Kill Them With Kindness
“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.” Proverb 25:21-22
Proverbs 25 reads like a bullet pointed list of favorite things grandma always said. In reality, it is a collection of wise sayings from King Solomon. But these are not just historical records, these sayings weren’t written down for nearly 200 years under a different ruler, King Hezekiah. In the time between Solomon and Hezekiah, a lot had happened; most notably the united nation of Israel under Solomon was divided into a northern region still called Israel and a southern kingdom called Judah. Through all of this civil war and destruction, these wise words of a former king survived.
I believe that the wisdom shared in Proverbs 25:21-22 is one of the most difficult truths to live out. We often shorthand the wisdom with the words “I’m killing them with kindness”. The short hand is fine, it’s a heart check we need.
The Apostle Paul quoted these particular words about being kind to our enemies in his letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 12:20). He used it to caution them against their own vengeful hearts and clarified the meaning of this particular phrase. Killing our enemies with kindness is an effort to love them like Jesus so that their sinfulness dies and a new life is born again of the Holy Spirit.
The burning of coals that are heaped upon our enemies are not the fires of judgement and eternal damnation (at least not at first). These coals are intended to refine our enemies like the burning coal that refined and forgave the sins of the Prophet Isaiah during his call into ministry in Isaiah Chapter 6.
When we are truly at war with another person our heart does not typically want that person to be forgiven of all their sins. More common is the desire within us for our enemy to get what they deserve. When we try to kill our enemy with kindness often we are trying to show the other person we are better than them, that we won’t stoop to their level, or that we are the bigger person. In practice this turns our kindness into a fake display of nicety with the motive of vengeance. The strong temptation is to be “Kind” to the person when they are around us but then speak poorly of them when they are gone. Our enemies can bring out the worst in us.
God encourages us to allow our enemies to bring out the best in us. In Mathew 5:38-48 Jesus gives us some powerful guidance on what it means to be kind to our enemies. To give the “other cheek” to someone who hits us or give a second cloak to someone who steals the first one or walk a second mile with someone who forces us to walk the first one. These acts of kindness are truly sacrificial.
While we were still enemies of Jesus, He died on a cross as a punishment for the sins we commit against God and each other. This powerful truth has transformed the heart and mind of every Christian. This Gospel truth has poured burning coals on our heads and inspired us to live lives that honor our Creator and Savior. This is our calling and our model to “Lay down our lives” for our enemies that they may see our good works and repent of their sin and be forgiven in Christ Jesus.
You may not be ready for that with your enemies, I know it is a daily battle for me. That is ok, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. God asks us to seek refuge in Him.
Oh, by the way, if our enemies don’t repent even after our greatest effort to sacrifice for their salvation; Jesus promises us that they will experience His vengeance for all eternity. Until That Day, our calling is to love one another that all people might know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Starting with us and extending to all the world.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 28