AN AMAZING FACT: In ancient Egypt, a person guilty of some wrongdoing might carry a pan of burning coals on his head as a sign of repentance.
I once read a story about a boy at summer camp who received a box of cookies from home. He ate a few and then put the rest under his bed. The next day they were gone. His counselor saw another boy eating them down by the lake, so he approached the first boy and said, “I know who stole your cookies. Would you like to teach him a lesson?” The boy agreed, so the counselor said, “Ask your mom to send you another box of cookies.”
When the new box arrived, the counselor encouraged the boy to go share them with the boy who had stolen his cookies. He hesitated, “But why? Shouldn’t he be punished?” But the counselor insisted he find the boy and try to share with him anyway. Later the counselor saw the two boys walking with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The kindness of the first boy so touched the one who stole the cookies that he insisted his new friend take his pocketknife as payment for his crime.
I think the hunger in the heart of the little boy who stole the cookies might have been more than physical. Perhaps he didn’t hear from home very much. So by looking beyond the obvious wrong, the first boy touched the heart of this robber and made him a friend. Even though the boy had the right to demand retribution, the counselor’s approach created a companion. Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
David once had the right to execute justice toward an evil man named Nabal. After David and his men protected Nabal’s flocks and herds for months, they requested some supplies, but David’s men were spurned by Nabal, who even threatened them. The future king of Israel was enraged and marched his troops to teach this selfish man a thing or two. But Nabal’s wife got wind of her husband’s selfish response and prepared a large supply of food for David and his men. Then she intercepted David and humbly pleaded for mercy. It touched David’s heart, and he received her gifts and turned back from his mission of vengeance.
When we show kindness to our enemies, it has the potential to bring remorse, to “burn” their conscience. God rewards us when we seek to show love, even to our foes.
Additional reading: Proverbs 25:15–28
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee. Proverbs 25:21-22