First of all, in verses 1 and 2, he tells believers what their relationship with God should be — giving oneself completely to God is a reasonable service. Paul goes on to say not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed.
Transformed comes from the Greek word metamorphoo, which means to change, transfigure or transform. This can only happen through entering the right relationship with God. The child of God no longer fits into the world’s mold, but he lives to please his Heavenly Father.
So we go into how does a Christian treat others? There are definite traits of a Christian that are visible. These are born of love, a fervent love such as a family relationship. Just as in New Testament times, today, believers’ commitment to God is manifested in their commitment to each other. This has been true from the beginning, even before the Ten Commandments were given. Jesus said these were contained in only two: Love the Lord God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.
A lady was complaining to her minister that her husband was spiteful and hard to get along with. “Have you tried ‘heaping coals of fire upon his head?’” asked the pastor.
“Well no,” the lady replied, “but I did hit him over the head with an iron skillet.”
That’s not exactly what Solomon in the book of Proverbs was referring to. It was the custom among neighbors in the age that Solomon gave this advice that if someone’s fire was extinguished — it was very important to keep fire — the neighborly thing to do was to share your coals, even with an enemy. It was a generous thing to share your fire, as much as it was to give food and water, and it was jealously guarded.
Solomon said this was a way of making a friend out of an enemy. Since the coals of fire were carried back to the abode or house on top of the head, he says, “Just heap them up — give and the Lord will give back to (reward) you.” Proverbs 25:22 (KJV): “For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”
In verses 17 through 21 of Romans 12, Paul lays down a few rules in relationships with unbelievers: Don’t repay evil with evil; Be honest; Live peaceably; Don’t take vengeance and give a wide berth to wrath, because you can’t act sensibly when you’re out of control; Help your enemy — that’s the same as if you shared your fire with him.
Then simply, he gives the result: Goodness will overcome evil. Hitting someone over the head with an iron skillet is not the answer, but sharing the love of Jesus Christ is the way of a Christian.
As Christians, sometimes frustration overwhelms our emotions as we see sin taking control of people’s lives. If we’re not careful, this frustration can lead to anger and can be taken out on sin’s victims. Satan should be the target of our anger. You don’t have to condone the sin to love the sinner. And you don’t have to compromise the truth. Christ loved us while we were still sinners and died for everyone.
It’s hard to win that person to Christ if the message he hears is “God hates you.” You can’t carry a banner shouting “hate” and tell that person “Jesus loves you and so do I” at the same time. Hate and anger do not change lives. The love of Christ does.
James tells us “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).