Putting Coals of Fire on Difficult People


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By Henry Nelson | November 1, 2009

Romans 12:17“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. “{{more}}This message came about because of a situation I had in my career. Someone lied on me and it made me angry. I had to realize it was only Satan going about his business; however I was hurt because I felt I had been wronged. So that is how this week’s message was born. When someone hurts you how are you to respond with revenge or love? Before Christ the Old Testament law was “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Jesus brought a new level of ethical law, the law of love. The word “revenge” has no place in the life of a Christ follower. Amen!There are some people who live for revenge. I tell them I know about God’s love and the need to forgive just as Jesus forgives sin. One man said, “If my brother goes to heaven, I do not want to go there. I would rather go to hell than be where my brother is.” This man had a hard and bitter heart. This feel this brother needs prayer. Amen!I had to remember that Christ followers are called to a higher calling. How are you to treat people who hurt you? Do you seek revenge? Is your attitude – “I’ll get even or else die trying?”God’s Word makes it clear that Christ followers are called to a higher standing of morality than the standards of this world.The Ten Commandments and the teaching of Jesus call us to live a life of integrity. Christ’s love is to be evident in your daily life 7 days a week. Christ followers are to live at a higher standard than the standards of this world. Jesus tells in Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, but I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People do not want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People do not want spiritual health. They do not even want physical health. They just want to get even.”You know people that are consumed with revenge. They have been hurt and live to settle the score and get even.The Apostle Paul tells you how to get even with people who hurt you He says “to put coals of flame on their heads.” What is Paul talking about? Heaping coals of flame on a person’s head does not seem too kind. When you return kindness and blessing to those who hurt you, your acts of kindness magnify their sense of guilt. Your love and kindness may drive them to repentance. Paul is saying that your returning good for evil will bring “burning pangs of shame and contrition” on the one hurting you.No Christian is to seek revenge. To seek revenge is to take the work of God out of God’s hand. God has reserved vengeance for Himself. When you think of seeking revenge, think of Jesus. He was unjustly accused, whipped, inflicted with pain, yet when he hung on the cross; he did not seek revenge. Jesus demonstrated that God is love. Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?” Amen!Are you dealing with difficult people? Put coals of fire on their heads. Take the Offensive in showing love to difficult people. In working with difficult people take the offensive. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Amen!The Apostle Paul had experienced firsthand how doing good can overcome evil. Paul saw in the life of Stephen, the truth of Romans 12:14 carried out. “If people persecute you because you are a Christian, do not curse them, pray that God will bless them.” Amen!Paul was behind the stoning to death of Stephen. He witnessed the response of Stephen as he lay dying as Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord do not charge them with this sin!”When someone hurts you what do you do? Why not take the offensive. Pray for them. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Amen! Go out of your way not to avoid them, but to speak words of kindness and words of encouragement. Remember Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Amen! You can only do so much so do not heap false guilt on yourself if you have done as much as you can to show kindness. Do not be a glutton for pain, God gave you two legs to walk away or run. There are some people you have to just agree to disagree with and press on. Respond with kindness and heap burning coals on their head. Acts of kindness are unexpected and may move them to burning shame for what they have done.Returning hatred for hatred only increases hatred. Booker T Washington said, “I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him. The only way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” Amen!To deal with difficult people you have to respond with the higher law the law of love. Take the offensive! Return good for evil. A third way to respond is to offer forgiveness with acts of kindness. You must offer forgiveness with acts of kindness. Romans 12:20 says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” Amen!How are you to treat your enemies? Bring them together and give them a banquet and then send them home. Kill their spirit of hatred with kindness and love. What is your plan of action when people falsely accuse you or say hurtful things about you? Do you heap burning coals of fire by responding with acts of kindness or gossip about them and assassinate their character? Do you rejoice when bad things happen to them or pray for them and do what you can to help meet their needs? Forgiveness is the hallmark of Christian love. We forgive because Jesus has forgiven us. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:13Is seeking forgiveness and receiving forgiveness worth it? Sure it is! Forgiveness brings peace of heart and mind. Forgiveness brings a restful night. Revenge is not only harmful to your spiritual relationship with God it is also harmful to your physical body.Dr. Granger Westberg the founder of Holistic Medicine Inc. in Chicago asks this question en talking to doctors and nurses and pastors: What is the healthiest hour of the week? How would you answer that question? Dr. Westberg surprises many people by answering, “The hour of worship on Sunday morning.” One medical study shows that the major cause of sickness is revenge. Dr. Westberg quotes a survey of stroke patients most of whom admitted that there was someone against whom they felt a significant amount of revenge. In many cases, that revenge is a repressed feeling, an attitude instead of an expressed action. That same medical study shows that the major factor in staying healthy is gratitude. The psalmist had the right idea: “Praise is comely for the upright.”Worship at its best offers the opportunity to resolve conflict through forgiveness and to express feelings of gratitude through praising God for his acts of grace and mercy. At its best, the church is a healing community. A healing community where all attendees are encouraging and praying for each other. Amen!Is there a difficult person in your life? Do you need to pour coals of fire of kindness on that person? Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to give words of encouragement and acts of kindness? Jesus is available to heal relationships that only He can heal. Whatever your need you can come to Jesus and find healing.Many people say: “I would like to come to God, but right now I am too down. Let me get my act together first. Then I will become a Christian. If I come now, it will be because of my desperate need.” Jesus takes you just as you are and leads you forward.After you have read this week’s message bow your head in prayer. Allow the Lord to examine your heart. Is there anyone you need to contact and ask for their forgiveness? Is there anyone you need to offer acts of kindness? Is there anyone you need to call or write a letter? Is there anyone you need to give a special blessing? Determine to do it now. Take immediate action because putting coals of fire on difficult people brings results. Amen!”