Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

The Work of the Shepherds; Part 2

The Work of the Shepherds (Part Two)

Job Requirements for Elders/Overseers/Pastors:

© C. O. Bishop 7/28/16 THCF 7/31/16

1st Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1st Peter 5:1-4

Introduction:

Last time, we talked about the Work of the Shepherds, and we concentrated on the nature of the job: what the shepherd is expected to do. Where I work, as part of my job, I teach classes on Certified Welding Inspection. In the course of the 12-week class, we thoroughly discuss the nature of the job, and how to accomplish each task. My goal is to prepare the students for a national exam offered locally, twice a year. That exam consists of three 2-hour tests, all of which have to be passed, in order to qualify for certification. You really have to be well prepared, in order to pass. The exam costs over $1000, to apply… if you fail, you do not get a refund.

Welding inspection is serious business. A team of welding inspectors over in Minneapolis, a few years back, found cracks in a bridge. They recommended more inspections. (How would that help?? The welds are already cracked!) The bridge collapsed soon afterward, during rush-hour traffic, killing a number of innocent people. No inspector was held responsible…they had properly inspected, and had found the cracks. Someone else had made the decision to keep using the bridge. As far as I know, no one was held responsible. But God does hold the Shepherds accountable for what they do with his flock! The job of shepherding a church is far more serious than that of inspecting welds. Remember what God said in Ezekiel 34: “Woe unto you shepherds!” Why? Because they had not been doing the job correctly. He charged them with seven counts of nonfeasance of duty, including at least one of outright malfeasance. Spiritual Shepherding affects lives for eternity…not just for today.

When I train welding inspectors, one of the things that comes up is the qualifications for the job. One requirement, obviously, is passing those three rigorous tests. But other qualifications have to do with the inspector’s level of education and/or experience. Still others have to do with visual acuity. One of my students was deeply disappointed to find that color-blindness is a disqualifier, too. His vision was otherwise good, and he has the necessary education and experience, as well as stellar character; but he suffered from one particular type of color-blindness (blue-green, I think); so, no matter how else he was qualified, that one thing disqualified him. It is a sad situation, but that is the truth. It is possible for a person to be of stellar character in every other way, but still be disqualified from a particular job for something very simple. I knew a man who was a fighter-pilot, in a certain specific type of military aircraft. He assured me that it was entirely possible to be “too big for the job.” (Sorry—you do have to be able to fit into that thing, mister!) It was a simple fact of practicality, and reflected in no way on the person.

So, along with the discussion regarding the work of Shepherds, we find it necessary to talk about the job requirements of Elders. I am deliberately changing nouns, here, because it is possible for a person to carry out much of the work of shepherding, without being an Elder. All Elders are responsible, at one level or another, for shepherding, but not all shepherds are Elders.

Qualifications of Elders (Including Overseers, Bishops, Pastors, etc.)

There are three primary passages which lay out the prerequisites—the job qualifications—of church leadership; specifically, the office of “Bishop” (also called Elder, Pastor, Overseer, Shepherd, and Presbyter.) If you are taking notes, it would be good to write down these three references:

  1. 1st Timothy 3:1-7
  2. Titus 1:5-9
  3. 1st Peter 5:1-4

Collectively, these three passages give the full list of qualifications, but they only discuss the nature of the job itself in very brief terms. The passage we read two weeks ago, in Ezekiel 34, gave a much fuller treatise on the nature of the job…but no qualifications. So these are “companion passages” with the one in Ezekiel, along with many others which touch individually upon specific aspects of the job, or specific character requirements.

Now, some may think that the qualifications are too stringent: sorry—I did not write them. On the other hand, it is possible to interpret those requirements in such a way as to render them so restrictive as to be useless. We want to avoid the latter, while not diminishing in any way the gravity of the job, and the serious nature of the qualifications. In order to do so, we must bear in mind the purpose of the requirements: we are to use these requirements as a means by which to recognize someone whom God is raising up as a leader…not to “screen out” people we consider to be “unworthy”, or something.

To begin with, I must point out that these requirements are also not a “grab-bag”; they are neither a smorgasbord, nor a “wish-list”. They are real requirements, and every elder is required to fit all of them, to one degree or another. We recognize that different peoples’ gifts will make them “shine” in one area, while they are “just satisfactory” in others. That is another good reason for a plurality of elders in a church. The gifts of all those elders, hopefully, will supplement and complement one another, to better meet the needs of the Church.

1st Timothy 3:1-7 (Speaking about Elders/Overseers.)

