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Following Jesus

discipleship • the inner life • prayer
community of goods • faith • repentance

Following Jesus

Why See the Speck in Your Brother's Eye?

November 9, 2017 by

This is part 7 in a series, so check back in three weeks for the next one. Read previous posts in this series.

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)

Most of us, if we’re honest, have a hard time not judging others. I often find myself reacting negatively to other people’s quirks, mistakes, or sins. Jesus knows this and he also knows how wretched judging is; he sees with horrible clarity how human censure and judgment can neither right wrongs nor bring us close together. Judging others invites counter-judgment, always, and like the cruel law of retaliation it leads ineluctably to heartache and estrangement.

Oddly enough, deep down we all know this. Still, we find it difficult to stop mentally accusing other people and start examining ourselves. So what do we do? We try not to judge anyone at all. “Who am I to judge?” we say. “I’m a sinner like everybody else.” And with this, we pretend. We suppress our guilt, try to ignore the wrongdoing of others, and all the while delude ourselves into thinking that there is a way to successfully bypass the pangs of bad faith. Our misery remains.

Jesus’ command not to judge, however, has little to do with turning a blind eye. “If your brother sins against you,” Jesus says later on, “go and tell him his fault” (Matt. 18:15). A failure to do so is a failure to be our brother or sister’s keeper. Sin is a destroyer, and to brush it off in the name of “not judging” or, “We’re all sinners anyway,” contradicts God’s good will.

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The opposite of judging is not license for laxity and indecision. Evil is evil and good is good, and we are to be uncompromising about it (Rom. 12:9). Jesus rejects the mercy of “sentimentality.” No, his compassion is quite the opposite. His way is a matter of learning to judge rightly. But this is our problem. We don’t judge rightly, either because we use the wrong measure or because we possess a wrong spirit.

What Jesus condemns is not judging but the illusion that we can sit on God’s judgment seat. That is presumption, and it prevents us not only from seeing the log in our own eye but also the heart of our brother and sister. All of us are under God’s judgment. We have all made compromises, kept silent before wrong. All of us are debtors. Which of us have ever fully received the judgment or sentence we deserve?

Jesus’ command not to judge has little to do with turning a blind eye.

All the more, we must learn to see clearly and judge rightly. When (not if) we judge we must do so with the measure that God has used in Christ toward us (Eph. 5:32). When this happens we will first see the log in our own eye. Now, instead of being tempted to become cynical and harsh toward our neighbor, we will stop and ask ourselves what dark thoughts or impulses would arise in our own minds and hearts, what mean words or deeds would spring forth from our lips and hands if we were to find ourselves in the same situation as him, having been dealt the same hand in life as he has. Instead of judgment, compassion would spill over from our hearts.

Only when I see clearly enough to judge rightly am I able to go to my neighbor, talk to him face to face, even rebuke him if necessary, and help him with the speck in his eye. He will feel loved, not judged, cared for and reached out to.

Because I know full well what it is like to have a log in the eye of my own heart, and how it takes sensitive and compassionate hands to remove it, because I have experienced the pain and the relief that comes with its removal, I can go to my neighbor and offer him the help he needs. And I will see more than the speck of sin that lodges within his eye, as Helmut Thielicke writes: I “will see the eye itself, in which God created his royal image.”

That is what Jesus ultimately wants us to see. Not only this, we will, as Augustine says, see each other not just as we are now, but as what we are meant to be. That is what judging rightly is all about: to care about someone so much that we’ll do anything we can, including allowing ourselves to be judged, to dislodge the sins that hinder us and him from becoming who God wants us to be.


Read previous posts in this series.

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About the author

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore resides with his wife and daughter in Esopus, New York where he teaches Bible and Christian Thought at The...

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