Romans 12:19-21 - Killing With Kindness

Rom 12:19 (NIV)  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's
wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the
Rom 12:20 (NIV)  On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he
is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap
burning coals on his head."
Rom 12:21 (NIV)  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It is not forbidden to the magistrate to do justice to those that are
wronged, by punishing the wrong-doer; nor to make and execute just and
wholesome laws against malefactors; but it forbids private revenge, which
flows from anger and ill-will; and this is fitly forbidden, for it is
presumed that we are incompetent judges in our own case. . . Vengeance is
mine. We find it written, . God is the sovereign King, the
righteous Judge, and to him it belongs to administer justice; for, being a
God of infinite knowledge, by him actions are weighed in unerring balances;
and, being a God of infinite purity, he hates sin and cannot endure to look
upon iniquity. Some of this power he hath trusted in the hands of the civil
magistrates ; their legal punishments therefore are to
be looked upon as a branch of God's revengings. This is a good reason why we
should not avenge ourselves; for, if vengeance be God's, then, First, We may
not do it. We step into the throne of God if we do and take his work out of
his hand. (Matthew Henry's Commentary)

Never take the execution of the law into your own hands; rather suffer
injuries. . . Leave room for the civil magistrate to do his duty; he holds
the sword for this purpose; and if he is unfaithful to the trust reposed in
him by the state, leave the matter to God, who is the righteous Judge: for
by avenging yourselves you take your cause both out of the hands of the
civil magistrate and out of the hands of God. (Adam Clarke Commentary)

"Give place" means "give room" for the avenging wrath of God to work.
Christians are never to attempt to seek revenge upon those who treat them
unjustly. They should leave the matter with God. Only a perfect,
all-knowing, all-loving God can rightly judge and justly punish evildoers. .
.By avenging ourselves we "give place to the devil." Those who are filled
with thoughts of revenge are giving opportunity for Satan to inspire anger,
hatred, and bitterness, whereas they should be encouraging the growth of the
fruits of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, and long-suffering (Gal. 5:22). [SDA

The infliction of vengeance is a sign, not of strength, but of weakness. The
one who allows his temper to be stirred up and his Christian principles of
love and self-control to be abandoned suffers defeat. But the person who
represses the desire for revenge and turns a wrong done to him into an
opportunity for showing kindness gains a victory over himself and over the
powers of evil. This is not only nobler in itself but will be much more
effective. It may disarm an enemy (cf. Prov. 15:1) and win another soul.
[SDA Commentary]

To stoop to vengeance is to be ourselves conquered by evil. Evil can never
be conquered by evil. If hatred is met with more hatred it is only
increased; but if it is met with love, an antidote for the poison is found.
As Booker Washington said: "I will not allow any man to make me lower myself
by hating him." The only real way to destroy an enemy is to make him a
friend. [Barclay Commentary]

He who avenges himself receives into his own heart all the evil and
disgraceful passions by which his enemy is rendered both wretched and
contemptible. (Adam Clarke Commentary)

A moral enemy is more easily overcome by kindness than by hostility. Against
the latter he arms himself; and all the evil passions of his heart
concentrate themselves in opposition to the one who is striving to retaliate
by violence, the injurious acts which he has received from him. But where
the injured man is labouring to do him good for his evil-- to repay his
curses with blessings and prayers, his evil passions no longer have any
motive, any incentive; his mind relaxes; the turbulence of his passions is
calmed; reason and conscience are permitted to speak; he is disarmed, or, in
other words, he finds that he has no use for his weapons; he beholds in the
injured man a magnanimous friend, whose mind is superior to all the insults
and injuries which he has received, and who is determined never to permit
the heavenly principle that influences his soul to bow itself before the
miserable, ordinary, and wretched spirit of revenge. (Adam Clarke

In all strife and contention, those that revenge are conquered, and those
that forgive are conquerors. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

He that cannot quietly bear an injury is perfectly conquered by it. (Matthew
Henry's Commentary)

When strife enters into any Christian society, the hope of doing any good
work is gone. [Barclay Commentary]

Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one
to another. [Matthew Henry Commentary]

Burning Coals. The burning pangs of shame and guilt may lead to his
repentance. [Ryrie SB]

What does it mean to "heap burning coals" on someone's head? This may refer
to an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one's head
as a public act of repentance. By referring to this proverb, Paul was saying
that we should treat our enemies with kindness so that they will become
ashamed and turn from their sins. The best way to get rid of enemies is to
turn them into friends.  [Life Application SB]

Your kindness may be the means of begetting in him a sense of his guilt;
and, instead of being your bitter enemy, he may become your real friend.
(Adam Clarke Commentary)

"The best way to get rid of an enemy is to turn him into a friend and so
'overcome evil with good." [Jamieson, Fausset, And Brown Commentary]

Heap burning coals on his head: This saying from Prov. 25 has puzzled
commentators through the ages. The view of Augustine and Jerome seems most
likely, that Paul uses the verse to suggest a "burning shame" that her
ex-husband. But I know what it has done for her. And to glorify the LORD.
[The 365-Day Devotional Commentary]

If you find it difficult to feel forgiving of someone who has hurt you, try
responding with kind actions. If appropriate, tell this person that you
would like to heal your relationship. Give him a helping hand. Send him a
gift. Smile at him. Many times you will discover that right actions lead to
right feelings. [Life Application SB]

If we have experienced God's grace, we will want to pass it on to others.
And remember, grace is undeserved favor. By giving an enemy a drink, we're
not excusing his misdeeds. We're recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving
him in spite of his sins-just as Christ did for us. [Life Application SB]