A Prayer for Thick Skin and a Big Heart
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 grace and Spirit, the admonitions in this passage mock our sensibilities. We cannot and we will not live this way without your help. 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 gossip, relational pain hurts the most. And too often, we hurt, we tend to hurt others. That’s one form of recycling, unfortunately, we’re all good at.
Jesus, we ask you for thick skin and a big heart. 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. Make this real to us and not just a vague spiritual maxim.
More clearly than we see the enemies of beauty, let us see the wonders of your finished work. Let us see the tons of mercy you’ve heaped on us, more clearly than we long to see burning coals heaped on the heads of those who have hurt us. The only way we’ll overcome evil with good is by remembering you’ve already overcome our sin on the cross. We will feed our hungry, thirsty enemies only as we drink the living water of grace and the feast on you, the Bread of Life.
And Jesus, where we’re just too sensitive, too easily offended, too quick to keep a record of wrongs done to us, and too slow to overlook what can and should be overlooked, have mercy on us. And 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. This way of relating is simply impossible apart from you. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and sufficient name.