Friday, July 16, 2004

Coals of Kindness

Here's a puzzle in Christian charity for you:
Somebody has been unfairly short, sharp and crabby to me. Trying to emulate my patron saint, I've tried to speak mildly and kindly in return, with some success. 
At the same time, I have piles of kind things I have done for this person, that I think they've forgotten were coming,  ready to unload over the weekend. That will chap their hide big time and will probably make them even sharper and crabbier in guilt and retaliation.  Humanly speaking, it also won't hurt my ego any to be the giver of so many good deeds, but since I didn't set up the situation, I can give them freely and cheerfully and step back and watch the effect. Right? Wrong?
Somewhere in there is sin.
I don't know how to change this pattern. I am tempted to hold back the good deeds, so that the bad behavior can be ignored, passed by without my giving in to returning bite for bite. But shouldn't I be able to give what I already had ready to give? How can I avoid the smugness that will come with the giving?
Solve that, my friends!


Henry Dieterich said...

Romans 12:20 (quoting Proverbs 25:21-22): "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head." And the proverb adds (v. 22) "and the Lord will reward you." So the good deeds you propose to do are sanctioned by sacred Scripture, even if--and the Scripture makes this explicit--they are not welcomed by the recipient because of his attitude toward you. After all, God does the same, as Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:43-48), directly commanding us to be like God the Father in that respect. And who knows? You may be sowing a seed that will later bear fruit in repentance and reconciliation. The effects of our deeds are not our responsibility; it is only our responsibility to do what God commands, and the command of Scripture is pretty clear here.

Roz said...

Well, if you can't avoid the smugness, at least you can ask for the grace to be a quick and thorough repenter. God's the choreographer of the timing of all this, so perhaps he's working for your good or the good of the other person in allowing the timing to work out in this way. Just my $.02.

Therese Z said...

Lovely old God made the whole day so pleasant that all the coals remained unfired. It's as though the unpleasantness never happened, and since, thanks be to Him, I'd forgiven my tormentor, I wasn't looking to settle any scores, and the day went as though nothing had happened.

When will I learn to trust in Him for all things, big and little?



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