1This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

We can see a clear list of requirements; some are easily understood, some not so easily. We will try to discuss them all.

Job Requirements from 1st Timothy 3:

  1. Desiring the job. If a person is unwilling to take the responsibility, or simply hasn’t the heart for the work, then they should not be considered for the office of Elder, even though they may qualify in every other way. In this sense, I could say it is a “calling”, though I am careful with that word. Every single believer is called to serve. (Romans 8:28-30)
  2. Blameless—above reproach. This literally means “there is nothing in his life that one could lay hold of” and make legitimate accusation. It embraces all that follows, so that the list is not a smorgasbord, from which you just choose as many as you want. They all have to be there.
  3. Husband of one wife. This is one that invites controversy. On the one extreme, we have those who insist that the candidate must be married, and can only have been married once: if his wife dies or leaves him, regardless of circumstance, he is no longer qualified. On the other side we have those who say it only means a “one-woman man”.
    The fact is, it does literally say “man of one woman” in the Greek. But, the Greek words andra, (Man) and guné (Woman) are also used to mean “husband” and “wife”. So it could mean “husband of one wife”. I try to compare the whole context, here: all the requirements—all of them—are character traits, or gifting. If this one is a “track-record” issue, rather than a character trait, then it is the only one such. In every case, the current track-record (perhaps since they have been a believer, or perhaps only since maturity as a believer) simply serves to demonstrates the character that God has developed in the man.
    I have known several men whose wife left them under circumstances over which the man had no control. He never demonstrated any character flaw in the matter. But many organizations would reject him for service. On the other hand, I have observed that if there is a character flaw involved, it will eventually resurface, in a repeating pattern.
  4. This is one we are all urged to embrace. Peter said (1st Peter 5:8) “be sober; be vigilant…” why? Because there is a deadly enemy prowling the world. An Elder must be continually aware of the dangers to the flock.
  5. Same thing. It means taking life pretty seriously…and the work of the shepherd absolutely seriously. This isn’t “kid-stuff.”
  6. Of Good Behavior. Remember that an elder is to be setting an example for the rest of the flock. We see this one explained in 1st Peter 5:3.
  7. Given to Hospitality. The Greek word literally means the “love of the stranger” (philoxenon). It means that he is going to have an open-armed policy toward “outsiders”…welcoming them, not desiring to be isolated from them.
  8. Apt to teach. As far as I can tell, this is the only requirement that is a gifting issue. If it simply meant “able to teach” then it would be pointless, as everyone is able to teach something. But a teacher, in the New Testament is a person gifted to understand and transfer understanding of spiritual truth, from God’s Word, so that others can profit thereby. Some translations say “qualified” to teach; that is not accurate. The Greek word is “didaktikon”, and in modern Greek language it just means “teaching”, whereas “didaskalos” still means “teacher”.
  9. Not Given to Wine. This one seems obvious, but is reiterated elsewhere, as “not given to much wine”… in other words, he has no addiction to drink. I expect that we could extend that to other social drugs as well. It is just that alcohol was about the only one available in that time and place. But I do think it is talking about addictions, not dependencies. I don’t think that a person whose physical condition requires, by a doctor’s order, that they be on medication, is thereby disqualified from service. (But there have been organizations that took that stance.) This is talking about a character issue, not a medical issue.
  10. No Striker. Not a violent person. Not one who resorts to violence to assert his will, or to settle a dispute. It does not forbid self-defense, military service, police service, etc. There are many whose jobs occasionally require physical violence who have never been in a fight anywhere else. They simply do the job when it is required…it does not reflect on their character.
  11. Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre. Some translations say “sordid gain”. He’s not in the church for the sake of personal gain. Money is not an issue. No avarice in his character.
  12. This is actually translated from the Greek word epieike, and this is the only place it is translated “patient”—usually, it is translated “gentle”. Most newer translations render it that way. And, it fits, as it is in contrast to the next one:
  13. Not a Brawler. (Greek amachos) This is not just talking about physical fighting, but general cantankerousness…argumentativeness, belligerence…trouble-hunting. It literally means without striving, but it certainly would include without fighting.
  14. Not covetous. This one is similar to the one about “not greedy of sordid gain”…it literally means “free from the love of money.” (Greek philargurion “love of silver”)
  15. One Who Rules Well His Own House. This is strictly about family life; home life. How does he handle his own wife and kids? How does he treat them, and make decisions there? What have the results been?
  16. Not a Novice. A certain level of maturity and experience needs to be in place before a man should be considered for leadership. Fortunately, as maturity develops, a man who is gifted to serve in this capacity also begins serving, choosing to voluntarily shoulder responsibility, and faithfully discharging that responsibility. How a person takes responsibility and then does the task they have embraced is a good mark of maturity.
    Appointing an immature believer to the office of an elder is a sure way to produce a stumbling block of pride in his life, possibly destroying the testimony of the man you were hoping to see in leadership. Be very careful not to cross this line. By the way, this has to do with spiritual maturity, not just chronological age. There are some who never grow up. Their age will not be the deciding factor, but rather their maturity in Christ.
  17. Having a good report of them which are without. How does the unbelieving community in your area see the man? Does he have a reputation for honesty, kindness, and integrity? Remember, those unbelievers are not enamored of his “pulpit presence” nor his “bedside manner.” They are dealing with him in entirely secular matters. How does he deal with the lost world around him, and how are they responding to him? (By the way, this rules out hiring a pastor from outside the community: a letter of recommendation cannot fulfil this requirement. And, how much more important it must be, that the local assembly of believers also know him and his family?)

