Yesterday was a pretty challenging devotional. My intentions are to be a little less challenging today. We’ll see if that actually happens. As we continue looking at the way we are wearing the coat of Christ, I want to look back to an illustration I used in the sermon on Sunday. I didn’t expound on it too much and would like to do so here. 

On Sunday I talked about how our focus tends to be on ourselves. When we look at others, we primarily do so through the lens of our own beliefs, assumptions, intentions and history. I shared a quote I have shared before: “We judge the actions of others devoid of their intentions while we tend to overemphasize our intentions even when they conflict with our actions.” 

What I mean by that statement is. When someone does something we disagree with or we think is wrong, we judge their action (the thing we can see) in the absence of their intentions (which we can’t see.) Often times, we even go further and assume that their intentions were wrong. I have done that plenty of times. I assume someone’s intentions by their actions. At the same time, I tend to overemphasize my own intentions. If my actions fall short, I can cut myself some slack because I know that my intentions were good. 
In the book, Keller mentioned the idea “Unless you know the starting points…” and then talked about the fact that, even though some people still seem to have a lot of work to do, when we know where they began we can see the incredible progress they have made. When we don’t know the starting point, it’s easy to assume that the reason they fall short is because Christianity doesn’t help the way it should. And so, even though someone may have come a long way, we don’t see it. 

This way of subjective evaluation puts ridiculous faith in our own beliefs, assumptions, intentions and understanding. You hear it all the time, in nearly every conversation about any kind of hot button topic. “Well, I just think…” followed by a moral judgement the person has made on another person or organization. The entire basis for their argument are their own thoughts. It’s no longer relative “truth” dominating the world, it’s my “truth”. There are millions of “truths” being used to criticize, critique and condemn people every day. 

Unfortunately, many of us within the church are doing the same thing. Living in the era of “strongly held, but poorly formed beliefs,” many followers of Jesus cling tightly to, argue for and divide the church based on their own personal understanding of the truth, leaving no room for personal growth or personal error. We would rather find someone who agrees with our point of view than entertain the possibility that we might not yet have all the answers. So we fight for our “truth”. We support and encourage the people who agree with us while we belittle and even condemn those who don’t. 

There is a famous teaching of Jesus the pertains to this concept.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. 41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

Luke 6:37-42

We have become expert spec noticers but horrible plank removers. One time, when Harry was pretty young, he was eating something with a fork. And Bekki was sitting right next to him. Without warning, as toddlers often do, he threw his hand up in the air, fork in hand, stabbing Bekki in the eye. I looked at her eye, but couldn’t see a thing. I looked really close too. But, we went to the eye doctor and he could see that the fork had scratched her eye. It took many months with a lot of eye drops for her eye to heal. She was in a horrible amount of pain and even though I was really looking, I couldn’t see the scratch. She, on the other hand, knew right where it was. 

It would have been easy for me to say, “Well, I can’t see anything so you’re fine. It’s probably all in your head.” But, that wasn’t the truth. That statement didn’t correspond with reality. What I saw or couldn’t see because my knowledge and perspective were limited could have led me to believe a lie about my wife. But the doctor who was not only far more educated than myself, but had tools I didn’t have and knew how to use them, he could see things I couldn’t see. He did not have the same limits in knowledge and perspective that I had. And he was able to see and deal with the problem that I would have ignored. 

Jesus said: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Right now, we’ve got a lot of blind guides. When we rely fully and solely on our own knowledge and understanding, not only do we cut ourselves off from being led by someone who has more knowledge and perspective than ourselves, but we keep leading ourselves into the same pit. 

We don’t like the idea that we don’t know everything. We don’t like thinking that there might be gaps in our understanding and that we might need the help of a teacher who has more knowledge and insight than we do to help us see what we can’t see. So we don’t.
“Wait a second, I thought Jesus was talking about taking the planks out of our own eyes, but now you’re saying someone is supposed to be looking in my eyes. That’s a contradiction.” Sure, it’s a contradiction. If you skip over the part about the teacher and the last part about being able to help with the speck once you’ve taken out the plank. Jesus has been saying to Love your enemies. Be merciful. Don’t judge. Don’t Condemn. Forgive. Give. These are the things Jesus has been teaching. These are the things we are supposed to be radical about, which we will talk about tomorrow. 

He is giving us a set of glasses through which to see the world. This teaching is found in the teaching Jesus gives to his twelve disciples right after he called them. This is a part of Jesus’ manifesto. But, we can’t miss one, very important piece of it. This is Jesus’ teaching. These are His glasses. 

Our pride is the plank in our own eye. Our pride is what keeps us from looking in ourselves to see what work still needs to be done and leads us to be critical, judgmental and condemning of others. Our pride leads us to think we have all the answers, have all the understanding and have everything figured out. Our pride becomes the faulty premise we build our lives and our glasses around, and our pride keeps us from being able to see the faulty premise our lives are built upon. 

Justice in our time is being interpreted by personal opinion and personal preservation. The same cancer is in the church and it’s on us to eradicate it. 

I’m going to tell you right now, I don’t know everything. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot to learn. But the truth is, and I say this out of love, so do you. Some of you may be quite a long way ahead of me. Others may be quite a long way behind me. I have not arrived. I learn more every day. Someday, I hope what Jesus said will be true of me, “the student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” I hope that some day, I will be fully trained to be like Jesus. I’m growing into that every day. I know God sees me that way already. I have teachers who are further ahead in their journey who are training me. And I have others I am training. 

But, here’s the point. None of us have arrived being fully trained yet. We are all works in progress. It’s all there at our fingertips to have if we choose. And hopefully we keep choosing more and more of it. And the more of Christ we choose, the easier it is to choose more of Christ. 

There are very few people who have the responsibility of being a teacher. James, Jesus’ half brother said: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” 
When we are critical, judgmental, condemning and unmerciful, we not only put ourselves in the position of teacher, but into God’s position as judge. Are there some given the role to judge? Sure. But that’s not most of us. And the plank illustrates why. 

The danger is, we get nit picky about others while ignoring the glaring problem with ourselves. We go to point out the way this person, this pastor, this leader, this artist is failing to live up to God’s righteous standards not even realizing that our very pointing out of their sawdust is revealing the plank in our own eye – our pride. It’s pride that leads us to judge, pride that leads us to think we are better and have all the answers. Pride is what led us to rebel against God. Pride makes us think we are our own God. 

Instead, let’s focus on our own planks. Let’s focus on the pain we feel in our eyes that no one else can see. Let’s seek help from those who are wiser than ourselves to deal with that pain. Let’s humble ourselves and ask for help. Let’s humble ourselves and let Jesus and those he calls, equips and trains to be our leaders and teachers to be the ones who guide us. No, they are not perfect. They stumble in many ways. And they will be judged more strictly. But, it is God who will judge them, not you or me. Let’s let God be God while we focus one seeing with his glasses instead of our own plank filled lenses. 

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