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