Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear 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
As I sunk my teeth into the slice of pizza, I instantly regretted my lack of self-control. The scorching hot pie burnt the roof of my mouth. No matter how much water I chugged afterward, I still felt the blister that formed due to coming in contact with that nuclear cheese. It took days for my palate to finally heal. Every single time I spoke, ate, or swallowed, I remembered my stupidity.
Today's passage makes a bold statement. Some might even call it a scorching hot take (see what I did there?). Rather than burning bridges with our enemies, the Apostle Paul invites us to heap burning coals on their heads instead. Why? Because the way we respond to those who hurt us and cause us pain does something to their hearts and mind.
Repaying evil with good sends a shock to the system. Responding with love where hate is present halts people in their tracks. Extending forgiveness in a place where hostility reigns catch people off-guard.
Just like coming in contact with that blazing hot slice of pizza seared my mouth, your kind words and gentle actions leave a lasting impression. It's uncomfortable and jarring. Every time they see you, they remember. Every time they think about that encounter, they must confront their behavior. And, hopefully, it provides an opportunity for them to consider reconciling and responding differently.
We do this not to get even, to show we're the bigger person, or to ensure the other person changes their ways. Neither does forgiveness excuse their offenses. We love because Christ loved us first. God extended undeserved grace our way, and by offering it to another, we display our understanding of this great gift.
Forgiveness frees us. It liberates us from the weight of hurt and bitterness. Even if healing doesn't take place in the relationship, it is guaranteed to occur somewhere else - your heart.
Where do you need to repay evil with good?
God, You loved me when I was unlovable. You healed my wounds even when I caused You pain. You made things right even though I was clearly in the wrong. Because I'm forgiven much, I will forgive those who have wronged me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.