First, remove the plank from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye – Mtt. 7:5
WHOAH! This is the conclusion we were not expecting! Who am I to remove any sins from my brother or sister’s eyes? Well, for one thing, your baptism unites you together in bonds that go way beyond our full understanding; in short …we’re all in this together! Jesus’ teaching about judging doesn’t end with removing the plank from our own eye, but with this comment to help with the sawdust in our brother’s eye. So, here are a few thoughts about this ‘sawdust ministry’ to one another:
1. When Jesus says first remove … He teaches that only ‘grace-healed eyes’ (Tertullian) can see clearly enough to be of any help to our brother or sister. Only ‘wounded healers’ (Nouwen) can heal in the Church. Start with yourself.
2. But we do have a responsibility to “Teach disciples how to obey everything Jesus commanded us” . There IS sawdust in people’s eyes that needs to be removed. We often like to quote 2 Tim. 3:16 about ‘the inspiration of all scripture’ but overlook Paul’s point about why Scripture is profitable in the Church. He doesn’t say it is profitable simply to multiply bible studies and scripture memory programs, but to teach, to reprove, to correct and train each other in righteousness . Like the Apostle, our goal is to bring men and women to maturity – not just accumulation of gigabytes of Bible knowledge (Col. 1:28).
3. “Let’s all just love one another” is NOT REALLY LOVING when sin, by its very nature, enslaves, corrupts, defaces or pollutes the children of God, brings scandal on the Church, shatters God’s good shalom on earth (I.e. racism) or promotes teaching that minimizes Christ’s unique role as our mediator between God and Man (I Tim.2:5). Two thousand years of the long traditions of orthodoxy about what is immoral behavior should not be overturned by an unthinking conformity to cultural opinion and ruin the reputation of the Church before the watching world. These things DO need to be addressed, but this is not for the faint-heated; it is for the faithful-hearted! But again, only those who have ‘grace-healed eyes’ need apply!
4. When we judge, we must judge with right judgment (John 7:24). And right judgment will be quick to make the charitable assumption, quick to believe innocence, it will be slow to pronounce guilt, its goal is to reconcile and restore and will always be slow to speak and quick to hear.
5. Jesus’ Golden Rule: vs. 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” Jesus’ Golden Rule is positive, not negative: DO to others what you would have them DO to you. But “Negative Spirituality” (the via negativa ) focuses on all the things we’re going to avoid doing. It is like sports teams that play hard to not lose, instead of trying to win. They play an entirely defensive game – “let’s not make any mistakes” – rather than going on the offense: blessing our enemies, doing good and knowing the word that sustains the weary (Isa. 50:4).