Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eyeing Up How We Deal With Each Others Faults and Failings in Matthew 7:1-6

A few years ago I had an operation on my eyes. Blood vessels had burst and the only way to restore my eyesight was to insert a needle and suck the jelly in front of the retina out. My left eye was done with a local anaesthetic so I was awake and could hear what was going on and see what was going on as well. “we’re just going to stick this needle in your eye Mr Carter we need you to stay very, very still.’  Just as the surgeon settled over his microscope like apparatus to begin the delicate work on my eyes he stopped… ‘has someone other been using these scopes?’ the answer was, ‘yes they had’, so before he was able to continue dealing with my eye problem he had to adjust the instrument he was using to compensate for his own eye issues. The operation then continued without a hitch. Can I say I really appreciated his self-awareness and willingness to deal with his own shortcomings before he started to deal with mine!

  You have a problem dear friends… I am not perfect. In fact a friend of Kris and mine once said, Howard you are going to make a great minister… because you have so many faults there is hope for the rest of us. In fact I’m so imperfect and flawed that I cannot see all of my faults, flaws, failings and foibles. I am aware of a lot of them but not all of them. How are you going to deal with that?

Dear friends I have a problem… you are all wonderful people, but I know that you are not perfect as well. you have faults, flaws, failings and foibles some of which you may not be aware of… How I am I going to deal with that?

 Jesus ties these two things together, dealing with eye problems and the imperfections we see in each other as he continues to show us a new way of living as the people of God in Matthew 7. As he gives us a new operating system a new way of living and relating. You see with Jesus revolution of grace, wonderfully and poetically laid out in the beatitudes, we are welcomed in Christ, with all with our brokenness and imperfections, to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus calls us to be salt and light, to have a righteousness that is not external but comes from a heart transformation. But Jesus is not idealistic and na├»ve to think that we as a new people of God will not have to deal with the imperfections we see in each other or in the people around us. So he warns us about the two extremes that we can fall into for dealing with those differences. Too dangerous defaults…Judgementalism; passing sentence on others because of their faults and failings or even their differences from us,   and being undiscerning; not acknowledging that there are faults and failings and yes even differences, that need to be addressed. And says DA Carson you can tell which of the two is the most dangerous to our loving each other and kingdom of heaven living by the fact that Jesus spends five verses addressing Judgmentalism and one dealing with being undiscerning.

 Jesus uses the rabbinical style of teaching here he states his instruction ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’ then gives the theological justification for that instruction ‘For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ Then gives two illustrations of the instruction… the parable of the speck and the plank in verses 3,5 deals with judgementalism and the parable of the pigs, dogs and pearls in verse 6, which deals with being undiscerning.

 ‘Do not judge or you will be judged’… it’s probably best to quickly say what Jesus doesn’t mean here so we can fully comprehend what he does mean. Historically some have seen this as a prohibition of Christians being involved in the judiciary. In what you could say was a very relevant debate over the relationship between church and state, but in the illustration Jesus uses of the speck and the plank it seems to have a more everyday life, relationship between disciples connotation. Likewise others have seen that this means that Christians are not to make any moral judgement what so ever, that we simply cannot or should not decide between what is right or wrong. Again that does not fit the context, as we work our way through Matthew 7… we are warned to be discerning in not to cast our pearls before swine…we will see Jesus warning us against false prophets, that we will be able to judge them by their fruit. To judge here is rather to pass sentence upon, to write off. One of the ways we can make ourselves feel better or superior and more righteous than others is falling into the trap of looking down at another person for their imperfections:

Another parable that springs to mind is Jesus teaching in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector who went up to the temple to pray in Luke 18:9-14, where instead of being aware of his own sins and short fallings the Pharisee simply thanks God that he is not like the tax collector.  His self-righteousness is a mask held on by the glue of comparison, he is blind to its own failing. Jesus stinging conclusion to that story is that the tax collector not the Pharisee went home justified, because he knew his spiritual poverty and his need for God, his vision was clear. 

 Then Jesus moves on to give us the rational why we should not judge. It’s very simply if we judge others we will be judged, the measure we use of others will be used of us. In the end we are playing God by writing someone off and as Jesus points out all of us are not fit for the job, our vision our seeing of others is not clear enough. As it says in 1 Samuel 16:7 Man looks on the outside sees the exterior, God sees the heart, the motives the context clearly. Mark Woodley uses the illustration of dealing with   a screaming baby night after night. He says he has felt the frustration building and building within him, his fists clench, even with a supportive partner, financial security, a caring family background and caring church gathered round, while he does not condone neglect or violence to children, he cannot say what he would do if he was alone, or caught in an abusive relationship, struggling under the pressure of overdue rent and inadequate benefits and no one to turn to. If we condemn and write off that person as beyond God’s grace and our compassion it’s not on. There is no room for hope.

