Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remove the Wooden Beam

June 22, 2009

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Matthew 7:1-2


All this flashy rhetoric about loving you,
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;
I talk of love – a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek –
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
(Poem by C.S. Lewis)


Judging. It’s so easy! We judge others and the world all the time. This kind of judging is not the controversial Olympic skating (or diving) “one-to-ten” kind of judging but, rather the “don’t-do-to-your-neighbor-what-you-do-not-want-them-to-do-to-you” kind of judging.

Today, the personal transgressions of our political leaders get pretty big play in the media. Nixon, Clinton, Vitter, Craig, Ensign, Gibson, Giuliani, Spitzer, Maguire, Sosa, Bonds, et. al. They have a tendency to make themselves such easy targets. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of judging others when private actions do not measure up to public rhetoric.

Society is judgmental. After all, who doesn’t like it when a leader is caught in a blatantly hypocritical “do as I say not as I do” “the rules don’t apply to me” action. But society is people. And as people, we do not let our judging stop at the top with the politicians, celebrities and other public figures. We judge our neighbor when his grass is not mowed often enough. We judge our students with the grades we assign them.

Jesus takes a different tack. He wants us to do as he does and as he says. He withstood the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of his followers, and the denial of his closest disciple. His church and his government did not offer him protection. He even felt like his father had forsaken him.

But everything is a return to the Father. God sent Jesus into the world so that Jesus would return to God and bring us along with him. Matthew here reminds us of the same sentiment from John 3:17-18 -- For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Too often we use Jesus and his teaching to denounce others rather than looking into the mirror. Like C.S. Lewis, the first step is to recognize that we are all flawed.

Recently, I read Don Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, a stream-of-consciousness journal of the author’s quest to discover where God is most real in our lives. God may be on a dirt road walking toward us also but we may not know it unless we, like Miller, look over the hill for Him. Early on in the book, Miller addresses the problems we encounter in life. Miller observed:

I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.

For Miller, God does not emerge on a mountaintop. Miller confronts the problems of the world as they unfold on Nightline and NPR. He watches stories about people who are committing some pretty heinous crimes and wonders if all of us are capable of such actions. Through it all, he surmises:

I know now, from experience, that the path to joy winds through this dark valley. I think every well-adjusted human being has dealt squarely with his or her own depravity. I realize this sounds very Christian, very fundamentalist and browbeating, I I want to tell you this part of what the Christians are saying is true. I think Jesus feels strongly about communicating the idea of our brokenness, and I think it is worth reflection. Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror. (bold emphasis added)


Miller concludes that God likes us to change. “I think part of His love for us is moving us to new places in our hearts, minds, and souls. And in our relationships, too.”

Where is God trying to move you today in terms of how you judge others and the world? What is your wooden beam that must be removed before you can see clearly?