Saint Paul instructs us to do good things for our enemies so that they may be won over by our good deeds (Romans 12:9-21 ESV): “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Perhaps you have heard the story of the woman who had a horrible mother-in-law. Every time the mother-in-law did something evil, the woman baked her a cake. Eventually the mother-in-law developed diabetes and died. Well, perhaps that is not exactly what Saint Paul had in mind.
But, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, win them over by our actions, so that we may show ourselves to be true sons of the Father and receive a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:43-48). Disciples are to be humble followers of Christ. He bore the cross of our sin, guilt and shame to win our freedom from eternal condemnation. And, He calls us to carry our own crosses of serving others to glorify His name and expand His kingdom.
When we do good things for those who hurt us, we may well win them over. How many times have you seen a student act out at school or a fellow employee react in anger and later find out what was really behind their actions? They were undoubtedly having trouble dealing with problems in their lives. Something was going wrong and you became the focus of their rage. It is at that precise moment that you need to show them the love of Jesus Christ. Ask them questions. Take time to listen to the issue that is behind their behavior. Express your concern for them and desire to help.
Saint Paul reminds us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). And, what changes people is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People often learn about that Gospel by seeing it in action in our lives. And, if after repeatedly praying and showing your enemy the love of Christ, he persists, do not worry. God will deal with him some day.
So, go ahead. Do good deeds for your enemies. Share the good news of Jesus Christ. Bake that mother-in-law a cake or perhaps fix her a nice salad. Amen.