Monday, September 29, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 4 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Getting the Wooden Beam out of Our Eyes

Let's look at another of Paul's lists:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19-21)

As you have realized by now, it behooves us to look for the things that apply to us personally. We tend to see those things that apply to others. But Paul includes strife, jealousy, envy, dissensions. These are all common maladies among people, but he still says that those "who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is not an exhaustive list, as Paul makes clear, and the wooden beams of judgment, I believe, are among the things we should not practice.

The good news is that Paul immediately follows this list with a solution:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another. Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Galatians 5:22-6:1)

As we abide in Jesus Christ by the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will become people characterized by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Please note that the Holy Spirit is not a tree from which we receive love, joy, peace, and so forth. Rather these are things that the Holy Spirit grows and produces in us. Note also how these words of Paul connect with the words of Jesus that we are studying. Jesus commands us to remove the beams so that we can see clearly to remove the specks from a brother or sister's eye. Paul talks of "those who are spiritual" helping to restore those caught in sin. More on this later.

So the Holy Spirit is the means by which our natures are changed. By Him we can become people of mercy.

The other step to removing the wooden beams from our eyes is to read the Scriptures and let them judge us. The Bible, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, can correctly diagnose our hearts and lead to change. We can never accurately do this for someone else. Look at what Paul does with this list of sins:

But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching. This accords with the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

Here Paul tells us that the Law is there to identify sin. Furthermore, the goal of the Law is to bring people to the "glorious gospel." Paul hammers this home a few verses later:

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them! (1 Timothy 1:15)

Paul shows us that he read the Scriptures and fault in himself rather than others. By understanding the depths of his sin, he better appreciated the length, height, width, and depth of God's grace through Jesus Christ.

By the Word and Holy Spirit, we see the beam. By Jesus' death and resurrection and the new life in the Spirit, we pluck it out. We can go to the Beatitudes to see what the beamless eye looks like:

  • It is poor is spirit. It does not have an exalted view of self.
  • It mourns over sin and its effects. It does not take pleasure in the failings of others.
  • It is meek. Like Jesus it will teach and hold to a high standard of righteousness, but through an attitude mercy and kindness, sinners will be able to draw near and hear the gospel.
  • It is merciful, on which I have written much in this paper.
  • It is peacemaking. More human relationships are healed by mercy than by judgment.

Tuesday: Removing Specks from the Eyes of Others

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