Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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January 24 – About Loving Our Enemies

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”  Proverbs 25:21,22

Devotional Thought For The Day

This proverb is reiterated by the apostle Paul in Rom. 12:20.  Many have struggled with the concept of “heaping burning coals” on someone’s head – as if the motivation is untoward and vengeful.  That this is not the case is certain – as it conflicts with everything Jesus taught about “loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you” [Matt. 5:44] and “loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you.” [Luke 6:27,35]  Two explanations are offered by the commentators, both indicating that the purpose is to change the heart of the enemy, one linking the coals to the offering for atonement which softens the heart, the other to the role of burning coals in smelting precious metals, the goal being the purification of the enemy’s heart.  The goal is to reconcile one’s enemy, changing his heart, and thus rescuing him from his wickedness and the punishment that will surely fall upon those who harm God’s dear children [see Matt. 18:1-7].  Such intercessory love and ministry of kindness and hope is precious to God, and His Word assures that He will reward us.

I have seen this kind of love work wonders in a relationship, and change and reconcile an “enemy” to another.  Unfortunately, I have also seen the “burning coals” of kindness and love have no good effect on the enemy.  In fact, I have seen some people take such kindness as a sign of weakness and a cue that they are free to continue and even intensify their animosity and cruelty.  So our hope and consolation in behaving kindly toward an enemy is in the promise of God, not any certainty that the enemy will be reconciled and reformed.  Besides, it is the right thing to do, to be kind and good-hearted and generous to others, even our enemies!

This is precisely what God has done for us in the gift of His Son, our dear Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  In the face of our sin, our rebellion and animosity toward God and love, God loved us and sent His own dear Son to be our Savior, to take our sin and guilt upon Himself, to suffer and die in our stead, to provide us with forgiveness, mercy, and eternal life.  We who know and believe God’s love for us continue to experience the burning coals of God’s love in our hearts and minds, and through repentance and the joy of God’s salvation our hearts are warmed and softened for love – even love for our enemies. But obviously, there are some whose hatred of God and rebellious animosity toward Him is intensified by His gracious love and mercy.  They are angry because they cannot find favor with God in the wretchedness of their impenitent sin, or else because God will not allow them to earn their own way into His graces, by climbing their own way to salvation.  Of course, some of these actually crucified Jesus – trying to get rid of Him, the burning coals of God’s love for us.  Others just start their own religions.

This is a rather remarkable transformation – that we should begin to think, act, and behave more and more like God, Who is love.  So the proverb stands true – and is not contingent upon the reaction of our enemy or the effect that our acts of kindness and love have upon him.  Rather, we put this proverb into practice because of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, because we know the goodness of love, and because we know such love and kindness is pleasing to our heavenly Father.

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, we do not desire the death of our enemies, or their punishment and destruction.  Help us to do what is good and right in all situations, also to those who hate and abuse us.  Grant repentance and change of heart to our enemies, that they too may be shaped and reformed by Your great love.  Amen.