How do you see yourself? How do you see others? Do you think you see yourself and others accurately? When you look at yourself and others, do you tend to compare? Do you have a tendency to see the faults in others and remain blind to them in yourself? And, do you tend to respond more negatively to others when you see the same things in them that you don’t like in yourself?
You’re not alone. This is all part of being human — and how we naturally tend to see things from what Paul refers to as “a human point of view.” In II Corinthians 5:16, Paul describes how Jesus points us to a new way to see ourselves and others: “Therefore we no longer regard others from a human point of view . . . if anyone is in Christ he is part of a new creation . . .”
You see, when we see others through the eyes of Christ — and see ourselves in the same way — it isn’t just about opening our eyes to our own faults, but also to seeing with new eyes the gifts and graces we and others already have. In this wonder of seeing who God has created us to be — including our faults and frailties — and then to see others more clearly in this light as well, we don’t fall so much into comparing ourselves with others. More importantly, we begin to see ourselves and others in such a way that we don’t assess judgment without having looked more clearly at ourselves as well.
Jesus then goes on to offer us the image we’re all probably familiar with about seeing clearly — and taking care of — our own selves and our own issues first so we’re then in a better position to help others: “First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”
Being a Red Letter Christian means that we remember Jesus’ imagery of the log and the speck when we see something in someone else that we consider to be a problem. We recognize the importance of then examining our own lives and taking care of the problems we see there so we’ll then be better able to help others with any problems they have.
Think about a person who is an alcoholic but hasn’t recognized it, but then notices someone else’s drinking problem and tries to help them by pointing it out. By recognizing his or her own alcoholism and facing that first, that person would then be in an excellent position to help the other who has the same problem. I think it’s also important to realize that while the other person’s situation may not change, ours does once we deal with our own issues.
Henri Nouwen deals with this scenario in his book, The Wounded Healer, in which he explains how our own brokenness can put us in a better position to help someone else who is broken or wounded, but only after we have healed enough to be able to help. So first we must see clearly who we are — and whose we are — to see that we all share that common humanity with others.
Does this mean that Jesus is telling us to make no judgment of others at all? Clearly not. What Jesus is looking at here is hypocrisy — condemning another for something that is, in reality, a part of our own lives.
In truth, we all judge people all the time. We have to! Interviewing for a job? Both sides have to make a judgment call about whether this working relationship is going to be a good fit. Going out on a date? Judgment is crucial to making the choice about whether to pursue a romantic relationship — and possibly even marriage — with this person. And of course, when someone shows up on your front porch to take your daughter out on a date, don’t you make immediate judgments about that person? When you step onto an airplane and glance into the cockpit — don’t you at least subconsciously make a judgment about the fitness of the pilot?
Through all of these crucial judgments, when the love of Christ controls us, it also controls how we see ourselves and one another. I look forward to exploring these ideas of “How We Should See” more deeply with you on Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster