Main passage for this post: Romans 12:9–21. All Scripture quotes are from the HCSB.
People really love telling others to be nice to their enemies because the Bible says, “it’s like throwing hot coals on their heads.” In other words be nice to your enemies because it ticks them off, right?” In the words of Paul, “Absolutely not!” Telling our family and friends, especially children that the Bible says this is not only doing them a disservice, but it is incorrect. Follow the logic in the statement. Wording it this way implies that the only reason we are nice to those that are not nice to us is to get revenge. That my friends is not biblical.
What does the passage say just above this often quoted piece in Romans 12:19? It states:
“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.”
When we try to help somebody with this passage it is very important that we express the real reason we are to be kind and help even our enemies. That reason is because our primary duty is love. Romans 13:10 says:
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”
It becomes all the more important when we remember that Christ is love does it not? The focus cannot be on “heaping fiery coals.” That is nit-picking the part of the passage that sounds the best. That is making the words of God your own words and all about you. The words of God are not for your personal agenda. Everything prior to the part about heaping fiery coals is about how we are to be better. Every bit of it is about NOT doing evil. And I tell you that directing people to be nice to their enemies because it is the best way to “get back at them” is sinful and evil in its intention and common sense dictates that was is sinful and evil is not good and because it is not good it is not of God. We are given 28 instructions in Romans 12: 9–20 before we even get to the fiery coals. I bet that means the whole part about the coals means something else entirely doesn’t it?
I do not intend to take a verse out of context, but Romans 11:11 states:
“I ask then, have they stumbled in order to fall? Absolutely not! On the contrary, by their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.”
Now, why would making Israel jealous be a good thing? While it is a complicated topic I will save for discussion, it could be summarized that in making Israel jealous they will see what they are missing and strive to do better. At least that is the round-about way I am relating it to the fiery coals description in Romans 12:20. (This definitely needs some more work. Another blog post perhaps! Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.)
In closing I would just like to remind everyone how important it is to not focus on such a small part of a verse all the time. Many of us have heard and said this phrase and I doubt it usually crosses many people’s mind what the whole passage is about. Take the time to read Romans. Make it a goal for at least one day. There is a lot to learn here and it can become very complicated.