Some of the above requirements are simply reiterated or re-stated, in Titus and 1st Peter, but we will address those passages as well.

Titus 1:5-9 (Speaking about Elders)

5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

  1. Plurality of elders (as we have seen in every case) is taught here, in verse 5.
  2. Having believing children, not accused of riot or unruly. Verse 6 reiterates some of the qualifications listed in 1st Timothy, but expands upon the issue of children: This is where we get the idea that an elder’s children must not be “out of control”. There are people who take this to mean that “if he has no children, he is not qualified.” I believe if he does have children, and they are out of control, then perhaps he needs to deal with that, rather than further burdening himself with something bigger. Again, I think this is a case where “track-record demonstrates character”: one may have a reputation for having well-behaved children, and later those same children may choose to rebel and walk away from God. If a man has children at home, are they in good control? That is the issue.
  3. The overseer (bishop, elder) is the Steward of God. He has to be faithful to feed the flock. There can be no laxity in one’s attitude toward the task. (See 2nd Timothy 2:2 Reliability is the issue. Can the flock count on him…always?)
  4. Not self-willed. The Man of God has to be in submission to God. This is not a popularity contest, or a personality cult, so there is no place for a big ego. This is a place to emulate Christ, in saying “not my will, but Thine be done!” This is a place to take a step back, and put other people’s desires and plans ahead of his own.
  5. Not Soon Angry. Patience and long-suffering should preclude a “short fuse”, or a bad temper. It should be really difficult to get a man angry, who is truly submitted to God.
  6. A lover of good Men. Who does he hang around with? This is the old “birds of a feather flock together” idea. If you can see that the people around whom he is most comfortable are people who are secular, or ungodly, then maybe there is a hidden problem.
  7. Fair, in his dealings with others. Having a right walk with God, and demonstrating it, in his dealings with others.
  8. Separated to God’s service. He is no longer his own man. He belongs to Jesus.
  9. In good control in all areas of life. His sin nature is not in control…God is.
  10. Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught. Able to understand and remember sound doctrine, to the extent of being able and willing to stand for truth, and back it up from the Bible. Paul goes on to say that there are some people whose mouths need to be closed by sound teaching, to keep them from engaging in false teaching. That is part of the elder’s job, in defending the flock from predators.

1st Peter 5:1-4 (Speaking to Elders)

1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Most of this passage is “task-oriented,” as to “how the job is to be carried out” but we can glean a few more job-requirement ideas, too:

  1. Not by Constraint. The task is to be done willingly, not “because you have to”. If you are unwilling, then don’t take the job. It is one thing to see the task as something that “needs to be done”, but entirely another to feel that you are being “forced” to do it.
  2. Not for Filthy Lucre. The elder is not to be motivated by a hope for gainful employment. That is not what this is about. Virtually every good pastor I have known could have earned better money elsewhere, in a secular job, with less stress. I know of a few exceptions, but the issue here, is that money is not to be what drives a man to serve.
  3. Of a Ready Mind. The elder is both a “draftee” and a volunteer. He is called to this work, possibly reluctantly (consider Jeremiah 1:4-7), but he is also a volunteer (consider Isaiah 6:1-8.) Yes, you have been “called,” but you still have to say, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” You have to answer that call willingly.
  4. Not as Lords over God’s Heritage. You are not the “Big Cheese”. If you want this job so people will honor you, you really should find something else to do—be a politician, maybe, or an entertainer. This is not about power, or position, or personal glory; it is about service, and submission to God.
  5. Examples to the Flock. You have to take this one seriously. You are a role model, whether you like it or not. You are supposed to be leading by example. It is not acceptable to not “practice what you preach.” You must lead by example.
  6. Finally: Expect your reward from Jesus. He is our master, and the one to whom we look for reward. If you get confused about that, so that being an elder or pastor is just a job; a way to earn an income, then you have forgotten whom you serve, and should just go get a secular job somewhere. If Jesus is really the One whom you serve, then all the frustrations of the job will just be part of dealing with Sheep, and you are joining the True Shepherd in His work, and will join him in his joy and His reward.

