Overcome Evil with Good
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NRSV)
What shall I do if I accidentally killed a neighbor’s cow? Probably, I have to compensate for the cost of buying another cow. In the OT, it was very similar. The person must buy the same kind and size of the cow for the cow’s owner, or compensate the same amount of the cost buying one.
When someone breaks your tooth during the argument, then the authority will break the person’s good tooth as he did to you. Jews kept up this law as in Exodus 21:24-25, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot.”
Somewhat, it looks fair. However, Jesus said in Matthew 5:38, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.” When Jesus died on the cross, He showed the example by praying for the Roman soldiers who nailed Him on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
When I read today’s scripture, at first, His teaching did not seem to make sense. However, when we meditate it with the obedient heart, it gives us incredible insight. Jesus was able to live as He taught because He loved us with the Agape love. Let’s meditate today’s scripture in this context.
- Never avenge yourselves; Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
I am sure many of us have seen and experienced unfairness in our daily relationship at home and at work. Especially, when it happened to me not others, it was very hard to overcome the desires to revenge because I was sure that I was righteous.
At this, we may have to assess our reasoning carefully because we could be biased or self-centered. I remember a movie. A man decided to risk his life to revenge his parents’ death. After he killed the suspect, he found that he had killed a wrong person. Well, this kind of painful situation can happen to us also.
The Lord urges us not to revenge but to leave it up to His hand because He will repay it fairly. When we trust the Lord and pray to Him, we can have peace. If we try to revenge, we may sin again or even more.
- If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Apostle quoted today’s scripture from Jesus who quoted it from Proverbs 25:21.
We know if we obey the Lord’s command, He will bless us more. In here, our Lord urges us to do much more, “Feed and give drinks to your enemy.” I had tried and learned it is not easy, but it depends on the types of enemies.
If so, who could be our enemy?
At this, please don’t get me wrong. If we are fighting against the enemy in the battleground, and we have to defeat the enemy, then we may have to kill the enemy in order to protect our family, our fellow soldiers, and our country. Even so, when they are not armed and no longer a threat, we may need to take care of them.
Please exclude Satan from the enemy category because he will attack us as we give a room. He does not care about our intention. He always tries to destroy us.
The enemy in this context is someone who is against us in our relationship. As we live with others, we easily can make enemies. Many times, they could be our family members or our friends. Probably, that is why the Lord asks us to take care of the enemy.
Do you think it is easy to feed the enemy? I believe that is even harder than not to revenge. I think it is fair to feel good when the enemies are suffering. Maybe, they deserve it. At this, we have to pray and leave it up to the Lord. When we pray, we should be able to hear His voice or to have the inspiration.
In spite of my unwillingness, the Lord asks us to take care of our enemy. Why would He ask us to do that? He says, when we do that, we will heap burning coals on their heads. What does that mean? When we do good things to them, would they suffer more? It might be a wrong interpretation.
Do you remember the burning bush which Moses saw at the Mt. Horeb? It was burning but not consumed. Likewise, God’s burning holy presence on the enemy will have the person feel shame and repent his sins.
We have to catch another important message that our Lord knows the enemy and us. We just do our part and honor God. We remember what Jesus taught through Lord’s prayer. “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This prayer reminds us that we could be their enemy at the same time because we are not perfect as well.
Now, we should pray like this, “Oh, Lord. You saved me from the eternal condemnation. Since I have received your forgiveness out of your unfailing Agape love, I will also forgive my enemy because I could be their enemy also.”
- (Lastly) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Again, this is the main theme of today’s scripture. Have you done this to your enemy before? Of course, it depends on the type of enemies. No matter what, I think it is very hard to practice. However, when we obey this command, we can have real joy and peace, and miraculous blessings.
This story is about Pastor Son Yang-won, who is one of 5 Christian Saints in Korea. His life story was published in English as White Flame.
He was a faithful and devoted servant of Christ. He served and took care of the leprosy patients with the love of Christ. Sometimes, he had to squeeze the pus from the patient’s wounded area without much of the protection because there were not much of medical supplies. He shared the Gospel of Christ with them and demonstrated the love of Christ by sacrificing his life for them.
Just before the Koran War, a group of communist people killed his two sons during the civil war. It was simply because they were Christians and the sons of a pastor. He was very disappointed and in deep sorrow. However, when he heard that the man who killed his sons were about to be executed, he went to the police and begged for mercy on the man, “Please do not kill him. If so, my sons’ death would be nullified. Please allow me to take him. I will adopt him as my son.” Because of his pleading, they allowed him.
Later, this adopted son finished the seminary. However, he could not be a pastor because he could not overcome the guilty feeling. It was so sad. When he died with cancer, he asked his son to be a pastor. Now, this grandson pastor preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The pastor’s Agape love saved the sinner and glorified the Lord.
This story became a movie and challenged so many people.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I am not sure if I can love my enemy as Pastor Son did. If we feel against the enemy, let’s remind ourselves that we could be someone’s enemy and we used to be the enemy of the Lord. Without the grace of Christ, we are still sinners.
Jesus lived and died to forgive our sins as He taught. We all are sinners. We deserve eternal punishment. However, Jesus came to this world and gave us the eternal life. Praise the Lord!
Let’s pray and ask the power from the Lord so that we also can glorify Him by practicing the love of Christ. Amen.