Romans 12:20 “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.”
In one sense, this is all very basic and straightforward. Simplifying it down to its core essence: don’t do wrong; do right. Plain and simple =) “Right, ok, got it! That’s what I always try my best to do anyway. Nothing new here.” Right? =)
However, there is more to it than just that.
Let’s think about this together.
God doesn’t leave off at verse 19 with the command that we not avenge ourselves. He goes a step beyond that in verse 20, instructing us, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink”.
This is actually a “call to action” of sorts.
You see, to do nothing (by way of retaliation; “revenge”) is NOT the same as doing what’s right.
It’s so easy to feel like, “As long as I’m not retaliating then I’m doing the right thing.” But what does God say? “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink”.
It’s not enough to NOT retaliate, we must go a step beyond.
So what does this really mean in practical terms specific to our daily dealings/encounters? What does this look like carried out in our personal every day circumstances?
In essence, it all goes back to love. And what is “love”? Patience, being kind, not being envious, not being boastful or prideful, not being rude, not being selfish, not getting angry easily, not keeping track of wrongs, not taking delight in evil but rejoicing in the truth; it protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres; it never fails (as in it doesn’t have a pre-set number of times it is granted before it is denied). This is “love” being carried out in action. We don’t have to have feelings of affection for someone in order to love them. Love isn’t a feeling; love is, in fact, action.
The call to action spoken by the words, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” is, in fact, a call to love.
To choose, not merely to refrain from retaliation, but to go a step beyond and respond in accordance with what love is.
Whether it’s determining in the midst of a trying situation to be patient, or making the decision to speak a kind word when we stubbornly would rather just say nothing at all, or choosing not to keep a mental tally of misdeeds. That is love and that’s what love looks like carried out in action and that’s what love does. It is, in actuality, saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God and, in this way, allowing Him to live His life through ours.
And the cool part is, God is committed to our growth and something changes inside us when we go the step beyond and make the mental decision to respond in ways that are consistent with His instruction and carry it out in word and deed. Something changes; a change that doesn’t come about by any other means.