Romans 12:20 “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Even the secular world can advise you to deal with difficult people by “killing them with kindness.” My wife works for Pizza Hut. Occasionally the customer complaints are legitimate. Often they are outrageous:
“My pizza had too much sauce. I want a refund.”
“But you ordered it with extra sauce.”
“I don’t care. It was too much.”
“My pizza was delivered two minutes late. I want credit for another one.”
“But we are in the middle of an ice storm, and we told you that our deliveries were running a little late.”
“That’s not my problem. You should have had it here on time.”
But a happy customer is often a repeat customer, and the best kind of advertising. Company policy is generally to do all you can to accommodate the customer, even if he is being completely unreasonable and more than a little rude. Sometimes he even gets a free pizza out of the deal.
So Paul quotes the proverb here about feeding your enemy and giving him something to drink. Isn’t this consistent with the way that God has treated each of us? “Oh,” we might think, “but I was never God’s enemy. I might not be perfect. I might be a sinner. But I love the Lord!”
Don’t we still have our complaints about how God runs our world and runs our lives? Don’t we maintain our lists of where we disagree with him–those things we think we are going to lecture him about when we get to heaven? Each time we commit a sin, aren’t we functionally opposed to his will and acting like those who are on the other side? Didn’t our sins still put Jesus on the cross? If our sins helped to kill God’s Son, can we still think we haven’t acted like his enemies?
Still, that never stopped the Lord from showing us kindness, even before we came to faith. Earlier in this letter Paul reminds us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we saved through his life!” (5:6-10). Our Lord killed us with his kindness. He fed us when we were hungry. He gave us something to drink when we were thirsty. And doing so turned us from God’s enemies into his children and friends.
That’s why this is also a key for us to live at peace with everyone. No, it won’t change everyone. Some will still stubbornly dislike us even when we show kindness to them. But we don’t know ahead of time who will or who won’t. We don’t know if today is the day our kindness finally breaks through and softens their heart.