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Romans 12:20– heaping embers of fire on the head

13-12-2021 - Posted by Hans

But if your enemy should be hungering, give him the morsel; if he should be thirsting, give him to drink, for in doing this you will be heaping embers of fire on his head.

Because we are at peace with all people, we do not avenge ourselves (:18,19). That attitude is explained in more detail in this verse. Again with a quote from the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 25:21,22). The situation described here would be (humanly speaking) an excellent opportunity to avenge oneself and to ‘repay’ the enemy.

But Paul points a different way. When our enemy is hungry or thirsty, it offers a unique opportunity to show how unconditional God’s love is. But not only that. By feeding or drinking a hungry or thirsty enemy, we make it impossible for him to remain an enemy. That is the meaning of “heaping embers of fire on his head.” No one can sustain that. The enmity melts… and the enemy becomes a friend! That is reconciliation (Rom.5:10).

We see this beautifully illustrated in the history of Joseph. When his hostile brothers came to him in hunger, he gave them plenty to eat. After he made himself known to them, their enmity melted like snow in the sun!