“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him to water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” – Proverbs 25:21-22
In Romans 12, Paul writes to the brothers, the church, that they should present their bodies as a living sacrifice. Note carefully that “your bodies” is plural and “a living sacrifice” is singular.
Why is this so? Paul continues by saying that each one of us is a member of one body. Just as a body has different parts with different functions that are all necessary for the body to live, the same is true of the church. It is made up of different people with different gifts that are all necessary for proper functioning. In the church, the individual members, “your bodies,” must all come together with the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit so that the church can present “a living sacrifice.” I cannot present “my body” as “a living sacrifice.” My body does not have all the necessary gifts to be a living sacrifice on its own. “A living sacrifice” can only be presented as “one body in Christ.”
What does this have to do with the quote from Proverbs above?
We know love because Jesus Christ died for us. He died for us when we were still sinners, when we were his enemies. So, when Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he is telling us to love the unbeliever as he loved us. So, the church as Christ’s body on the earth, the living, tangible expression of Jesus that the unbeliever can see, hear, and touch, is to show the unbeliever love by dying for them, presenting their bodies a living sacrifice. I cannot truly do this on my own. Rather, it takes all the members together to be a living sacrifice, loving as Jesus loved.
After urging the brothers in Rome to present their bodies a living sacrifice and explaining how they are each a member of the body of Christ with a different function, Paul continues by saying that this is all to display Christ’s love. For two paragraphs he tells us what the love of these many members coming together as one body looks like. At the end of the two paragraphs, Paul quotes the passage from Proverbs 25:21-22.
It’s easy to think loving your enemies was a new concept that Jesus was presenting. That it was different than the way God was in the Old Testament. Not true! Paul is showing that loving your enemies has always been God’s way. It has always been the way that God’s people would show God’s love to rest of the world.
God has not changed, but our perception of who God is has changed as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ.