Aloha Friday Message – October 15, 2010 – A Conciliatory Aloha Friday


Happy Aloha Friday, Beloved. Today’s Bible passage is from Chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Last week on October 8, we looked at verses 1 & 2. Two weeks ago we looked at Proverbs 13:10 – about contentious pride. This week concludes a sort of triad of thoughts included in those passages. I promise I will try to be brief. Here is the selection for this week.

Romans 12: 17-21
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[1] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

[1] Prov. 25:21, 22

So, looking at our previous passages, Paul reinforces the idea that being contentious arises from pride of character or failure to submit one’s mental and physical passions to God’s rule. We should not do that, but instead, with genuine humility, we should seek to honor others at least as much – if not more that – ourselves. God is better at meting out punishment; after all His just and Mercy are each perfect whereas ours certainly are not. It takes a great deal of strength to bless your enemies, to feed them, quench their thirst, and to love them rather than curse them (See Matthew 5:43-48. Seriously. Look it up, please.)

But hold on, what’s this about setting your enemies on fire? You care for and nurture them so you can torture them better? No, you are right. That doesn’t make sense. When I chose this passage, I chose it because there are some fascinating critiques on this subject, and I want to share some of them with you so that perhaps your perspective may be widened or deepened. I will cite the link from which I bring you each of these comments;

Heap coals of burning fire

What does it mean to heap coals of fire upon someone’s head? This has been described as a reference to an Oriental custom. A fire in the center of a village was kept going day and night. This fire was used to light the fires in individual homes each day. Every morning a village youth would put a container on his head, and hot coals would be heaped into it. He would then go from house to house distributing the hot coals so that the villagers could start their fires. On cold days this was an enviable job, since the heat from the coals of fire kept the head and hands of the youth warmed. To heap coals of fire on someone’s head, then, means to warm him, and, by extension, to bless him.

This sounds like a reasonable explanation, even though some problems become evident when you think about it. On mornings that are not so cold, it seems that this could be a very uncomfortable job. Also, the youth was kept warm as he went about doing good to others. The reference is to someone who is actively doing evil. Still, the explanation seems plausible.
It means to treat someone who wrongs you with extra kindness, above and beyond the norm and in spite of whatever they have done to you. It usually shocks the person and points out to them that they have done something wrong.
Behind the words in Greek: The Greek word anthrax, translated “burning coals,” appears only this one time in the NT, and it is from this word that we get our English word “anthrax” (which signifies a fiery boil or ulcer; an infectious, usually fatal disease of cattle, sheep, etc., which can be transmitted to man; it is characterized by malignant, burning pustules).

[The first time I heard this my head was buzzing with questions about how Paul tied this into the passage in proverbs.] The Greek word soreuo appears only twice in the NT (here and II Tim. 3:6). It signifies a heaping up into a pile. “To overwhelm with a heaping together of anything” (Thayer, p. 612).

“It is clear that the ‘coals of fire’ which are to be heaped on the head are meant to melt and soften the heart, and cause it to glow with love. There may be also included the burning pangs of shame felt by a man whose evil is answered by good. But these are secondary and auxiliary to the true end of kindling the fire of love in his alienated heart” (Maclaren, p. 302-303).

“Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of pain. Burning coals heaped on a man’s head would be expressive of intense agony. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance” (Barnes, p. 289).

“The metaphor is supposed to be taken from the melting of metals, by covering the ore with burning coals. Thus understood, the meaning will be: In so doing, thou wilt mollify thine enemy, and bring him to a good temper” (MacKnight, p. 440-41).
So artists melt the sullen ore of lead,
By heaping coals of fire upon its head.
In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,
And pure from dross the silver runs below.
— (Clarke, p. 142)
“Do not withhold from any man the offices of mercy and kindness; you have been God’s enemy, and yet God fed, clothed, and preserved you alive: do to your enemy as God has done to you” (Clarke, p. 142).

“The meaning of ‘heaping burning coals on his head’ is hardly open to doubt. It must refer to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love” (Expos. Greek, p. 694).

When your enemies treat you with kindness and are conciliatory, are you more inclined to spring to a renewed attack, or return the kindness with the goal of reconciliation?

W-W-J-D ? Easy answer: Die for you to reconcile you to God.


• For E.L. who suffered a harrowing brush with death during a canoe-paddling race between Moloka`i and Maui: Pray for rapid and complete healing. And add in some thanksgiving and praise for the miraculous rescue.
• For M.H. who continues a brave stand against a cancer in her abdomen: Pray that as her body and spirit fight the illness, he faith will conquer it. Pray for the most ideal healing possible for her body, mind, and spirit.
• For C.D., separated from family for months on end: Pray that work in the vicinity of home can be found so the family can be reunited.
• For B.A. and his family: Continued strength, blessing, and courage.
• For N.B.: Discernment and wise choices to protect the future by accepting guidance and discipline in the present.
• For N.A: Continues in declining health which is bolstered by escalating faith. Despite many setbacks, the Pilgrim continues to bless others through unselfish service. Pray for a slowing of health problems and another big boost in faith.
• For the T.T.’s: Health, security, steady employment, and reconciliation.
• For everyone who prays for you and everyone who asks for your prayers – especially if you’ve never met or even heard of each other: Pray they will always find mercy and kindness in their hearts so that they can share the warmth of that with everyone – including their enemies and your enemies.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

I love you. Thank you for all your kindness. You light up my life and give me the warmth of hope!


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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