Christians often do an awful good job of telling people how to behave or complaining when people don’t behave as they ought. I’m guilty. I keep telling whoever reads these posts to lighten up, to love people no matter what and to stop idolizing virginity as a perfect thing.
So I wrestled with this question this morning. Where does “get the log out of your own eye” fit in with the command to “make disciples of all nations”? How do we balance our calling as ministers of the Gospel with the command to deal with your own sin before trying to nitpick others?
It’s a question I wrestle with often because there are thousands of tweets, blog posts and other forms of media that every day tell us what we’re doing wrong and what we need to change. And I think God has given us these tools to help and encourage one another, to challenge each other in our following of Jesus.
But is there a degree in which we go overboard in telling people how to behave differently?
It’s this kind of question that I think we don’t like asking or answering because we’re afraid that it’s going to make us feel guilty for how we’ve approached other people. It’s also such a nuanced issue, a matter of levels and intensity instead of something black-and-white.
Here’s the black-and-white:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
These things are the words of Jesus, straight from the Bible, so they’re irrefutable. Let’s key in on specifics.
Let’s start with the second passage. We are called to make disciples of all nations. What are the aspects of making disciples of all nations? Two things: baptizing people, and teaching them to observe what Jesus commands. So there is a command to instruct others how to live. And, to be honest, I don’t like it. But there’s a truth to that I can’t deny.
Here’s where I think it goes wrong: we take that command to the highest extreme, which we are prone to do as people. Just ask my friends, I do it all the flippin’ time. We go overboard on telling people what to do so much so that we forget that we’re called to examine ourselves first.
Then Matthew 7 comes into play. Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t tell people that they’re screwing up.” What He does say is this: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus sets up the order for how we are to help others see the faults in their lives.
First, He says, we must examine ourselves.
This is probably one of the hardest things to do as a Christian, at least emotionally. Actually looking at your life for the crap strewn throughout it isn’t that hard – all you have to do is look at your last 24 hours and compare it to what the Bible instructs us to do. But wrestling with the fact that, if we look at ourselves honestly, we fall short can be really tough. For some, it can be a huge blow to the ego and to the pride they’ve built up. For others, it can be incredibly discouraging and can make us forget the Gospel, forget what it means to be forgiven and loved by the Creator of the Universe.
But if we are to fairly look at others’ lives and say, “Hey, you’re missing this,” or, “These people are sinning in this way,” Jesus says we must first examine ourselves and deal with the issue in front of us.
Here’s another question: to what degree do we have to deal with our own sin before we can rightly instruct others? I don’t know the exact answer to that. But what I think (and I could be entirely wrong) Jesus is saying is, “Hey, deal with yourself and make sure you’re doing everything possible to kill the sin in your own life before you go nit-picking in others’ lives.”
One last thing: through His excellent forestry analogy, we see Jesus’ ideal hierarchy for sins. No, it’s not one sin is greater than another.
Your sin, your personal individual sin, is a log. That other person’s sin, it’s a speck. For comparison’s sake:
Compare an individual speck of wood to the log. That’s how others’ sin should look in comparison to ours.
If I see a speck in someone else’s eye, I want to help them out by sharing with them. But I can’t see it properly unless I get rid of the log in my own eye first. This is how we are called tell others about their sin.
But how often do we act differently? And not just in our own minds, but publicly? Do we go to social media to condemn others and their sin, or can we use those tools to also step back and say, “Yeah, I screw up too, and here’s how I do it, and here’s how God is helping me through this and can also help you too!” as well?
I think we could be a lot better witnesses of Christ and follow what the Bible says a lot closer if we took this approach. By sharing our own sin first, we could give God tons more glory and praise than He already gets, and make the Gospel look 10 million times better.
Hyperbole, yes. But the Gospel is worth all the hyperbole we can give it. It’s that awesome. It means the sins we commit – and the sins of others, if they are believers – are forgiven and no longer held against them. I’ll talk about that all day long.