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Gotta Have Skin--But What Kind?

I recently shared some of the following thoughts with an assembly of junior high and high school students. Perhaps you'll find them thought-provoking, too.

Our skin is an amazing body organ. In fact, it's second only to the intestines in size, and it's as necessary to our health and wellbeing as food, water, and oxygen.

An old song said that "You gotta have skin--to keep the insides in." But our skin does far more than provide a sack to contain our innards.

Every square inch of skin is said to contain an estimated 20 blood vessels and 650 sweat glands. The skin is the body's cooling system with anywhere from 2 to 4 million sweat glands, depending on how big one is.

But the skin also guards muscles and internal organs, provides insulation, guards against water loss, protects against germs and disease, helps our senses, and absorbs oxygen and ointments. It's what allows the Aspercream (R) I apply to my wrists to relieve pain, the Benadryl (R) to ease the itching from insect bites, and the "Oil of Old Age" cream to treat ladies' wrinkles.

Skin amazingly heals itself when hurt, creating scar tissue. And it communicates our emotions. Our face turns red whenever we are angry or embarrassed. It loses its color when we are sick. It glows when we're happy and excited.

Skin also presents a good analogy for various kinds of personal conditions.

Some people have DRY skin. Everyone's skin sheds its cells as they dry up or die. As a kid, a friend would rub his crew cut vigorously over a dark notebook or paper, and it would soon be gray with dead, dry skin cells--dandruff. In fact, our skin sheds its cells so regularly that we replace all those cells about every 30 days or so--maybe more if one uses defoliants.

But some people's lives are dry, dull, dead because their religion is that way. They have dry "spiritual skin" because they either don't know Christ or have strayed far from Him. But that's not what He wants for us. He came to earth that we "might have life, and . . . have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

Some people have STINKY skin. We develop an odor if we have a lot of dead skin cells and sweat that build up. We need a bath. But merely washing our hands or face or applying deodorant won't solve the problem of body odor; it just hides it for a while. If not treated properly, it only gets worse.

The solution to stinky "spiritual skin" is a full-body bath. There are no works of righteousness that we can do to solve the problem of spiritual odor. Even the best we do is "as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). We must be bathed "by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 2:5).

Some people have THIN skin. They're easily offended. They take everything personally, making it virtually impossible even to converse with them.

Paul wrote of two women at Philippi who were at odds with each other. We aren't told what the problem was, but I suspect that one of them had been offended by something the other had said or done. He had to reprimand them and tell them to straighten up and be adults about it. Don't be Odious and Soon-Touchy," as someone called these two ladies.

Other people have THICK skin. A thick skin can sometimes be a good thing. It's easier to get along in life with a thick skin, not being easily offended over every little thing, as so many are today, but able to take a joke without taking it personally, able to accept criticism.

But some people have the wrong kind of thick skin. They have no feelings for others, nothing offense them--even when it should--and they have no sympathy or compassion for others.

A good illustration of thick skin is Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 and following). A man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead along the road. First a priest and later a Levite came by the spot. The former saw the victim and passed by. The latter saw the beaten man, came over and looked closely at him, but then went on his way. These men had thick skin, no compassion.

But a Samaritan came along and saw the man lying there. And he dressed the man's wounds, took him somewhere to be cared for, and paid for that care. Moreover, when he had to leave, the Samaritan provided for the victim's continued care until he had fully recovered and pledged to pay for it himself. That's the opposite of a thick skin!

Some people's thick skin has become CALLOUSED. When a child goes to school and learns to write, he or she quickly develops a callous on one or more fingers of the writing hand. If you do manual labor for a long time, your hands develop callouses. If you go barefoot a lot, you develop callouses on your heels and maybe your toes.

But people's hearts can become calloused, too. They have no feelings at all. They can't even feel their own remorse or sorrow for their spiritual condition. They need a "spiritual pedicure" to remove the callouses of their heart.

Ideally, we should all strive to develop and maintain spiritually HEALTHY skin. We'll never be perfect in this life. Even believers in Christ still have the sin nature within us, which causes us constantly to be at war with it. But Christ has set us His example, a goal toward which we should be striving. As Paul did, we should "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after getting the Ten Commandments from God, "the skin of his face shown" because he had been with God (Exo. 34:29-30). If we spend time with God and let Him teach us from His Word, our "spiritual skin" won't be dry and dull, we won't be overly sensitive to slights, we won't have skin so thick that we can't feel the pains and sorrows and needs of others, and we certainly won't be insensitive to our own spiritual needs.

Rather, we'll have healthy "spiritual skin" that senses and responds appropriately to those needs.

Many people spend a lot of time and millions of dollars to care for their physical skin. Americans spent $42.9 billion on such products just last year.

What kind of efforts are you making to care for your "spiritual skin?"

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