Thanks to for giving permission for this image to be used. check out there store for all saftey sign needs.

 To be treated in the same measure as we treat others, can be taken two ways. Both of which are true and destructive.  Judgementalism or a critical spirit that is always seeking out the faults of others is contagious, it is catchy it spreads like an infection within a body and can be fatal to communities, marriages and churches. On the other hand gracious acceptance and working at overcoming issues together can be healing. Secondly a heart that does not see its own faults and writes others off is not open and receptive to the forgiveness and grace of God. If we do not forgive other are we open to the forgiveness of God. We find ourselves playing God and writing others off and we place ourselves in that very place before God.

Jesus then gives us an illustration of what is wrong and also a way forward in treating each other’s imperfections and faults. He does it in a warm and humorous way, almost with Monty Python-esque ridicule but also just in case we miss it with some real sting. That word we all hate hypocrite.

 He says judging others is like this, having a smudge on your glasses and walking past an optometrists who suddenly grabs you glasses off your face and proceeds to ridicule you about taking more care of your glasses and vigorously wipes them down and when he looks up you realise that his glasses are covered in paint splatters and tomato sauce, engine grease and mustard and if you look real hard you can just grab a glimpse of his eyeball through a thin gap of clear glass of the left lens. Or you are walking past a building site and some sawdust gets caught in your eye and someone comes rushing up to help you and as you turn to see them they have a table leg sticking out of each eye. Well says Jesus before you remove the speck from your brother or sisters eye deal with what in your own eye first then you can deal with theirs. In fact says Jesus we’ve got the mustard and engine grease we’ve got the table leg.

 The key says Jesus of not judging and dealing with each other’s imperfections is not to put on a mask that we are OK and all right. Not to be a hypocrite, Rather  we need to start with self-examination and self-knowledge, to be willing to open ourselves up to the process that Psalm 139 poetically concludes with “search me O God and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’. It’s only as we do that that our vision is clear enough to even spot the speck in someone else’s eyes let alone to be able to deal with it.

Secondly Any observation of a speck in someone’s eye is not to condemn them for it, but rather to assist them to get back to clear vision. We should be motivated by care and love for the other person. In Galatians 6:1 Paul exhorts his readers  by applying Jesus teaching in a more straightforward manner ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.’ There’s the possible log.

 Johari’s window is a tool to help us understand that process. It is a diagram that shows how much of who we are is known to ourselves and to others and shows that the more we are able to open ourselves up to our self-knowledge and being known by others with all our faults and flaws and foibles and failings as well as our strengths and good points and sucesses that our ability to communicate and work with each other develops and grows. There are faults in my life than are hidden from me, I can’t see them, it’s like the log in the eye, they cause me to treat others and communicate in a non-Christ like way. There are areas you see that I don’t I need you to help me to remove those specks, God give me the grace to let you help me remove it. There are areas I know about but I have hidden from you, and they are not going to be able to be sorted till I can get them out in the open. I can only do that as I see you deal with those areas of your life and as I see and feel the grace and love from you to feel safe to bring them out into the open. So we can sort em together.

If you want have a better look at this tool it can be found on line (I’ll put that on the church website).

Jesus finishes his teaching on do not judge with a warning about uncritical thinking and acceptance… the other dangerous reaction to the faults and failings we all have.  It’s full of some rather strong language. We may not be used to Jesus calling people pigs and dogs, but he does. He says if we are uncritical we run the danger of casting our pearl before swine and dogs. Now when Jesus says dog’s it’s from a first century Jewish perspective, these are not domesticated lapdogs and pets they are the wild mongrels that roam the streets looking for food, and pigs were both unclean animals and semi wild. We can find ourselves in the position of sharing our gospel treasure with people who just are not willing to hear or respond, we are called to love our enemies, and not to write people off but there are times and situations as we live out the gospel or share the gospel that it will be mistreated and not be received by others. We need to be aware of that and tread carefully in those situations. Some peoples Johari windows are definitely nailed shut.

Let me finish with a poem by Carol Wimmer that was posted by a friend on facebook. I think it sums up the some of the posture and stance that Jesus invites us to take here. It’s entitled When I Say ‘I am a Christian’

When I say I am a Christian’

I am not shouting that “I am clean living”

I am whispering “I was lost, but now I am found and forgiven”

When I say I and a Christian

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide’

When I say I am a Christian

I’m not trying to be strong

I’m professing that I am weak and need his strength to carry on.

When I say I am a Christian

I’m not bragging of success

I’m admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say I’m a Christian.

I’m not claiming that I’m perfect

My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am Worth it.

When I say I am a Christian

I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heart aches

So I call upon his name.

When I say I am a Christian

I am not holier than thou.

I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!

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