Posted by: jobelenus | April 23, 2007

Romans 12.17-21

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath {of God,} for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I hesitate to even write commentary next to this verse. We understand that “heaping burning coals on his head” is a positive reference, to encourage good relations. Taking this statement in light of the Sermon on the Mount – which references those who persecute you as your enemies – you are to feed those who persecute you.

Persecution is the worst evil one human can do to another. Here we have in mind religious persecution. The early Christians were killed for no other reason than what they believed. We can easily extend this to cultural persecution, so-called “ethnic cleansings”. They are being killed for no other reason than their heritage. What is a Christian’s response to this action against them? Feed the one who persecutes you, give him water to drink. Not kill him.



  1. These verses of Ro 12 are radical. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone…Never take your own revenge.” This simple statement is remarkably exclusionary. If I never pay back evil or take revenge then (1) if my enemy slanders me, I may not slander him back (2) if my enemy insults me, I may not insult him back (3) if my enemy uses physical violence against me, I may not retaliate with physical violence (4) if my enemy shoots at me with a gun, I may not shoot back at him.

  2. Another text which reminded me of Rom 12 is:

    1 Thessalonians 5:13b-15
    Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

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