By Samuel Tunnell
April 30, 2018
At the heart of the gospel story is conflict resolution. And yet we seem to easily skip over this idea as we wade through our own conflicts day by day. It is true, however.
Romans 5 tells us that sin made humanity enemies of God. On the cross, Jesus stepped in as an intermediary and made a way for sinful humanity to be reconciled to a righteous God.
At the heart of the gospel story is conflict resolution.
Because of this, our personal engagement with conflict resolution is a public declaration of our participation in the work of Jesus. In other words, how well we engage conflict and broken relationship in our own lives reflects how we view the reconciling work of Jesus on our behalf.
Perhaps this is why Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”
whoa… wait. What was that?
These are weighty words Jesus uses and it is not an isolated incident. Jesus mentions this concept throughout the gospels. It is weighty. It is difficult. Its also there and if we want to be people of the scripture, we have to deal with the teaching of Jesus concerning enemy love and gospel forgiveness.
Ultimately our willingness to love and reconcile with enemies is a gospel issue.
So why is this so important? Why is this such a big deal that Jesus uses such strong language? Well, Romans 12 gives us a clue. Verses 14-21 read
“14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[h] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
What Paul essentially says here is that we don’t have to seek vengeance or justice when we’ve been hurt or wronged. God will. Vengeance belongs to God and he will have it. This is both powerful and terrible. Whats being said here is that God is just and he will right every wrong. We don’t have to seek vengeance because God will make sure all wrongdoers give an account. How encouraging for the wronged and how terrible to the wrongdoer. As the writer of Hebrews warns “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
This should give us pause. We don’t have to seek vengeance because God will. But we are all sinners. We are all deserving of the wrathful justice of God. It is only by the reconciling work of Jesus that we have escaped this fearful thing.
And this is exactly the point.
What Paul tells us in Romans 12 brings us here. We don’t have to seek justice because God will, rather we simply get to love and serve those who’ve wronged us. This phrase “…by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head…” is another way of saying that our love might lead them to repentance.
Do you see? Just as the kindness of God has led us to repentance, perhaps our loving kindness to those who have wronged us can lead them to repentance. Perhaps they too can fall at the feet of Jesus and receive forgiveness and avoid the coming judgment! What a glorious gift we have to love our enemies! Perhaps by doing so, they may be brought into the kingdom!
This is why Peter says in his first epistle “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins”
Church, the end is near. Jesus will return to judge the quick and the dead. Do you hear this? There is a day of judgment and reckoning coming and there are real people dead in their sins who will come face to face with a wrathful and just God. In light of this reality, why would we hold onto our hurts and grievances? There isn’t enough time! We must love our enemies with radical and ferocious generosity. Perhaps some will come to repentance and avoid the coming judgment!
In light of such a wonderful possibility, cant we all look upon our hurts and broken relationships and, by the power of the Spirit, love our enemies?