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     Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “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. Rom. 12:17-21
     Dear Lord Jesus, apart from your mercy and grace, the admonitions in this one passage expose our immaturity and mock our sensibilities. We cannot and will not live this way without you. Everything within us instinctively wants to get even when we are hurt by others.
     Whether it’s a “lighthearted” insult or an outright assault; whether it’s our forgotten birthday or a remembered failure; whether we’re excluded from a party or included in someone’s madness, relational hurts hurt uniquely. And so often, too often, the pain we feel gets recycled and redistributed to others.
     Lord Jesus, we ask you for thicker skin and a bigger hearts. We want to love well—to love to your glory—when we experience everything from unintended slights to fully intended harm. Where evil has already deeply wounded us or is presently stalking, remind us that you will repay, you will avenge. That’s your right, not ours. Make this real to us and not just a vague spiritual maxim.
     We confess, Lord Jesus, we’re clueless (and will-less) about feeding hungry, thirsty enemies. Take our hand and show us the way. The only way we can imagine overcoming evil with good is by remembering you’ve already secured the utter annihilation of all evil and darkness.
     May our passion to see your beauty far exceed our longing to see burning coals heaped on the heads of our enemies. And Lord Jesus, where we’re just too sensitive, too easily offended, too quick to keep a record of wrongs done to us, too unwilling to overlook the sins of others, have mercy on us. Free us to do the right thing—the gospel thing.
     As far as we are able, as far as it depends on us, show us how to make peace, guard peace, nurture peace with everyone. All of this is simply impossible apart from you, Lord Jesus. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and sufficient name.

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One thought on “A Prayer for Thicker Skin and a Bigger Heart”

  1. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    Can’t pretend I got it bad regarding a ”thicker skin” I am constantly praying for. It’s not because I couldn’t forgive – thanks be to God, I can – rather that I am suffering in my heart when somebody hurts me. In such a case I have to pull myself out of the painful situation, and pray all alone until Jesus has healed my sore heart completely. I am like an animal that goes to see a “silent corner” in order to lick its wounds.

    But, alas, it’s always the same: I have no thick skin yet though the heart seems to grow due to an increasing understanding of my neighbors’ “mistakes”. However, as soon as Jesus has healed me, it’s over indeed. If someone then continues to apologize to me (over and over again – trying it for life time, it seems .-) ), I tell him or her that it’s not necessary because I forgot it.
    Glory be to God who has given me such a poor and holey memory :-)

    BTW, I have stopped calling others who hurt me “enemies” as soon as I became aware of the evil spiritual presence behind them (Eph 6:12). Now I can somehow “see through” the “evil veil” into the depth of my neighbors’ hearts who are created by the same loving Creator, that is our Lord Jesus. But I remind me that I’ll never forget (!) that it works only because of Him, and His helping hand – the Holy Spirit – who changed my heart because beforehand I couldn’t love and forgive at all.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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