Saturday, 9 July 2011

The lesser sin of violence

I have a group of friends who have become Christians. One of their number has recently had someone move into to his flat. This uninvited guest is abusive to him with the result that he has lost all his fragile self-confidence and seems to be spiralling back into deep depression and alcoholism. I had lunch with one of the guys today who said, “But, look how much we’ve all changed, a couple of years ago we’d have just gone ‘round to the house and beaten the guy up and kicked him out. Now that we’re Christians we haven’t done anything to him.”

This is really bad.

We’ve taken away the one effective way they knew how to deal with injustice and now they are powerless in the face of it. We’ve got it wrong. We have saved them from the sin of violence and initiated them into the sin of crossing over to the other side of the road. We should have shown them new ways of tackling injustice before we took the violent one away from them. Must do better.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Sawdust matters

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:3–5 TNIV)

I’ve been thinking about this parable/illustration a lot recently. It’s pretty funny isn’t it? It would be great to see a cartoon strip version of it.

It’s about the danger of judging I think. The danger that we place ourselves and others in when we chose to judge someone. The moment that I identify and name the speck in your eye I am in grave danger of missing the plank in my eye. It’s a self-awareness malfunction. I am remarkably alert to the failing in you and remarkably blind to my own failing. The more alertly I look at you the more blind I become to myself.

Or perhaps sometimes it’s another way around. I know all too well about the plank in my eye but if I can get the attention off me and onto your sawdust you might not notice my depravity. If I can keep a clean sheet in your eyes I win..... wasn't that the point?

Often the plank and the speck are from the same species of tree. The thing that I am particularly vigilant in pointing out in you is the same sort of sin that I so hate in myself. For instance, I find arrogance particularly repulsive because that’s what I am really.

Maybe sometimes the plank in my eye is actually caused by the judgement I have made about the speck in yours. In this case it can be helpful to speak about it as ‘evil’. The speck in your eye is sin in you which brings about evil. My reaction to this evil can sometimes create a far greater measure of evil. My judging must instead lead to the potential of redemption, not to an increase in the measure and span of evil.

So am I saying that I shouldn’t judge, that I should just allow you to continue in your sin? Well, to be honest sometimes this might be best. I have disqualified myself, “Lord, here I am, send someone else.” But I’m certainly not saying the speck in your eye is of no consequence. Just that I am sinful and poorly qualified to deal with it in a way that will result in redemption. The way I deal with it is as likely to bring more evil. To deal with it well might help re-humanise you, in my falleness I may use it to dehumanise you.

I think I am recognising that the desire in me to point out the sin in you is often not about me seeking your redemption and flourishing but rather about my own self-promotion and ego.

Yes, the speck in your eye matters.

Yes, the plank in my eye matters.