“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge…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
The phrase, “killing with kindness” has been documented back to the 1500s. Of course the idea is much older than that. It has endured through the centuries because it communicates a powerful truth about the best way to live. Killing with kindness isn’t about being passive-aggressive or about ignoring injustices. Overcoming evil with good is about forging a path to reconciliation and forgiveness.
When I taught in China I repeatedly bumped heads with another teacher on my team named Robert. We were roommates and when there wasn’t face-to-face confrontation, there was a stifling silent tension.
At Christmas everyone on our team participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange. Guess whose name I drew.
I thought about getting Robert nothing, or a lump of coal, but for reasons I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit, I decided to talk to Robert’s best friend. I asked him what my mortal enemy would like. It was clear the Robert’s friend was skeptical of my intentions but gave me a list of ideas anyway. I spent the following weekend shopping for my nemesis.
On Christmas our team gathered to share gifts and guess who their Santa might be. Robert loved the gifts I gave and guessed everyone in the room before finally realizing I was his Santa.
Robert and I never became good friends, but from that point on, we at least began to see each other as more fully human. The ice in our apartment began to thaw and eventually we could affirm the God-given value in the other.
When forgiveness feels like too far of a journey, perhaps a simple kindness can be the small step we can take.
“Dear God, give me the opportunity to be kind to those who have hurt me and the strength to take it. Amen.”