Post by Pastor Tim – Romans 12:14-21 is a seminal piece of Scripture for not only understanding the theory of doing good, but also how to practically do good to our enemies. A few of the commands stand out as being particularly relevant for our discussion. Verse 14 says that we should bless our enemies instead of cursing them. Verse 17 builds upon this by challenging us to “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
It’s fascinating that Scripture demands that our response to our enemies start with planning. It doesn’t sound like a course of action that is “spirit-led”, but then again maybe our idea of what constitutes being “spirit-led” needs to change. One blogger captured the irony of being “spirit-led” without planning in his imaginary book, As the Spirit Leads: Doing Church by the Seat of Your Pants. The moral of this imaginary book reference – Don’t do good to your enemy by the seat of your pants!
Why not? If we fail to plan we have a greater chance of being controlled by our emotions and saying and doing things that we would later regret.
Building upon this idea of planning, verse 20 specifically says,
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.
In other words, genuinely doing good to our enemies involves meeting an actual need. Jay Adams in his book How to Overcome Evil says,
The important principle that one must keep in mind in returning good for evil is that the best response is one that meets a pressing need (here hunger and thirst represent, but do not exhaust, that general principle).
God is not asking us to be concerned with our enemies’ every whim, want and desire, but through proper planning to meet their most pressing and important needs. The implication for this command is that we will already know what our enemies’ needs are. If we are cursing our enemy, repaying evil for evil and failing to pray for them, then chances are we are too focused on ourselves to know what their needs really are. Adams continues by saying,
So, the planning of your responses to evil must include research of your enemy. You must find out his needs. That may take time and effort. You cannot simply guess about his needs. This also takes the focus off yourself, helps you to understand him better, and in the end, at the very least, puts you in a position to do some significant good for him.
Ultimately, this is why I can’t tell you what you should specifically do for your enemies. There is no “Wednesday Night Church” program that can do this for you either. We must not only engage in the hard work of spirit-led planning, but also be concerned enough for our enemies that we are intimately aware of their needs and willing to meet those needs.