“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.” (Romans 12:20-21)
How should we Christians deal with racism? What should we do in response to the unrest that is sweeping our nation? The words of Saint Paul teach that it is not with demonstrations, violent or not, or angry and unkind words, or even the destruction of statues or statutes. Paul tells us that we should try to live in harmony with all men, as far as our actions and attitudes are concerned. We should never compromise with evil, or accept the false as true, but we should never respond to the sins and abuse of others in kind. It does not matter how others act, we believers have no excuse to do evil to anyone. There are means we can use to see that justice is done through the legal system. But we are not to sue for revenge, or exact recompense above what is fair.
We are instead to always be doing good for others, not merely refraining from evil, but actually doing good. By doing so, we heap burning coals on their heads, not to burn them with punishment but to burn them with shame so that they may see their sins and repent. When they see how good we are to them despite how they treat us, when we return good for evil, they will feel shame. Psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists and educators tell us that shame is for it destroys self esteem. But those who sin ought to feel shame: it will lead them to repent. But we ought to do good to people who do bad to us. They will feel shame and maybe they will repent and end their wicked behavior. Maybe they won’t. Then it is up to the Lord to exact His justice.
What Paul is commanding us to do is exactly what Christ did on the cross. Though Jesus was persecuted and despitefully used, beaten and crucified, he continued to trust God and to do good. He did not cry out “You miserable, ungrateful wretches, you stupid idiots, don’t you know I’m suffering and dying for you.” No, He cried out “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” He didn’t come down from the cross and destroy his enemies. He did not return evil for evil. He Remained on that cross dying for the sins of the very people who were sinning against Him. He continued to seek their good unto death.