‘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? How can you say to your brother, “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 your brother’s eye.’
– Matthew 7:3-5
We often like to quote these words of Jesus, as long as it applies to someone else, eh? A very strange thing has happened to me this week. Yesterday, I unfollowed a fellow blogger, telling him he was biased and hateful. I had come across his blog as it was highlighting atrocities committed by ISIS that world media seems to be oblivious to. I had a good debate with him, but in the end I realised he was not going to answer points I made about my faith that I thought he got wrong, nor was he going to post a link I had sent him (that he had asked for from someone else!) because it challenged his own bias. I got a bit of abuse for telling him plainly that I was the fool for believing he was committed to truth and not just one side of a story. He had allowed his righteous hatred of the acts of extremist jihadists to become a foil for condemning Islam and everyone who followed it. I may see it as a false religion, but that doesn’t make almost 2 billion people on Earth all evil!
While I was dealing with this hater, I was facing my own jury, unaware of the links and the similarities. My hatred of political doctrines had seared my conscience to become a hater of persons, one person in particular, whose face I cannot see without feeling anger. I had posted a meme of my own on social media, thinking I was just expressing my opinion, which I was entitled to do. Entitlement comes from many sources, but maybe the worst is when it arises from a sense of superiority or pride. That is something very prevalent among Christians, since they know that they do have the truth. I cannot comment for other religions, I only know what I know. Paul addressed the Ephesian church with an admonition:
‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
– Ephesians 4:26
Now the Ephesian church is the one in Revelation that was praised for its correct doctrine; they “hated the practices of the Nicolaitans” but our Lord had one thing against them – they had “left their first love.” I can think of many evangelical churches in this country that fit that description. Why was Paul addressing this to them? Did he know how they had become? So full of their own self-righteousness that they had become little more than a people who knew who to hate, and how and why?
It took many… many fellow believers to rebuke me before I saw clearly (my wife was the first, but I tend not to listen to her enough – ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ – true!). My post was offensive and unchristian, and unthinking (which is the very thing I pride myself on). And there it was… my pride, in my ‘superior’ intellect. Our Lord does not address others with his words, he addresses US!
I look back on the past few days and see a self-righteous man, unaware of the huge plank in his own eye, not even thinking for one second that self-righteousness was a trait he had. Yet in this instance, this area, he was! Now that the plank has been removed, I can see it clearly, and should it present itself to enter my eye again, I should be better equipped to recognise it.
The oft-quoted mantra “hate the sin, not the sinner” is something we need to remind ourselves regularly, while not allowing it to become no more than a twee sentiment, or a mask for genuine hatred.
Forgive me, everyone. My imperfection was laid bare and I was the last to see. This does not feel good right now, but it will in the end. I am grateful for those who can and do address things they see as wrong, and all your comments got through in the end. I always welcome dialogue. Keep addressing sin as you see it, but please beware of your own anger, as Paul admonishes us. Don’t go where I have been; I am a more wary believer now (and more aware!).
Grace be with you.