Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 12; 146, 2 Chronicles 29:1-3, 30:1 (2-9) 10-27, 1 Corinthians 7:32-40, Matthew 7:1-12
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?
Jesus didn’t seem concerned with teaching us to identify flaws in other people – that job had too many people doing it already. Rather, Jesus invites you (and me) to repent and reflect, not to feel smug about telling others to do it. Yet somehow we manage to twist his words to point fingers and deflect criticism – Get the log out of your eye before you talk to me about my speck! – when confronted with our own failings. Repentance is something we embrace, not something we inflict.
While repentance is a personal pursuit, it has communal dimensions. Belonging to a specific community doesn’t make us responsible for the actions of every individual in the community, but … Paul’s letters are full of expectations that we hold our community – our body – accountable for its behavior. When one or a few people undermined the character of the Christian church, Paul didn’t accept “it wasn’t me” as an excuse to ignore the behavior.
In Paul’s case he was addressing a church, but community comes in many forms, sometimes with involuntary membership. Gender is an example of a community to which we belong but do not (generally) choose. While gender equality has made remarkable strides over the last century, there are still systemic injustices which need attention. When a topic like sexual harassment is broached, almost invariably some men respond with “not all men are like that.” It’s a defensive reaction meant to communicate, “Hey, I’m one of the good guys!” In reality, “not all men” derails the conversation; it prioritizes “my” comfort with being a man over problems women actually face. When the community has a plank in its left eye, what exactly is accomplished by pointing out how healthy the right one is?
Of course gender is just one example. Is it possible we are even more accountable for communities we join voluntarily? Not all Christians? Not all Democrats? Not all gun-owners? Not all police officers? Not all protesters? And none of these groups (and countless more) are mutually exclusive! The thread of our accountability runs through a series of knots where we’ve anchored ourselves to others.
Let us – individuals and communities – whittle away at those planks until they disappear. We might be surprised to discover how much we contribute to a problem and how much more we can contribute to a solution once we commit to seeing clearly.
Comfort: Community is a blessing.
Challenge: Let’s keep it that way.
Prayer: I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. (Psalm 7:17)
Discussion: Do you ever feel pressured to ignore problems of a group you belong to?
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