When Disagreement Leads to Hatred
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:20-21
Several weeks after the presidential election, I had to opportunity to speak to a local high school about addiction. As I began speaking however, I claimed that I was there to talk about politics and Covid-19. It was meant to be funny, but all I got was a collective groan from an audience that was obviously fatigued from the conflict of both topics. I get that. A lot of us are tired of the constant disagreements. Being tired of our conflicts though doesn’t mean that we’re actively seeking to resolve them. A lot of us now just avoid certain issues while still harboring resentments.
Nowhere has this been on display more than with the Covid-19 vaccine. With strong feelings on both sides, enmity has sprung up, poisoning many relationships. Honestly, I hate to admit this next part (but I suspect I’m not the only one). If you believe in the vaccine, it’s tempting to hope that those who refuse to get it, actually get a Covid-19 infection instead. You don’t want them to die (probably) but you want them to be really miserable. Alternately, if you don’t believe in the vaccine, you might be tempted to hope that those who get the vaccine have some significant side effect. Again, you don’t want them to die (probably). You just want them to shut up and stop preaching about their vaccine savior.
For multiple reasons, Covid-19 has become wrapped up in politics and faith and when it comes to these topics, our opponents aren’t just wrong, they’re evil. Our natural response to evil is to respond with more evil. So, we become bitter and resentful, wishing horrible things on those who oppose our beliefs. In doing so, we destroy ourselves.
In today’s passage, Paul said that in the face of enmity, we must not be overcome with evil. Rather, we must choose the opposite. We’re supposed to be kind, doing good things for those with whom we’re in conflict. This may have some effect on our opponent, but Paul’s words, I think, are for our own protection. When we respond with evil, we succumb to it. When we respond with the love of God, we’re overwhelmed with that instead. The choice is our – to be overthrown by evil or to be filled with God’s love.