Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17–21, NIV 1984).
My Musings – Modern culture seems to be infatuated with the idea of taking revenge. Getting even, and then some. It fills our headlines, graces our movie and television screens and predominates video game sales. We are so inundated by violence and wrath that not much shocks us anymore, and we become more and more de-sensitized. Still, heaping burning coals on someone’s head sounds pretty vengeful to me. At least when taken at face value or out of context.
However, it may refer to an ancient Egyptian ritual in which a person showed his repentance by carrying a pan of burning charcoal on his head. Helping rather than cursing an enemy may cause him to be ashamed and penitent.
Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 490). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
That clearly would be overcoming “evil with good.” What an absolutely marvelous way to “get even.” But perhaps not quite as satisfying enough for many? What an indictment of human nature that is. Yet we see it way too much.
Why should we “leave room for God’s wrath?” Because rarely are we satisfied with just getting even. We want more than a “pound of flesh.” We humans are not very good at justice. But God is. That’s His “thing.” That is why it is His “to avenge.” That is why it is best to let Him “repay.” For it there is penitence, then His justice is grace. And if not, only then His justice is a righteous wrath.
My Advice – What a wonderful world it would be if instead of “[being] overcome by evil, [we overcame] evil with good.”
I see [enemies] shaking hands
Saying, “[I forgive you]”
They’re really saying
“[Let’s be friends too].”
They’ll learn much more
[From the grace that we show]
And I think to myself
[Maybe friendship will grow.]
Then, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Adapted from “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong