If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
I love how God’s word takes our own common sense and turns it on its head. “The last shall be first” sounds like a Yogi Berra quote. (Like “It sure gets late early around here”) This verse is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-40
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Sometimes I get hung up on who my “enemy” could be, but I think the author is simply talking about someone you feel bitterness towards or someone that has hurt you in some way.
Our gut instinct is to retaliate. Go right back at them and make them hurt like you hurt. But to what end? What does that solve? Does it make you feel any better or does it make you become what you hate about them? Does it “teach them a lesson” or just make them feel hurt and vengeful like you? This is how feuds and wars start. This is how divorce plagues our country.
Now think of the alternatives. You could say nothing and get walked all over as you suffer in silence. Or you could kill the “enemy” with kindness.
Imagine if you found out someone was gossiping about you behind your back. What if, instead of trashing them behind their backs, you asked them to lunch sometime (your treat)? Not only would that person get to know you better, but they would end up feeling horrible about what they were saying.
Imagine if your spouse hurt your feelings somehow (I know, it is so hard to imagine huh?). What’s going to help you get past that better? Blowing up and lashing back at them? Or giving them a hug and telling them, “I love you. Why don’t you let me cook dinner for you tonight?” (or whatever would make their heart sing)
Sometimes the person will still not respond in kind. Sometimes bitterness is too deeply ingrained to make a difference. But that’s not for you to solve for them. However, the Lord promises that He will reward you. If not here on Earth, then with treasures in Heaven.
The concept is simple, but the practice of it is hard. Still, it is at least worth a shot. It is better than fueling the cycle of bitterness between “enemies.”