My grandfather was a preacher. You might assume that means that all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren followed the straight and narrow, went to Bible college, and either became or married preachers. Not exactly. We all went the prodigal route, and some of us are still out there.
Grandpa memorized massive amounts of scripture, and could call up a scriptural response for just about any situation. He did that often, and most times in lieu of any other advice. One time, in frustration, one of my cousins said, “That’s great Grandpa, but how does that apply to me?” He needed to know the practical application of what my grandfather had said. I’m not sure if he got the answer he was looking for.
We all need practical application. How do we take what the Bible says, and apply it to our lives today. I know a lot of scripture too, but I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between knowing the words, and knowing the Source of those words. It is possible to “talk the talk” without even knowing how to “walk the walk”.
We spend a lot of time on this blog looking at what the scriptures say, looking at the original languages, looking at how wonderfully everything fits together. I want to do everything I can to give us a clearer picture of God’s message to us. However, all that is worthless, if we choose not to, or can’t figure out how to, apply it to our lives.
Sometimes, even what appears to be a biblical lesson in practical application can be confusing.
Look at this passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 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.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21)
Ok, at first glance that seems pretty straight forward. Do your part to get along with everyone (yes, this is hard sometimes). Seeking revenge is not your job; it’s God’s (yes, that’s hard too). So how do we do that? If your enemy (or just that jerk of a neighbor you can’t stand) is hungry, you feed him. You help get his physical needs met. Ok, but what is this? “heap burning coals on his head”? What does that mean? It kind of sounds like “kill them with kindness”, but is it? That still kind of sounds like a revenge-like response.
This is where it helps to understand the culture of the day.
This is a quote from the Bible Knowledge Commentary that I found here.
“Sometimes a person’s fire went out and he needed to borrow some live coals to restart his fire. Giving a person coals in a pan to carry home “on his head” was a neighborly, kind act; it made friends, not enemies.”
So, the goal is to turn our enemies into friends. Friends that we can maybe then lead to Jesus? It’s not killing someone with kindness; it’s loving them to the Lord! That is how we “overcome evil with good”! I’m sure you can think of someone, even several someones, who need that.
One more thing though. Up in verse nine of this same chapter, Paul says that love must be sincere. That means we are supposed to be working from a place of genuine love for people, even unpleasant people. That is hard, and we can’t do it on our own. We can only do it through the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit living in us, and those changes don’t happen over night. The important thing is that we make the effort. We do what He tells us, and when we feel like we can’t, we trust Him to work through us, and do it anyway. Every time we do, we look a little more like Jesus to a hungry, hurting world.
How is that for practical application?