When I think of Proverbs 25, I think of verses 21-22 which say:
Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
Today, I want to dig deeper into how we are to treat our enemies. The call of the Lord on our lives is very unique in that he saves us and doesn’t take us to be in glory right away. Instead, He calls us to go into the world--into a very sin-ridden and lost world--into a world that hates God and rejects Him and His ways and His people. He calls us to love them and witness to them.
Now, before we dig into what this looks like in a practical way, we must be mindful of a few things. First, they are our enemies. They stand against our righteous King. They are our enemies because we stand with Jesus. As Jesus said:
John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
While God calls us to love our enemy, serve them, and be generous to them, we are not to befriend them or become so close that they have influence on us. Paul said strongly in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
We are called to minister and be generous for the sake of making much of the gospel, but we are to realize they are not of us and stand against God; therefore, we do not pursue or engage in the same partnership with them as we do with true believers.
Let us look out for ourselves and each other so that we are not caught up in what is called “the fear of man”. The fear of man is man’s deep-seated, sinful desire to long for the approval, applause, acceptance, compliments, and affection of other people rather than from God. We must not give ourselves over to befriend others who are enemies of God with the aim of making them like us instead of the aim of pointing them to Christ. We must love them, serve them, and speak the life-changing gospel to them.
This is where our verses from Proverbs 25 come in today. Solomon says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”
This is right in line with many of Jesus’ commands for the church in the New Testament. We are to love our enemies, serve them, and be generous to them.
Paul also spoke to this emphasis of our daily life in Romans 12:14,17 &18 when he said:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Then he goes on to quote Proverbs 25:21-22:
Romans 12:20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
The biblical principle is that Christians who are walking in Christ will love their enemies.
The good news of the gospel is, “We are saved and set free because Christ loved his enemies.”
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Jesus helps us see what truly LOVING OTHERS is in his teaching:
Luke 6:32-35 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Anyone can love that which is lovely, but it is extremely difficult to love those who are unlovely. Again, hear this clearly: you and I do not do this by our own strength.
Loving our enemies is only genuine if it is out of the overflow of a life in Christ where He is flowing through us to others. Loving others in this way is a supernatural way of life.
Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Now, it says, “as it depends on you”. This is because it takes two to tango. So, the part of the relationship you can influence needs to be peaceful, but this doesn’t mean that you will have peace with everyone because they can stir things up against you.
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Now, this rails against our flesh because the foremost trait of human nature is self-defense.
If someone thrusts an object toward your face, your eyes close immediately by instinct.
If an object falls toward you, your arm rises to ward off the blow. By nature, when we are offended, we automatically put up a defense mechanism and want to fight back. We can trust God to judge rightly and fully. We do not need to return evil for evil the way our flesh wants to. In Christ, we do something contrary to our nature--to LOVE and not to fight back when offended. A person may ask, "Don't I have the right to stick up for my rights?"
Sometimes the act of defending oneself or another is an act of love, but the supernatural work of Christ through us means that many times the answer is NO. Christ’s love in and through you means you will not fight back.
Instead, Romans 12:20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Loving your enemies the way God loved us when we were his enemies!
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
The only vengeance Christians can inflict on others is the red-hot coals of love.
This part of verse 20 is odd when read alone, but it makes sense when it is understood from our text in Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
The coals on the head is a referral to a ritual in Egypt in which a person showed repentance by carrying a pan of hot, burning charcoal on the head. So, when we respond with love and not hate, this can cause the other person to be repentant for their actions.
Love is the only antidote for hate! When the Christian loves his enemies, they are either melted into repentance or hardened even more. It is up to God how they respond--not us. We are simply called to let love move! WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE OTHERS!
We trust God will be the perfect and ultimate judge our enemies need and He will also save who He has chosen to be His. Salvation belongs to the Lord, but He calls us to be a part of the testimony of His grace and love by our sacrificial life and love even for those who are hard to love and who stand against all that we love. May we do this with joy and take seriously the opportunities He gives us along the way.