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November 15, 1992

Retaliate with Love (Part Two)

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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. PROVERBS 25:21-22
Before you start looking for ways you can help that guy at work who stole your great marketing idea, let’s look at what the result of such action might be. If you feed your enemy when he’s hungry or give him water when he’s thirsty, you will “heap burning coals on his head” (Proverbs. 25:22).
All right, you might be thinking. I don’t know how this works, but that’ll show him. That will make him feel as much pain as he’s caused me.
But wait. You’re missing the point. This reference to coals of fire doesn’t have anything to do with hurting someone by burning him. Rather, it has to do with the smelting of iron ore. As such, the coals are not used to inflict painful punishment on the person who has wronged you; they are used to soften his heart and remove the dross from his character. Stated another way, “Love poured out in return for hatred will be what the burning coals are to the ore: it will melt and purify.”15
How does this happen? When we are kind to people who mistreat us, we shock them into seeing their own shame. We teach them a lesson that could never be achieved if we had tried to seek revenge. “Such action is the noblest of all because it succeeds in saving the enemy while it destroys his enmity.”‘6
Our action may not achieve results overnight. Things may get worse before they get better. In fact, there’s no 100-percent guarantee that the situation may change at all. But we will change. Love and hatred cannot coexist. If we are actively seeking to show love to someone, there will be no room in our hearts for the bitterness and resentment we felt toward him previously. On top of that, God will reward us for our efforts (v. 22). What more could we want?

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