Let God Handle the Vengeance
Once again, Romans 12 contains advice and counsel, that if we would follow it, would change the world. World conditions are not going to get better via politics or armed conflict. The solution to the world’s problems is the gospel and how that gospel lives out in the lives of those who follow Jesus. Let’s read these amazing words from Romans 12, verses 19-21: “19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, ”says the Lord. 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It is a natural human reaction to seek vengeance or revenge. It’s the way we are wired but it’s not the way God desires that we act. God will take care of righting the wrongs in this world, both now and for eternity. Will you trust Him to do what is right? But Paul goes even further, echoing the teaching of Jesus from the gospels. If your enemy is hungry you should feed him and if he is thirsty you should give him a drink. You should not only not take vengeance, but you should provide for him. Interesting isn’t it? That’s not the way of man; but it is the way of God. When man rejected Jesus, Jesus died for man. There is some discussion over the meaning of the phrase “heap coals of fire on his head”. I seem to remember as a young man…or should I say younger man…hearing that by treating these people kindly you would actually cause them “pain”. But this doesn’t make sense. That idea runs contrary to the point of the passage. The understanding that I think is correct is that if a person wanted to show repentance or public contrition, that person would carry a pan of burning coals on his head, to represent the pain of shame and guilt. By feeding your enemy, you will bring shame upon those who you are helping…not shame that is meant to punish but shame that is meant to bring them to repentance.
The final verse is very interesting to me. “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good”. Everyone is going to experience evil…that’s a given. The way to not be overcome by evil is to do good and doing good is not just a neutral activity, rather it overcomes the evil…it counteracts the evil. This is the example of Jesus and the example of the early church. I think that as society moves further away from biblical morals, Christians are going to have a chance to live out verse 21 in a greater way. I pray that we have the courage and trust to do it. It takes trust to do good to someone who has done evil to you. It’s not easy; however, it is what God prescribes and God is the One who is responsible for vengeance. Vengeance doesn’t belong to us. Let’s let God do it. He’s way more qualified. Instead, let us be people who do good to those who hate us. Those heaping coals may just light a fire under someone to ask us why we are kind and to inquire about our God.