Battling with any of those especially difficult people? We all have them. Sometimes we are them. They irritate us, hurt us, offend us, and sometimes (for reasons we can’t begin to understand) they dislike us. What’s wrong with them?
We replay conversations and encounters with them over and over in our minds. We anticipate the next experience we might have with them. “I’ll be stronger. I’ll say …. I won’t let them ….” We lose sleep. We eat less … or eat more. We feel distracted; sometimes depressed.
It could be a spouse, one of our children, a neighbor, a boss, a classmate, or a workmate. There’s no telling where they might emerge from; sometimes from places we least expect. But we can count on one thing—they will come.
In Romans 12, Paul has some very basic (and helpful) advice. Perhaps it would help to hear him again.
Because of grace … “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge but leave room for God to take care of things.” (vv.17-19).
I don’t always want to live on this higher level. Sometimes it feels momentarily good to be angry or spiteful; to give a little of what I’ve had to take. Have you ever felt that way? Besides, if I take the high road, someone is likely to take advantage of me. And this whole thing – what they said, what they did – is totally unfair and uncalled-for. I don’t deserve it.
So I like Paul’s next statement, that if I respond graciously (even if I have to grit my teeth to do so), I’ll be “heaping burning coals on their head.” (v.20) Ahhh. That’s more like it. Give them a little grief. Be nice and watch them get burned with shame, regret, or embarrassment. That feels more like it. But, in fact, I’ve missed the basic meaning of this Jewish idiom in the Bible. Burning coals is not promising shame, guilt, or anything else. It’s an old way of simply saying, “Trust it to God.”
Can I really do that? Can you? This week, if one (or some) of those difficult people has risen up in your life, can you trust Christ to handle it? He sees it, understands it, and will hold us through it. Let’s overcome evil with good.
Because of grace … and only because of it.