Yesterday was a solar eclipse. Experts put much time and effort into warning people about viewing the eclipse. Yet, last night at 8:20 PM google saw a peak in the search for “my eyes hurt.” People began seeking google to help the figure out if they had unwisely damaged their eyes. Experts say it may take several days or up to a week before you would know if you damaged your eyes. In the end, the only way to really know is to have an examination by an expert. No matter how many times you google the question you will be unable to truly examine the health of your own eye.
Jesus taught us a pointed and practical truth about ourselves when he said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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 brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
Currently, we are teaching on the Biblical command of encouragement. Encouragement is the great privilege that followers of Christ have to “put courage into” others. We have the command to speak life into others in the name of and in the power of the One who gives life – the Lord Jesus Christ. Encouragement is a command – not a suggestion. We are called to encourage one another.
The hard part about encouragement is that it requires truth speaking. We are admonished in Scripture to “speak truth in love.” Many excuse themselves from such commands in the idea “well, it’s the truth.” And it is the truth, or at least, their version of it. I believe one of the most important elements to be a truth speaker is being willing to be a truth hearer. Not just a hearer, but a doer of the truth. To hear how truth applies to you first before you ever have the audacity to speak how it applies to someone else.
According to the teachings of Jesus recorded Matthew 7, we are completely incapable of being used by the Lord to help a brother or sister deal with a problem in their life until we have been willing to deal with that problem in our own life. I do not believe this means we have completely overcome a sin or a struggle. I believe these words mean that we must live in humble and open honesty about those issues. We must be willing to deal with the truth of our own sin before God can use us to speak into someone else’s.
Often this passage is grossly and horribly misused to mean that you should never have opinion about right and wrong in another’s life. No, Jesus teaches you – START WITH YOU. As we experience God’s gracious work in our own lives we can be used by God to be a part of that work of grace in the lives of others. These two realities work in cooperation not in opposition to each other.
If we are not careful we sell the love of God very short. It can end up simply mean being nice and accepted towards people no matter wrong and sin. We should be kind. We should be able to accept others as they are, but if we think kindness and acceptance means that we should not speak truth into sin, then we dishonor everything about the death and resurrection of Christ and forfeit the very Gospel itself. Love is not that easy. God’s love was not that he said – you are all good. He said “none of you are good” but there is “One who is good.” The “One who is good” will himself take upon himself your bad (or unrighteousness) so that you can become good (or righteous). That righteous is not of you, it is the righteousness of the Good One – Jesus Christ. That is good news. But it is news that you will never share if all you think you should do is accept everyone and everything as good.
Yet, we must always START WITH SELF. Always. If you do not, God cannot and will not use you in the life of others. Be like Paul and never see anyone else as the chief of sinners. For you, that must always be you.
I want to share a very practical application of this spiritual reality that is currently needs to be heard in our country and culture.
The issue is racism.
Racism is sin. Racism is real from all sides and all races – in some way from almost all people. I am not only guilty of racism in my lifetime – both intentional and unintentional – I am also the recipient of racism in my life – both intentional and unintentional.
My call to the Christian is stop saying everyone needs to point out everything or nothing. It is right for me – as a white man – to speak into white racism. I am calling me out. I am dealing with the speck in my eye and in our collective eye. It is right for a denomination such as the Southern Baptist Convention – that is historically and predominantly white -to call out white nationalism and the alt-right.
This is us admitting and dealing with the speck in our eye. If God is ever going to use any of us in this great work that should be the automatic result of the Gospel – that there is no race in Christ but that Christ is one and we are all one in Christ – then we have to start with self.
God has to start with you. When you reject this what you reject is the very truth you need to deal with so that you can be changed by the Holy Spirit. You are literally saying leaving my speck alone until you acknowledge the plank in others’ eyes. I can’t do that and obey Jesus. I would literally have to disobey the Lord to address this issue in that order and with that priority.
This summer the SBC wrote a wonderful resolution concerning racism. In it they clearly state that all forms of racism are wrong and sin. Then they call out what is the predominate form of in their own midst. This sounds very much like what Jesus commanded of us. It is dealing with this speck.
I realize that means that Christians of every race ought to call out racism in their midst (and some do), but guess what, until I have fully dealt within my own – that is not my job to do. Now, the further I move into allowing God to fully change me and change His church the more we can be that voice.
If you are rejecting the call to face racism in your own race, be aware you have speck in your eye problem – no matter your race. Allow God to convict you and change you – then see how he will use you to change others.
Pray for God to bring a unity that has never existed in this country. Pray that God would start in the Church – the church of all races. Pray that God would start in your church. Pray that God would start in you – because you should never expect your church to become collectively what you are not becoming individually.
God move…and move me first.