Romans 12:9–21 (NKJV)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:9-21
Paul follows up his previous words in this chapter concerning living holy and operating in one’s gifts with this list of practical ways to walk that out. He encourages true love, right priorities, unselfish and kind love, diligence, zeal, service, hope, patience, perseverance, prayer, benevolence, and hospitality. He then goes on to discuss attitude: don’t let your enemies goad you into retribution, sympathize with the sad, and rejoice with the joyful, walk in unity, be humble, and not a wise guy. Paul then goes back to the retribution issue, and says in about three different ways not to pay back people who have done you wrong with more wrong. God claims exclusive rights to vengeance, so we should not usurp that authority. I love the way God inspired Paul to write, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” It is as if God knew that we may not be able to control the actions of others, but we can control our own actions, and that is our duty.
Finally, Paul quotes Proverbs and the gospels in telling his readers to feed your enemy when he is hungry and give him drink when thirsty, because those actions will “heap coals of fire on his head.” This points to conviction on the enemy for his actions toward you. Perhaps this will lead that enemy to repentance and reconciliation. Finally, Paul encourages the readers to avoid evil in one’s own life, but to overcome the evil in others with good. Evil for evil simply breeds more evil, but good brings light to dark places, and overcomes evil without bloodshed or hate. Do good, and evil cannot prevail.