September 27, 2014

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.’ 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.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12.18-21 ESV)

Feed your enemy when he is hungry. Give your enemy something to drink when he is thirsty. Not exactly the wisdom of Sun Tzu in The Art of War.  While we would normally think of enemies as those who should be defeated we are directed to act differently as Christians.  First, we are to try to be at peace with everyone, as far as we can.  Sometimes there are those who will not live in peace no matter how hard you try.  We are called to do our best.  Second, we are called to avoid vengeance.  While avoiding vengeance would neuter a lot of action movies, it hos no place in our lives, though I know the thirst for vengeance can be strong in many circumstances.  God’s vengeance is the ultimate.  It is also just.

The last part is key. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  We can be engulfed with evil, or we can overcome it.  Just before this Paul writes, “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.”  When I was a youth pastor I used this verse a lot, contending that this verse can mean two things.  The first meaning could mean that your enemy will have the burning coals of repentance that leads him to no longer be your enemy, but your brother in Christ.  The second, and probably more plain meaning would be that his refusal to be reconciled would bring on him condemnation and wrath.  Either way the right thing to do before God would be to treat your enemy well.

Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general and strategist may have influenced Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and even General Normal Schwarzkopf, but his strategies were not Biblical. Sun Tzu does teach to treat the enemy prisoners with compassion, but does not go as far as Paul here in Romans 12.

Are we willing to put our squabbles and even serious matters through Biblical consideration and treat those who would be our enemies compassionately and overcome evil with good?