Conclusion:

That is what the scriptures say regarding the qualification of Elders. God takes it seriously: I trust that we can also take it seriously, and apply it to our lives as a Church.

Lord Jesus, turn our eyes upon you, the Great Shepherd, and let us see your perfect example. Raise up men to oversee your flock. The Harvest is plenteous, as you have said, but the laborers are few.
Make us your laborers, and raise us up into your service.


Christian Living and Relationships; Part 4

Christian Living and Relationships; Part Four

Dealing with Human Adversaries

© C. O. Bishop, 6/7/16 THCF 7/3/16

Romans 12:14-21

Introduction:

Dealing with human adversaries is an unpleasant reality, but a reality, nonetheless. Believe it or not, there will be folk who don’t like you, and the reverse is true as well. It is dishonest to ourselves and to God, to pretend that it never happens, though some personalities seem to have an easier time dealing with unpleasant people than do others. Those people are a blessing.

I read about a man who always had something nice to say about people. It was habitual, though sometimes just a matter of personal discipline. He and a friend were driving cross-country on business, when they saw a hitch-hiker. They stopped and gave the man a ride, but soon regretted that decision: the fellow smelled bad, he cursed constantly, as he complained non-stop about life in general: local politics, the weather, and everything else that came to mind. Finally they dropped him off near his home, and he grunted some sort of insincere thanks, and was gone.

The driver, less inclined to say pleasant things, turned to his friend, and said, “OK, brother! What can you say nice about that guy?” The “man of blessing” thought for a moment, then looked out the window and said, “He surely lives in a pretty part of the country!” That sort of person is a blessing to be around. But there is more to it than just saying mice things: Let’s see what Paul says.

Dealing with Human Enemies…with Love

Paul gives good instructions, here, as to how to deal with human enemies. Over in Ephesians 6, Paul points out that our real enemies are not flesh and blood people, but satanic forces that motivate the world around us. He gives us weaponry and armor to deal with those enemies. But here, he gives instructions as to how to deal with the human adversaries in life.

The underlying principle is Love, whether with believers or unbelievers: just human adversaries in general. It is unfortunately not unusual to find two Christians who behave like adversaries toward one another. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. So, in that case, even more emphatically, the underlying principle is to be Love…the Agapé Love. Jesus says so, too! (Matthew 5:44)

Blessing

14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

This is where it begins. You are to be a blessing to the people around you, regardless of who they are. Bless your enemies as well as your friends. Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” It begins with you committing yourself to being a blessing to those around you, even if they are a curse to you. That is a loose definition of Agapé love, actually: “Committing oneself to the good of another, without regard to how it affects oneself.” Keep in mind that this is exactly what Jesus did at the Cross. John 13:1 concludes, “…having loved His own which were in the World, He loved them to the end.” How? The word used here is agapao: He committed himself to the Cross for their sake, but kept teaching and encouraging them all the way there. And, in the midst of that course, he said “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34, 35)

Empathy and Compassion

15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

We tend to think of this only as “how we deal with other believers”…but what better way to deal in Love with an enemy, than to be genuinely glad when things go well for them, and genuinely distressed for them when things do not go well. This behavior builds bridges, not walls.

There was a young man, years ago at work, who was bitterly opposed to the Gospel, and hated Christians. I don’t know why he felt that way, and I was never privileged to discuss it with him. But one day, I chatted with him about some other subject, and he told me he was about to get married. I burst out “Good for you! Congratulations!” I was genuinely happy for him; thrilled for him, and he could tell it was genuine. A shy smile spread over his face… and that was the only “breakthrough” I ever had with him. The last I heard, he had moved to Indonesia, and now bitterly hates the United States. So…did it do any good? Who knows? But it was genuine, and if he ever thinks back on that, I think he knows that I rejoiced with him.

