“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Pr. 25:22, Rom. 12:20)
Frequently, we consider this exhortation only in terms of our dealings with other people. Paul in Romans applies this in a passage which is all concerned with our relationships and interaction with others. But the basis for our love and grace toward others is always the love and grace that God has first shown toward us. This passage says that we should be hospitable toward our enemies. Literally, it says that we should give bread and water to the one who hates us. The proverb says that the result of this sort of hospitality will be burning coals on the head of your enemy and that Yahweh will reward you. Literally, the text actually says that Yahweh will make peace for you or make a covenant of peace with you.
Of course Paul says earlier in Romans 5 that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He says that when we were enemies of God, he reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son (Rom. 5:8-10). That is the cup of wrath and judgment that Christ drank for us. In the cross, Jesus took into himself, into his sufferings our hatred, our violence, our enmity so that he might bring peace. This means that on a foundational level it is God who has first bestowed this hospitality on us. He has fed us, who were once his enemies, with bread and given us living water. And he has done this in order to create peace, in order that a covenant of peace might prevail.
Are you able to drink the cup that Christ drank? Of course of ourselves, we cannot, but in the cross, Jesus has transformed suffering and death. And he offers us this cup, and says, ‘You will indeed drink my cup.’ And so we drink the suffering and death of Christ, and in that suffering, in that serving, in this great act of hospitality, God gives us His life. He turns enemies into friends. This is what the body and blood of Christ are all about. It’s all about giving bread to enemies, giving life to the dead.
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