Friday, September 21, 2007

The Forgiving Coals

Romans 12:19, 20 Do not take revenge, my 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.

I've read this scripture more times than I can count and will tell you I've never really understood it. I mean, it seems to imply that you should just be nice to people that hurt you because this will guarantee that God will step in and zap them. Even in my most vengeful moments, this seems a dubious plan.
I know someone who has been wronged. No doubt she has been hurt. And it keeps on hurting, coming back to snap at her just when it seems that things are settling down. It's hard to forgive and forget when you are reminded constantly of the pain. At times, she says, "I just don't think I can forgive. " I don't know how to tell her to. It does seem too much to ask.
Today my mind wandered back to the burning coals thing and I wondered again; what in the world does God want me to understand about this?
I asked Jay. He didn't know.
I asked the Mr. He didn't know but quoted something in Proverbs about preferring to living on the corner of a rooftop than with a quarrelsome woman. I've got a coal or two with his name on it.
I read and re-read and tried to find that place in my spirit that really focuses on God. Sometimes it's hard to find that place, you know?
Then I got it.
The only thing that will heal the hurt between us is when we each surrender our own hearts to Christ. That surrendered heart will make us seekers of peace and gentleness. It will make us forgivable; if we are the ones in need of forgiving. But what about when we act in ways that make us seem unforgivable? That is the absence of Christ; making the flesh we live inside of dominant. It is the need for divine forgiveness that makes us most offensive.
For those we need to forgive who put up their hands against repentance, we must model what forgiveness will feel like if they would only receive it. By loving, giving to and serving the ones who hurt us; we show them that they can indeed be forgiven, loved and served.
It is our ministry to show mercy so that the world is drawn toward grace.
Those heaping coals are the burning need that will settle upon the person who is so greatly loved by the ones he has wronged that he can finally picture what it might feel like to be forgiven. Free of his debt. Burning to be forgiven. Needing the pain of guilt to be lifted and having experienced the sweetness of our forgiveness, though undeserved; he can begin to imagine the forgiveness of God.
It is the enemy's greatest weapon to convince each man that he is unforgivable. Like Adam, we run in our shame as God calls out to us. And God said to Adam, "Who told you you were naked?"
I think God asks us a similar question, "Who told you you were guilty?" "Who shamed you?" "Who told you you didn't deserve to be forgiven?" "Who told you you would not be accepted and loved?"
I now realize my resentment and hostility toward the hurters in my life has made mine the voice that accuses the guilty. And so I have pushed the sinner deeper into hiding as I have reminded him of his shame.
I understand that I have been forgiven much, I must love much.
It is no longer a mystery, the coals of fire resulting from my kindness toward my enemies. Let my voice never convince any man that he cannot be forgiven.
I can show him Christ in flesh that he might desire Christ himself.
Through forgiveness.

Romans 12:21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Becky said...

my experience with your post is "the others" think i'm just crazy and can't seem to get it...

Trish said...

To hold onto bitterness is not
good for our spiritual or phycical
If we forgive ~ it is a medicine
to our body, mind and spirit!
Good lesson~

Love you Sara girl!

Louise said...

Sara, your take on these verses is correct. I just read this in Barnes' notes:
"Thou shalt heap, etc. Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of pain. But the idea here is not that in so doing we shall call down Divine vengeance on the man; but the apostle is speaking of the natural effect or result of showing him kindness. Burning coals heaped on a man's head would be expressive of intense agony. So the apostle says that the effect of doing good to an enemy would be to produce pain. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of Divine displeasure that may lead to repentance. To do this, is not only perfectly right, but it is desirable. If a man can be brought to reflection and true repentance, it should be done."

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do. I remember Pastor Mitchell teaching that it's not an emotion, it's an act of the will to forgive those who have wounded you. I especially remember one New Year's Eve service ... he had us write down the name(s) of people who had deeply hurt us, folks we thought we could not forgive and at the close of service we folded the paper, took them to the altar where he had a container waiting ... we dropped the papers in and after we were seated, he lit a match and burned them. That was one of the most freeing experiences I've had in forgiveness. The hurt and anger I had carried literally went up in smoke. I don't know if that would work for everyone, but it surely helped me.
Bless you for writing as you do. It is truly God-inspired.

Margie said...

what a great post!! you are so wise.

I prefer to dump real hot coals on someone's head, but they say I can't so I try to do it the Jesus way... I got a long way to go...

KayMac said...


MSU gal said...

what a great lesson.

Hilmarose said...

"Who told you you were guilty?" "Who shamed you?" "Who told you you didn't deserve to be forgiven?" "Who told you you would not be accepted and loved?"

Thank you very much for sharing... the Holy Spirit REALLY spoke to my heart with this posting!!!