Compassion for the lost is another critical application of agapé love. Compassion for other believers is relatively easy, by comparison, but if we consider the bleak, hopeless future awaiting those who have spurned the grace of God, shouldn’t we feel even more compassion for those lost souls? Remember that God says we were all enemies of God before He saved us. If it were not for Him loving the unlovely, we would all still be lost.

Neighborliness

16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

It is easy to take the “high road” and hold yourself separate from those you think are enemies. But, again, we are to be building bridges, not walls. Look for opportunities to be a blessing to those individuals. Look for things you can do that make for open doors. It is far too easy to respond with the same unfriendly behavior they offer us, and that just confirms to them that we are the problem. It may seem unfair or unreasonable, but we are called to be peacemakers. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Sons of God.”

So, we must avoid anything that could be seen as conceit, or standoffishness. Everyone is sensitive to that sort of thing. Try not to be too impressed with your own righteousness and piety and wisdom. When we deliberately take a “learner’s stance,” allowing others the honor of explaining their work, their expertise, their knowledge; and are appropriately impressed with the things they have to say, it puts others at ease, as they don’t see us as a rival. We need to listen as though the other person and their thoughts are important…because they are! If, instead, we feel that we have to “top” their stories, and tell a better joke, or in some way show ourselves smarter, more knowledgeable, more pious, etc. then it not only dishonors our neighbor, but it dishonors God (see Proverbs 6:16-19.)

Testimony: Goodness and Honesty

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

“Payback” is a prevalent concept, worldwide. In some places it has been refined to a point that, whether good or evil, you must pay back your neighbor. Grace and forgiveness are no longer concepts in their culture. In some cultures, such as the Dom tribe of New Guinea, where Jim and Judy Burdett have served for the last 35 years, it has gone so far that there were no longer even words for Grace, Forgiveness, Love, etc. It was very difficult to translate the New Testament, because the very concepts of the New Covenant were missing from their culture…and so were the concepts of honesty and peace. Everyone was an enemy, and everyone was a thief and a liar.

How could you teach a person to live peacefully in such a culture? Every neighboring tribe was a blood-enemy: every stranger an enemy to be killed. And yet, 40 years after first contact was made with the Gospel, things have changed: Not only has a written form been created for the Dom language, and the New Testament translated into that language, but the people have learned to read and to write in their own language, and churches have sprung up, as people placed their faith in the risen Christ.

We recently received photos of a team of these believers, now well-grounded Bible-teachers, returning from a mission into what was once enemy territory. They had gone, by invitation, to a neighboring tribe with similar enough language to allow conversation, and had taught the foundations to faith. They call it “the God-talk”. And the people, long saturated with the violence and deceit of their own making, are yearning for something better. Peace is beginning to result. Is it still a dangerous place with violent people? Absolutely. But it was once a universally dangerous place, completely filled with violent people. Where the Gospel has penetrated hearts, life is beginning to change. A work of the Holy Spirit has begun there, however small.

Is it always possible to live peacefully with others? Nope. It takes two. But God says that as much as lies with us, we are to commit ourselves to living in peace with others.

No Vengeance

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

So, the rules have been tightened, for believers. We frequently think of the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” standard of punishment from the Old Testament, as the minimum, and appropriate. But it was actually established as a maximum, to limit the natural human desire for revenge. In Genesis 4:23, 24 we hear the voice of Lamech (a fifth generation grandson of Cain), boasting to his two wives that had killed a young man for having hurt him. He concluded, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Lamech shall be avenged seventy-sevenfold.”

How interesting that he should choose that particular number to which to compare his revenge. Remember, when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive an offending brother: Peter asked whether “seven times” was as far as he had to go, putting up with someone else’s wrongdoing, and forgiving them… provided they even repented and asked for forgiveness. Jesus said, no, that seventy times seven was correct (490 times.) So our whole natural bent toward “don’t get mad, get even” –or even “don’t get even, get ahead!” is not from God at all. It is strictly a product of the flesh.

God says that vengeance is His business, not ours. Paul says here, that we have to leave room for God to work. If we try to take vengeance ourselves we are muddying the water, so to speak, and limiting what God can do. He says “leave room for wrath”. The Greek literally just says “give place to wrath”, which is how KJV translates the passage…but the word used for wrath (Greek orgé) is almost exclusively used to refer to God’s wrath, not human anger. The NASB translators translated the passage “leave room for the wrath of God” if you have the NASB, notice that the “of God” is in italics—that is to say, it is not in the Greek text. However, I think they are probably correct that this is what is in view.  Otherwise, it might have been encouraging us to “let them have room for their anger.” But that is not what is in view, here. We are being asked to “get out of God’s way, and let Him deal with them.”

