Posted by: missionventureministries | February 15, 2016

FORGIVENESS – Romans 12:20

Forgiveness - Romanos 12 vs 20

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.” (Romans 12:20)

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 (Proverb 25:21-22), Paul was saying that we should treat our enemies with kindness so that they will become ashamed and turn from their sins.

Refusing to forgive is a sin. If we receive forgiveness from God, we must forgive those who hurt us. We cannot hold grudges or seek revenge. We are to trust God for justice and forgive the person who offended us. That does not mean we must forget the offense, since usually that’s beyond our power. Forgiveness means releasing the other from blame, leaving the event in God’s hands, and moving on.

Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to obey God and forgive. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not ever change, but that doesn’t negate God’s desire that we possess a forgiving spirit. Jesus said: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

We need to realize that it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory. The Bible states that God however does not “remember” our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). But God is all-knowing. God remembers that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, having been forgiven, we are judicially justified and heaven is ours, as if our sin had never occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not condemn us for our sins (Romans 8:1). In that sense God “forgives and forgets.”

If by “forgive and forget” one means, “I choose to forgive the offender for the sake of Christ and move on with my life,” then this is a wise and godly course of action on our part. As much as possible, we should forget what is behind and strive toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). We should forgive each other “just as in Christ God forgave” (Ephesians 4:32). We must not allow a root of bitterness to spring up in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15).

The ideal is to forgive and forget as 1 Corinthians 13:5 states: Love keeps no record of wrongs. And 1 Peter 4:8 says: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  However, changing hearts is God’s business, and, until an offender has a true, supernatural heart change, it is only wise to limit the level of trust one places in that person. Being cautious doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven. It simply means we are not God and we cannot see that person’s heart.

Even if our offender never repents, forgiving him or her will free us of a heavy load of bitterness.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” We cannot be holy unless we have peace with men. Something amazing happens when we forgive; we have peace and discover that life is more joyful. But, you might say, “Look what he did! I am not going to forgive him.” Remember when we forgive, we set two people free and one of them is ourselves.

Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:2)


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