How to Heap Burning Coals

The Dangers At This Present Time

People only need to look at social media sites or read the responses to internet blog or news sites to see the extreme vitriol (harsh and angry expressions) being written about both the candidates, Republican and Democrat, for the 2016 November election here in the United States.  

Having experienced many elections in the past, I never dreamed that political conditions would be as extreme as they are today.  These conditions call for an appropriate response from Christians, who need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, rather than the advice of the misguided politicians or media commentators of this world.  Learning from history, we can clearly see where the actions of disgruntled people may lead us because even now rebellion, insurrection, and revolution are being advocated if either Clinton or Trump  is elected, all in the name of freedom and democracy.  

Mob Rule and Peer Pressure

I have witnessed firsthand what mob rule and insurrection may lead to, and the consequences would be extremely detrimental to all of us.  (Click here for a pictorial history of the riots in our community in 1970.)  I was present to hear first Jerry Rubin’s and then William Kuntzler’s inflammatory speeches that ultimately led to the riots in Isla Vista, California (near the University of California in Santa Barbara where I was a student), along with the burning of the Bank of America, and I saw how tempting it could be to join in with those who advocated rebellion and violence.  It’s easier to join the violent mob than it is to resist it, especially if stones are skipping by you!

We need only turn to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans to learn what our proper responses should be during and after the election season coming up.  Here is what Paul wrote to the Roman Church, a Body of Christ that eventually had to endure the worst of persecutions and hatred from the Roman government itself:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Rulers Are Established by God

First of all, Paul writes, even the extremely anti-god government in Rome was “established” by God. This was a government led by the Emperor Nero, the supreme leader who adopted the title of “Caesar” after the first Emperor, Julius Caesar.  Nero claimed divinity himself to solidify his rule and authority.  His power was absolute, even to the point of being worshipped.

What does Paul say about submission to such a ruler?  He writes that resisting the Roman authorities means opposing the will of God and His ordinances.  Paul declares that the ruling authorities are all set in place by God for our good, in spite of what we might think: “It is a minister of God to you for good” (v. 4), one that brings judgment on those who do evil.  Clearly, even a supposedly evil government establishes guidelines that the most wicked and dangerous of people must ultimately obey, a condition that brings protection rather than danger to those who do good to others.  

Those who resist the governing authorities bring wrath upon themselves, therefore, and Paul advises that we do good rather than evil, for doing evil will only call down wrath upon ourselves.  We need to do good, not only because of the wrath that may come upon us, but also for “conscience’ sake.” We must do everything for the glory of God, not for personal gain or power.  This teaching is from the Apostle Paul, who was eventually martyred, decapitated according to tradition.

In my experience, specifically during the protests and riots in 1970 in Isla Vista, those who vociferously called for violence were only interested in gaining followers, notoriety, or power for themselves, and many who were led into these paths of violence were personally injured, arrested, or damaged. One young man was even killed.

Overcome Evil With Good

In fact, in the previous chapter in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Chapter 12), Paul advises that instead of sucumbing to violence we do the following:

Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 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. 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:16-21).

If we want vengeance, therefore, this is the best kind–heaping hot coals on someone’s head!  And how do we do this? We heap hot coals by being kind, generous, loving, and helpful.  We don’t return angry words or actions, even though we ourselves have been insulted or deprived of possessions.  

Personally, “road rage” is what I am most tempted by.  Just an angry look by some driver makes me angry, and I am tempted to return some kind of angry or evil reply.  Thank the Lord that I have been able to resist this temptation! I’ve further decided that if anyone insults me on the road that I will help down the road if I see that person’s car in a ditch or in need of fuel.  That’s the best way to “heap hot coals!”

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