Read Romans 12:22-21
God’s ways are not our ways. But burning coals? On someone’s head? Really?
Yes, red-hot coals of a fire (John 21:9). Proverbs 25:21–22 refers to burning coals: “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.” Paul quotes this passage again in Romans 12 (MSB), “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. I’ll do the judging.”
Paul continues in addressing the proper response of a Christian when treated wrongly. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v.21). Anyone can return evil for evil; but when a Christian does so, then it appears there is nothing different about his life. That happened in the inspirational 2018 film GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS. It is a great message: When treated wrongly, remember to respond in patience, kindness, peace and gentleness. And, in my view, especially self control.
When we follow Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–44) and return good for evil, the contrast is stark. Our kind and gentle reaction to mistreatment spotlights the indecency of the one who treated us poorly. Nothing touches the conscience of a disagreeable person like a soft, forgiving spirit in the one he has wronged (Proverbs 15:1).
Burning coals in the Bible also may symbolize judgment (Psalm 140:10) and spiritual purification (Isaiah 6:6). God is compared often to fire (Hebrews 12:9) and is described in terms that relate to fire’s heat, brightness, and power (Psalm 18:8).
Burning coals is the right response to those who do us harm and it allows God’s own power and judgment to fall upon that person. Let God do the judging. Wait for the response God brings – in His own time.
When we relinquish to God our right to take revenge, we show faith in His justice.
Responding the way Jesus did to His enemies (Luke 23:34) allows the “burning coals” of God’s righteousness to operate within the soul of that person and hopefully bring him to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). It is something to strive for!