Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heaping Coals of Fire Upon Their Heads

What do you do when someone treats you mean? When someone makes decisions that frustrate you? When you want to change someone's behavior?

Do you have a talk with them and try to persuade, lecture, pressure, scold or threaten them into doing things your way? Do you persecute them with snide remarks, shun them, or belittle them? Do you draw back from them, being emotionally distant and cold-shoulder them?

Christ's doctrine to love your enemy was rather shocking in the ancient world where revenge, protecting one's honor by violence, and cruelty were the norm. As Christians, we know in theory—but it seems even some adults haven't yet learned in practice—the very simple and wonderful truth that love is the solution. Or maybe we don't yet really down-deep-inside believe it.

I am inspired by this very insightful scripture found in the Bible:

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.
Proverbs 25:21-22

The way to deal with an difficult person, someone who is perturbing us, or frustrating us because they won't be nice (or accepting, flexible, cooperative, obedient, etc.) is to "heap coals of fire upon their head" through caring kindness. Love always wins. Whether it be a supervisor or your little child who is giving you trouble, love is hard to resist. Almost impossible to resist. And isn't it interesting that love is the exact opposite reaction than what springs up in our heart. The natural man inside us wants to fight, argue, get revenge, be hot-headed, and force somebody, too. Christ's doctrine is soothing, cooling words of peace.

Have you ever caught a glimpse of one of those judge shows on TV, where the opponents are accusing, shouting, and doing all manner of embarrassing behaviors because they are so upset with their ex-spouse, ex-partner, or ex-friend? It makes me cringe, because that is so not the way a Christian should act!

This idea of "heaping coals of fire" upon another's head by showing love and kindness is illuminated in one of my favorite Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. It is a wonderful story, and I read it to my children over and over when they were young, and we talk about the concept still. (Read the story). And when they come to me upset by something one of their friends or associates did, I remind them to "heap coals" on their head with positive attention and kindness, and things will go better. And things do go so much better. The reminder is good for me, too.

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories—fabulous character training through stories

Someone was causing me some grief and as I was praying about what to do, the thought came into my mind to pick some apples from my orchard and write a little note of gratitude to that person and deliver them. Those kinds of ideas come from God, as I sure don't feel like delivering presents to someone who complicates my life. It is wonderful to see how it softens and alters my perspective as I try to please and serve them. That is the magic. "Heaping coals upon their head" must burn the meanness out of them, too, so God can work with us both.

What a happier way to live!

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  • At September 27, 2009 at 6:25 AM , Blogger Soli Deo Gloria said...

    Hi Diane. Another insight on the concept of heaping burning coals on the head of an enemy comes from living in an eastern culture similar to New Testament culture for most of my life. In an eastern culture, coals are particularly important to livelihood. The family fire is the source of light, of food and, depending on the climate, of heat. It is everyone's job to be sure the fire never goes out. But, when it does, usually during the night, one has to take a scrap of metal (maybe an old pan or something) to a neighbor and ask them for some coals from their fire to restart your own (no matches!). This would usually be one or two coals knocked off of the end of a smoldering stick. In most eastern cultures things are carried on the head, safely on top of a rolled piece of cloth. To give someone coals to relight their fire is to give them what is necessary for life. Jesus' command to HEAP coals on the head goes above and beyond the customary couple of coals that the person must blow and fan vigorously to coax forth a flame. A heap of coals would require essentially no work at all, and would sustain the family for the day's food and early morning light. Additionally, unless your fire was already well lit and producing more coals, it would also require sacrifice, as you will now be required to work a little harder to get your own fire going.
    Perhaps this will provide some insight to your readers on this verse that often trips people with its meaning.

  • At September 27, 2009 at 8:06 PM , Blogger Diane Hopkins said...

    Fascinating! Thanks for the added insight!
    ; 0 )

  • At September 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM , Blogger Heather said...

    Thanks for your post - It was what I needed to read today. So many of your posts epitomize the kind of Christian mother that I want to become someday. Thanks for your great example and for making a difference in my life today.

  • At September 28, 2009 at 9:38 PM , Blogger Marlin and Tomena said...

    Wow.. so I just read this and the Lord must have directed me to your site tonight, because this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  • At September 29, 2009 at 10:42 PM , Blogger One Of Them said...

    Great Post!! Reminds me of this little story that I received in an email several years ago.

    Li-Li and her Mother-in-Law (True Story)
    A long time ago in China , a girl named Li-Li got married & went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn't get along with mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law' s habits.
    Days passed, and weeks passed. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing Li-Li's poor husband great distress.
    Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law' s any longer, and she decided to do something about it! Li-Li went to see her father's good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all.
    Mr. Huang thought for a while, and finally said, 'Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.' Li-Li said, 'Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do. 'Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs. He told Li-Li, 'You can't use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious.
    Therefore, I have given you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body. Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspect you, when she dies, you must be very careful to be actively friendly towards her. 'Don't argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.' Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-i! n-law.
    Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, and treated her like her own mother..
    After six months had passed, the whole household had changed. Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn't had an argument with her mother-in-law in six months because she now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.
    The mother-in-law' s attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives thatLi-Li was the best daughter-in- law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.
    One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again She said, 'Dear Mr. Huang, please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law. She's changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.'
    Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. 'Li-Li, there's nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. The herbs I gave you were vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.'
    There is a wise Chinese saying: 'The person who loves others will also be loved in return..' God might be trying to work in another person's life through you.
    After all you have got nothing to lose but a lot to gain. 'A candle loses nothing if it is used to light another one.


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