So, do we just “back off” and watch, and wait, hoping to see the vengeance of God? That is what Jonah did, you may recall. He found a good place from which to watch, and was hoping to see the destruction of Nineveh. But God told him he was wrong. So, then, if we are wrong to just “hope to see the vengeance of God,” what are we to be doing?

Being a Blessing

20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Paul says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him! If he is thirsty, give him something to drink!” If you really want “revenge”, overwhelm them with genuine kindness! Go out of your way to make sure they are comfortable, safe, and secure. Do it because God says to do so. He also notes that this will have a greater result: he says it will “heap burning coals upon their head.” I assume that it means they will be tormented inwardly by the fact that I am treating them well, and, perhaps be shamed into realizing that they themselves are behaving badly. But it is possible that it is still talking about the wrath of God, and that my treating them kindly will actually add to their eternal punishment. I hope that is not the meaning, but I am not sure.

One commentator (Alva J. McClain,) pointed out that you may drive the person to repentance, who has done you wrong, when they see that you consistently treat them as a friend, and that they will cease to be your enemy. I do not think that is necessarily true of the human heart at large. However, Proverbs 16:7 does say, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. I do think that, in the context of “giving room for the wrath of God”, it is possible that when we commit ourselves to kindness, it allows the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of wrongdoers.

There is an awareness of sin and guilt built into human hearts, though it can be choked and drowned out by a long-standing pattern of evil-doing. Don Richardson records in his book “The Peace Child”, that, in the degenerated cultures in Irian Jaya (same island as Papua New Guinea, but on the Indonesian side), treachery had become the very highest virtue. And, even there, they understood the concept of right and wrong, to a limited degree. But when he tried to teach the Gospel, they saw Judas as the hero of the story. They saw his treachery in “betraying Jesus with a kiss” as being the finest thing they had ever heard. Judas Iscariot was an instant hero to them. Don Richardson felt, at that point, that there was no way to break through the depravity of that culture, to touch their hearts with the real Gospel. But God had a plan already in place.

When Don and his wife had first moved there, they had established a pattern of doing good things, medical care, etc. The people saw that as something to be desired, and eventually it actually became a real problem: as the news got around, other villages wanted that sort of benefit as well, and the rival villagers were ready to kill one another for the privilege of having the Richardson family in their respective villages. Don intervened, and stated that he and his family would leave entirely; permanently, unless the warring factions made peace.

As it turned out, there was only one way to establish peace in that culture. It required that one man give his own child, a baby, to the enemy tribe, to raise as their own. All who accepted the Peace Child were bound by that social contract. Neither tribe could treat the other as an enemy, so long as the Peace Child lived. It was a very rare thing to happen at all, but it was the only lasting peace possible. And, as it happened, the people saw it as being utterly wrong, to kill the Peace Child. And God used that peculiarity to enter their culture with the Gospel, and save them.

Don and his team realized that the cultural analogy had been established by God as an opening for the Gospel. The real Peace Child was Christ himself. So, they re-taught the Gospel, this time explaining that God sent His Son, the Peace Child, in order to bring peace between God and Man. This time the people saw that Judas had betrayed the Peace Child. This time they saw Judas as the ultimate villain, not as a hero. They actually wept, and mourned, as they considered the facts: Peace with God was only possible so long as the Peace Child lived! Their only chance for peace with God had been destroyed by Judas. But when Don continued to teach, and they realized the fact of the Resurrection, they were filled with relief and joy, to know that their Peace with God not only could be established in the person of Christ, but that it was eternally so, as their Peace Child is eternally alive!

The salvation of those precious souls was entirely the work of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit. But the foundation was laid by God’s people extending kindness to the enemies of God.

Paul’s Conclusion: Be Overcomers!

21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus said, in John 16:33, “…In the World ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.” We are to follow His example in this regard, as well as others. We are to “overcome the world” by faith, through obedience to Christ, and kindness to others, coupled with the simple truth of the Gospel; that the Blood of Jesus is full payment for our sins, and his resurrection is full confirmation of that fact, from God the Father. In this way, win or lose, we win with God.

Lord Jesus, allow us to walk in your footsteps, and respond to the Evil people in the World with the Grace and Goodness of Almighty God. Make us the men and women of God you have called us to be.