back home, knowing that he would not get back the family inheritance that the young man had wasted. It wasn’t the wayward son who carried the cost of his sinful life, but the father.

The prophet, Elisha, taught this lesson to the King of Israel when he commanded him not to kill the enemy Aramean army that they had trapped but to provide them with food and drink and then send them home (1 Kings 6:17-23). This report concludes with the words, “So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” It wasn’t hatred that won them over but kindness.

So, what are these “coals of fire” that you may heap on the head of your enemy? This saying, which has lost its meaning over a long period of time, has always been understood as something good that you can do to your enemy. It may have begun as a reference to a person whose cooking fire has gone out. They would go to their neighbour with an earthenware bowl, that they carried on their head, to ask for some burning coals to restart their fire. A good neighbour would heap burning coals into that bowl.

Likewise, we are to share freely what we have with others in need, even though they may not be our friends.


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