The four of us were new Christians when we ran across the verse, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” (Romans 12:20), during our family Bible reading. Our sons, seven and ten at the time, were especially puzzled. “Why should you feed your enemy?” they wondered.
My husband and I wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was, “We’re supposed to because God says so.” It never occurred to us that we would soon learn by experience.
Day after day, John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in fifth grade. “Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days when we’re out on the playground, I’m going to jab him right back!”
I was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob myself. Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn’t Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I’d better give her an oral jab, too, at the same time.
I was still stewing over this injustice to John Jr. when his seven-year-old brother spoke up, “Maybe he should feed his enemy.” The three of us were startled.
None of us was sure about this “enemy” business. It didn’t seem that an enemy would be in the fifth grade. An enemy was someone who was way off, well, somewhere.
We all looked at John, but the only answer he could offer was the same one he had given before: “Because God says so.”
“Well if God says so, you’d better do it,” I told John Jr. “Do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes.”
Our elder son thought a moment. “Jelly beans!” he shouted. “Bob just loves jelly beans.”
So we bought a bag of jellybeans for our son to take to school the next day. We would see whether or not enemy-feeding worked.
That night we discussed the strategy to be used. The next time Bob jabbed John Jr. in the back, John would turn around and deposit the bag of jellybeans on his enemy’s desk. The next afternoon I watched and waited patiently for the yellow school bus to pull up, then dashed out the door to meet the boys before they got even halfway to the house. John Jr. called ahead, “It worked, Mom! It worked!”
His little brother claimed responsibility for the success. “Hey, remember, it was me who thought it up.”
I wanted details, “What did Bob do? What did he say?”
“He was so surprised he didn’t say anything—he just took the jellybeans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!”
Well, it wasn’t long before John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends—all because of a little bag of jellybeans.
Both our sons grew up to become missionaries in foreign countries. Their way to show friendship was to invite the inhabitants of those countries into their own homes to share food around their own tables. It seems enemies are always hungry. Maybe that’s why God says to feed them.