Logs In Our Eyes: Jesus' Call to Move From Detached Judgment to Passionate Engagement
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 brothers eye. -Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)
Lets start with what this verse is not about. It is not about making sure you are the great arbiter of what is and what is not moral. It is not about arriving at the redeemed state, the perfect state, of yourself and then proclaiming judgment on others to fix themselves. After all, if you pulled yourself up by the bootstraps and did it, then surely they can too. This is not the point, nor is it how it actually happens. If we delude ourselves into thinking we "fixed" ourselves through our own hard work then we would actually still be ignoring a log in our own eye!
Rather, if you removed a log from your own eye, you probably had to ask for some help. (Side note - obviously no one gets a "log" literally in one's eye - Jesus is using hyperbole.) I mean, I've gotten an eyelash in my eye before, and my eye watered so much I had to get my wife's help just to see it! Not only was perhaps some help required, the process, pain, and situation which the other person with the speck in their eye would be something that you could aid because you'd been through it yourself. There would be grace, kindness, and compassion in working to help another person with a speck in their eye.
Haughtiness would not be your approach.
We see this in many ways in "real life." That those organizations, people, recovery groups, churches, counselors, and friends which truly help people do not do it through disparaging remarks, a holier-than-thou attitude, or a detached just buck-up and buckle down approach. They are much more relational than that (and yes, once relationship is known, there may be times for a wake-up call, buckle-down and get serious about this issue time). But when one has been through the process, we get how hard it can be. We get how interrelated, difficult, and stubborn our own self is, and thus are able to extend grace in working with others. We don't point the finger at others as having the problem, and if only they could fix themselves to be like "us" then all will be well. Rather, we enter into life with them and love, help, correct, encourage, bear with, and persevere with them through the trials or issues. "They" are not the problem, because it is something "we" have gone through too, and we remember what that was like.
This passage is immediately on the heals of "Judge not, that you be not judged. For the judgment your pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." (Mt 7:1-2, ESV) Judging is pronouncing another guilty, a placing the blame of guilt on someone before others (and God) that is final and divisive.
Guess what, Jesus says something pretty radical. He doesn't get tied up in coming up with the best or fairest way to judge others. Rather, instead of judging, bear with them and help them remove the speck that is noticed. Even before doing this, we have to recognize and work on ourselves. Which requires help. Jesus points beyond judgment based on obedience to objective universal laws. Instead he points to working out the fulfillment of these laws in love, which can only be worked out contextually. Jesus levels the playing field and says that the point is not judgment, but compassion, in working towards the good.
Because good does exist.
There is a right and wrong way of living and acting.
There are specks and logs in life that do get in our eyes.
We are all afflicted by them.
So instead of judging and being a hypocrite (Jesus's words!), we bear with one another and work through life's issues with them. This is not a call to not judge which really is cheap relativism, in that it is impossible to know what is good, loving, or true and so 'to each their own.' Rather, it is passionate engagement with others in working through the trials of life.
It is relational, humbly seeking understanding and involves a ton more time invested in people than simply proclaiming others the evil in the world that needs to change or be eliminated.
We cannot universally proclaim a standard to uphold, which conveniently enough is not what particularly effects us, and then sit back and expect others to adapt or die.
Rather it is a dedicated presence working together contextually.
Loving and bearing with one another.
Remembering the pain and growth which we have come through in our own lives and have seen in other people's lives.
Working together contextually toward the good, the noble, the pure, and the true.
In fact, it is only in these subjective, contextual moments we experience truth.
Not in the abstract, universal, and distanced proclamation of judgment.
But in the subjective, contextual, loving relationship of community.
Only when we realize we all need help removing specks and logs, and we really can't do it alone or without a gentle hand to help. In fact, I might actually need to have the person who I noticed has a speck in their eye help me remove the log in my own. I know I need help in doing it!
May we become better at bearing with one another, and stop wasting time and energy on judging.