To Lead to Repentance

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For by doing this you will heap burning coals on his head. (Romans 12:20 EHV)

If you were daring enough to drive through the snow and the ice this past Sunday, watched our service online, or read through this past Sunday’s readings, then you are aware of the commands that the Lord laid before us in our lessons for the week. In our gospel lesson (Luke 6:27-38) the Lord commands us to, Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Our second lesson (Romans 12:14-21) is much of the same. We are told to, Bless those who persecute you…Do not pay anyone back evil for evil…Do not take revenge.

This is easy enough to understand (not so easy to put into practice, however). But then, Paul has this curious quote from Proverbs 25 about being nice to others and by doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head. What does that mean? At face value that certainly isn’t a loving thing to do; and it sounds quite strange to do such a thing in the context of showing love to your neighbors. So obviously Paul isn’t talking about literally putting burning coals on your enemy’s head. But what is he saying?

Honestly, there are a number of different interpretations as to what this phrase means. But in context there is one that stands out. Putting burning coals on top of a head obviously hurts (This probably refers to the fact that in ancient times there were articles of pottery, clay dishes, that were used to carry burning coals from place to place. Doing this for a long period of time, would hurt quite a bit). If you apply that idea to the context of Romans 12 the thought is that doing nice things for those who sin against you, showing love for your enemies, etc. would, perhaps, prick their consciences. It would make them feel the hurt and pain that they have wronged a good person. Or as the old saying goes, “kill them (their consciences) with kindness.”

Prof. Zell from the Seminary wrote about this phrase, Each child of the heavenly Father has been set free to feed his enemy, to give him something to drink, to grant him one unexpected blessing after another. In so doing, he prompts his enemy to feel the heat of his conscience, possibly as never before. Because of his godly behavior, his enemy’s thought process is distressed by the stinging rebuke of God’s law. Augustine put it this way: “Coals of fire serve to burn, i.e., to bring anguish to his spirit, which is like the head of the soul.” Luther suggested that the guilty party’s spirit then demands of him, “Why did you hurt this pious man? Why did you persecute an innocent person?” 

So the idea behind being nice to someone who is not nice to you is to make them feel the heat of their consciences in hopes that they would repent. Will it always work? Of course not—but that is not an excuse. Our goal whenever we deal with sin is to lead others to repentance so we can lead them to Christ, who forgives each and every one of our sins. Or as Paul said in Romans 3, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

May the Lord have mercy upon us and upon our enemies as we strive to lead them back to him.

— Pastor Frey

Church News


Wednesday March 6 will begin our Midweek Lent Services at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm. This year our theme for our midweek services will be "Three Words of Truth." Each service will focus on an important three-word phrase from Jesus' passion and resurrection. Ash Wednesday will begin with the theme: "Is It I?" Please join us for these special worship services. A Supper will be served each Wednesday from 5:30-6:15 and please take note that the Confirmation Classes will be starting at 5:00 pm and be over by 7:30 pm. We hope and pray that each child’s parents will be able to attend our midweek Lenten services with them.

Bible Classes

On Sunday mornings, Pastor Frey is leading a study on the first 11 chapters of Genesis—an important and interesting portion of Scripture. Join us this week as continue our discussion of chapter 3, the fall into sin and God’s promise to send a Savior.

Pastor Gartner has begun his new study, entitled, "What Must I Do To Be Saved -- A Study of God's Gospel and the Words The Holy Spirit Uses To Proclaim It." We will be looking at the many beautiful words that God uses in the Bible to describe God's plan to save us. Please plan on joining us for these studies.

Roller Skating

On Sunday, March 10, everyone at St. John is invited to our Roller Skating outing. The cost is $5.00 and it runs from 4:30-7:00. We still need about 35 more people to sign up to meet our minimum amount. Please sign up at Church as soon as possible if you are interested.

Ladies Painting Night

On Sunday, March 24, all ladies of St. John ages 12 and up are invited to take part in making a painting. The cost is $20 and the sign-up sheet is in the back of Church.