September 6, 2012 by Stacy McDonald

That Neon Brotherly Speck

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Repost from 2011

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3–5)

I do; I hate it. As much as it may seem otherwise at the time, I hate that feeling of superiority and anger I get when I am blinded by the ugliness of someone else’s sin—sin against me. Do you know what I mean? It’s so big and obvious. It’s distracting; why can’t they see it? I cross my arms, turn my head, and stew. I want to see sorrow, repentance…or at least an admission of guilt. Don’t worry; I won’t require groveling. I’m a Christian.

But when there is no repentance, I can’t seem to let it go. Can you relate? It’s funny how the sins of others are so easy to see. You know…that huge neon brotherly speck? However, my own sin, sometimes in response to the sins of others, is not so easy for me to see. My sin is always “understandable.” So, I linger in my delusion, and bitterness and pride builds.

But, anger, especially when its laced with bitterness, is exhausting and difficult to control. It takes energy and commands attention. Sometimes it causes us to do and say things we regret. And, before long, it becomes apparent to others that something is wrong. So, since I’m a Christian, I do eventually, if not immediately, begin to search for my own sin in the matter. “How might I have sinned here?” I may ask myself. “How have I perhaps committed similar sins or contributed to the problem?” I want to repent and be free from sin or bitterness.

Before you think I’m being too pious, I have to admit my desire to seek out my own sin is, in a way, selfish. It benefits me. It eases the pain and exhaustion of my wrath and makes it easier to extend grace and mercy. I don’t like feeling “right” as much as it may appear.; because it’s that “rightness” that drives me—that keeps me from humbling myself–that keeps me in a type of bondage.

But, knowing that I’m guilty, and forgiven, makes it easier for me to see my weak brother as a mutual sinner in need of forgiveness, instead of seeing him as an enemy in need of punishment. How can I dare not extend grace when I need it so desperately myself? And grace is cleansing—freeing…for both sides. The build-up of wrath and pride is like drinking an active, boiling poison. It drives you crazy and burns like fire in your heart. How is it that we so often covet this poison?

It’s not always easy to view my own sin with clarity. Try as I might, when I consider whether or not I have similar sins or ways that I may fail in a similar way to someone I’m in a conflict with, I often come up with nothing. My mind wanders back to their sin—to offenses—offenses against me. I easily admit that “I’m a wretched sinner;” but, I’m quick to point out that I “would never” sin like she has done. Or I can’t even imagine doing what he has done. The arrogance and wrath in my heart grows hotter—the pain and passion pierce my soul. And the log in my eye fades from sight—at least my sight.

But Jesus. When I consider my Lord, the Holy and righteous Son of God, pure, undefiled, and perfect, I tremble. Beside the light of His holiness I see my sin…vile, wicked, selfish, hateful, dirty, ugly. Then I see the fiery wrath that my sin deserves, covered by the precious blood of my Savior. The wrath in my own heart finally begins to dissipate as I view my brother’s sin through the lens of Christ’s blood—right beside my own sin. I realize the wrath I clung to is only a small portion of the wrath I myself deserve! My brother may have sinned against me—a pitiful, mutual sinner; but, I have sinned against the holy God of the universe!

A right understanding of our own sinfulness is sometimes a perfect remedy for conflict. Not that we can “change” anyone else or cause them to repent; but often, when we stop distracting them with our sin, we make it easier for them to see theirs. Help us, Lord, to view offenses through the lens of what we truly deserve—not what we think we deserve. And help us to extend to others the grace we hope to receive from You. May Your glory be our highest goal.

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3 Responses to “That Neon Brotherly Speck”

  1. Stacy says:

    That understanding of our own sinfulness, being a perfect remedy for conflict, does not mean our brother will stop sinning. But there is hope and perhaps prayer may avail more so?

  2. Erin says:

    Funny how watching my household of mini sinners makes me very aware of the foolishness of focusing on others sin instead of one’s own. As I try to teach them about this I am so very convicted about my own failures in this area. Thank you for yet another very well stated reminder.

  3. Georgia says:

    I always ask God to forgive me for my sins. I have many bad habits and I tend not to let them go. I ask God to heal me and help me not to be so preoccupied with my bad habits. God asks me to forgive myself and to focus on Him and not on the things of the world that want to draw me away from God. It is so hard because addiction is one of the toughest things to let go. This was a good article. It helps me to face my own sins.

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