I love a good sermon, especially when the challenges issued in that sermon do not apply to me. It makes it easier to level judgment at another person who I think should take the message to heart.
"I hope she was listening," I'll tell my husband on the way home from church. "That sermon was for her."
Yes, there's nothing like a good steep in self-righteousness after a Sunday morning worship service.
We may not say it aloud but there are those times when we wish we could condense a sermon and shove it down the throats of those we feel need to hear it.
Not every sermon point, Bible study or Scriptural challenge will apply to us every time. Each of us has our own specific set of struggles that trip us up from time to time. A sinful proclivity for one is easily ignored by another. Where a person grapples with greed, another exemplifies contentment. God made each of us unique but with the same foundational problem: We all make mistakes (Romans 3:23). It's a great equalizer - not one of us is good (Romans 3:10).
But that doesn't give us license to adopt a pious perspective from which to cast condemnation.
"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, NIV)
The imagery here is beautiful and particularly convicting if you consider the ineffectiveness of a person, who suffers from poor vision, trying to perform the delicate act of eye surgery on another. It would be reckless and, ultimately, a disaster. It would be best to leave the task to someone with an unobstructed perspective.
Biblical commentator Matthew Henry writes that our focus should be on sanctifying our lives rather than calling down condemnation on the lives of others. "Our own sins ought to appear greater to us than the same sins in others: that which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother's eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own "
If we are truly concerned with helping a fellow believer remove a detrimental obstacle in his or her lives, then we must act from a place of personal contrition. It's there that we can help others see God's grace.
Email Jamie H. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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