Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
If we live for more than a few days on this Earth, we are going to run into problems with people. We are going to have people do us wrong. We are going to want to get even with those people. But, as Christians, we are not supposed to do that. We are supposed to leave all of those things to the Lord. These verses give us some advice on how to handle our “enemies,” those who do us wrong.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”
Those seem to be pretty straightforward instructions. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If you enemy is thirsty, give him a drink. I have heard several different opinions on the last part verse 20, “…in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” To be honest, I am not exactly sure what it means, so I leave that part of the verse to those with more wisdom and discernment than myself. But I do know exactly what the first part of the verse means.
We are to be kind to our enemies. We are to help them when and where they need help. That is easy to say, but often a little harder to actually do. The whole Christian life can be summed up in one phrase: “just do what you are supposed to do.” Be kind to your friends. Be kind to your enemies. Let the Lord sort out the rest.
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
This passage about living like a Christian ends with a challenge: “…as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
We are supposed to live peaceably with other people. That means doing the things in the previous verses. That means being humble and putting the needs of others above our own needs. That means not being bitter at others and not trying to get revenge or “get even” with people when we feel that they have wronged us. That means living an honest life.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 13:10 that “Only by pride cometh contention…” If we will live with a Christ-like humility and get rid of the pride in our lives, we will find it much easier to “live peaceably with all men.”
In this verse, Paul (and the Holy Spirit) show that they understand human nature. Notice these two things: “If it be possible…” and “as much as lieth in you…” None of us are perfect. None of us are going to be able to live at perfect peace with every person in the world. We are going to get into arguments with people. We are going to have disagreements. We are going to have bitterness or envy creep into our hearts. We are never going to be perfect in this matter of living peaceably with other people. But we can try. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help and guidance. We will never be perfect, but we can all surely do a little better in this matter. Can’t we?
I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. for thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
In this Psalm, the Psalmist says that he “will be glad and rejoice in thee.” He also says that he will “sing praise to thy name.” Notice the simplicity in both statements: “I will.” Being glad and rejoicing in the Lord and singing praises to His name are simple things that we simply need to decide to do. When you think about it, most things in life are fairly simple. We know what we are supposed to do. We either do it or we don’t do it.
If we want to praise the Lord, rejoice in Him and sing praises to Him, we are going to have to make a conscious decision to do those things. Just like anything else in life, we have a choice. We can decide to do those things or we can decide not to do those things.
The Psalmist made it a point to say “I will…” That is exactly what we should be saying. We need to decide that we are going to praise the Lord. We are going to rejoice in Him. We are going to sing His praises. “I will…”
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
I was looking at this verse and thinking about it and I came to this realization: this verse (and many others) could be quickly and easily summed up in one statement: “Live like Jesus.” Jesus is, of course, our perfect example in all that we do. This verse tells us to do (or not do) two things: “recompense to no man evil for evil.” We aren’t supposed to seek our own “revenge.” When someone does us wrong, we naturally want to do wrong right back to them. But this is wrong. We are also supposed to “provide things honest in the sight of all men.” We are supposed to live honest lives. Both of those things are things that perfectly exemplified in the life of Jesus.
“Recompense to no man evil for evil.” Jesus was falsely accused, lied about, beaten, humiliated, and crucified. If that isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Yet He asked the Father to forgive those who were beating and killing Him. That should be our attitude when we are wronged. We will never go through as much evil (especially undeserved evil) as Jesus did. We simply need to follow His example.
“Proved things honest in the sight of all men.” Jesus lived an open, honest life. Even when they came to arrest Him to crucify Him, He was not in hiding. They knew where to find Him. He did his teaching in the open, to all people. He didn’t hid in a closet, and go around trying secretly get people to follow Him. His life was an open book. While having some privacy is a good thing, we do need to live honest lives – just like our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
There is much in the Bible about humility. It seems that this is a theme that is repeated over and over again. Maybe the reason for this is that we, as humans, have a serious problem with the matter of humility. We do seem to tend toward pride. Naturally, we are proud and we can easily get a little haughty. It’s difficult for us to really put down our pride and keep it in check – thus all of the passages dealing with humility!
Here, we are told to “be of the same mind one toward another.” We are supposed to think of others just as we think of ourselves. We are not supposed to look down on them, but love them and help them.
We are told to “mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.” I remember when I was a teenager, I went to a church camp one summer. At the camp, there was a boy, probably about 12 or 13 years old. He didn’t take a shower or wear clean clothes. He smelled bad. His hair was a mess. Most of the people at the camp kind of looked down on him. Then I saw the director of the camp talking to him one day. This “very important person” had stopped everything he was doing and was talking to this disheveled kid like he was his best friend. You could tell that this preacher cared about the boy and was completely focused on him. That left an impression on me and I still remember it. He wasn’t “too good” or “too important.” He was living this verse.
Are we humble? Who do we associate with? Do we look down at others or do we try to help them? Are we living this verse today?
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
The Christian life is a life full of seeming contradictions. Everything about the Christian life seems like a contradiction. Everything about being a Christian is directly opposite to everything about our flesh. What our flesh wants is never what the Lord wants.
These verses tell us to “bless them which persecute you.” That is hard to do. That is the opposite of what our flesh wants us to do. Our flesh wants to destroy the people that persecute us. Our flesh wants to “get even.” But we are supposed to bless them. We are supposed to be good to people who are not good to us.
The second verse tells us to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Our human nature wants to be bitter at those that are rejoicing. We want to bring them down to our level. But we are supposed to rejoice with them. And when we see someone weeping, we should weep with them. We should be empathetic and sensitive to the needs of others.
If we were to sum up these two verses (and the next verses in the passage), we could say that a Christian is supposed to be more concerned about others than about himself. When someone does wrong to us, we are supposed to bless them – because we are supposed to put them above our own feelings. When someone else rejoices, we should rejoice with them because we are supposed to put them above ourselves. When someone else weeps, we should weep with them because we are supposed to put them and their needs above us and our own needs.
Are our lives today more about us or more about others? I think that this passage (and others) would have us to live for others more than for ourselves!