Most of us who read the Apostle Paul’s words about doing good to those who are our enemies and blessing those who persecute us admit that this is a wonderful way to live. Then, most of us go out and act just like everyone else—as if those words were never really meant to be taken seriously. All about us we see special interest groups waging war with the other side. When we see a righteous cause worth fighting for we Christians assemble a mob and do the same thing. We seem to have bought into the philosophy that if we don’t practice some form of coercion, then our rights will be trampled too.
Somewhere amid the placard waving, shouting, and nose to nose confrontations, I think we have given up our most effective weapons. Why is it Paul said those strange words about “If your enemy is hungry feed him...for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head”? (Actually, he was quoting one of Solomon’s proverbs, written 900 years earlier.) We seem to think he is teaching a do-nothing response so our enemies can push us aside and go ahead with their evil. What he is really showing us is how to neutralize the violence directed at us. “Violence unreturned is a spent force” wrote Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, a German Christian pastor who experienced Nazi violence first hand and was eventually executed by them. When we wave our placards and stand nose to nose with our opponents, we are only confirming their stereotypes of us. We must continue to press for righteousness in every area of life. But, we must do so the way Scripture teaches, with “gentleness and reverence” and a “spirit of power, love and a sound mind.” That kind of response has always confounded the opposition. If God is truly with us, we should expect it to continue to do so.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship