Now there is a dramatic and vivid title statement about being kind and loving to everyone; especially those who persecute you from Romans 12:20 and Proverbs 25:21. This is an idiom of unknown origin. One writer suggested it might be like an ancient custom of carrying a pan of hot coals on your head as a sign of contrition. Perhaps it is just somewhat like the idiom of “He came to me with his hat in his hand.” It is a humiliating experience to have to go with your hat in you hand asking for help when you are down. We are to be kind to one another and this phrase is to show that the purpose of kindness is to bring the conscience of the opposition to do its job. It is our hope that our good conduct might bring about humility and repentance in others.
The whole passage is about caring for an enemy, bringing water or food for them, not evil but good. Paul’s teaching is about loving all people. This is about brotherly love, which is really hard when people are like porcupines. Some people are enigmas, you just can’t figure our how to approach them, they just do not respond. Therefore Paul also said in Romans 12:18, “If it is at all possible, as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with every one.” Get it? There are some people with whom you will never get along. In fact Joyce Meyer, a TV Bible teacher, recently said that there are 10% of people who will never like you no matter what you do or say.
So we do what we can to care for or love others without being hypocritical but “sincere” as Romans 12:9 admonishes us. We are to bless those who persecute us and live in harmony with one another. This is incredibly difficult. In fact, I believe it is impossible without God’s help. “Being devoted to one another in brotherly love” and “honoring others above ourselves” is just plain un-human. Yes it is. But Paul says, nonetheless, never stop lacking zeal and spiritual fervor while serving the Lord. This means in spite of others, “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer…share and offer hospitality” (Romans 12:12,13). This action requires Holy Spirit driven power and compassion, the whole fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22.
Now back to the title. Now that I have studied these verses, I see that it does not matter what others do. I know some of you would gladly just dump hot coals on someone’s head, and that would take care of them. It is all about bringing good not evil. The world would do the coal thing; we must bring the cookies and smile. Really, bring the spirit of humility and grace, given by the only One who can, Jesus. AMEN