Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the Plank In the Eye Principle

"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

My last two posts have been about how living with dysfunction is displeasing to God and calls for action on our part to seek healing and correction. So, I wanted to offer some practical advice on how to seek healing and restitution. It's what I call the Plank in the Eye Principle.

In Matthew 7 Jesus teaches the first thing we must do is examine ourselves. Almost always, we have been at fault. We must remove the plank from our own eye. Removing planks has to do with confession, humility, and resolving to act in obedience with God's word. Do not "whitewash flimsy walls"; do not let comfort be your security. Break yourself before God breaks you. Once we have removed our plank, we can see clearly to remove the plank in our brother's eye.

When it comes to removing someone else's speck (i.e. rebuking a sinful behavior; pointing out a fault; holding them accountable; calling for a positive change in their life; etc.) approach your criticism of someone else from a point of self-criticism. This is congruent with the first step of self examination. When you're vulnerable with someone else about your own faults, they are less likely to justify their own actions, which is a great place for them to be in order to receive constructive critisism.

In other words, think about this metaphor quite literally. If you had a giant piece of wood impaling your eye, and then you removed it, think about what is left. At first, a large gaping wound. Even years later, a noticeable scar would remain. So when you go to remove a speck from someone else's eye, how do you think you would approach that conversation given your past history? You've got a great ice-breaker and the conversation might go something like this:

"Hey, check out this large gaping wound where my eye used to be."

"Whoa, that's nasty."

"I know, I used drink alcohol a lot and it caused me to be extremely selfish. Then, through a lot of prayer and desiring to live God's way, He helped me remove that nasty plank-of-alcoholism/self-centeredness that was impaling my eye."


"I know, God is awesome. He longs to help us like that. Well, anyway, the reason I bring it up is that I noticed you've got a little speck-of-selfishness in your own eye. I tend to notice it in others since I had such a traumatic experience. I sure would hate to see your speck become a nasty plank like mine. Would you mind if I get that for you?"

"I don't know. Can you see alright with that large gaping wound where your eye used to be?"

"Oh, I can see great! You'd be surprised how much removing an impaled object from your eye can improve your vision."

"Oh. Well, okay."

You get the point. When you are willing to examine yourself first it puts you in the right frame of mind to assess others, a frame of love in grace and truth. Sharing your weaknesses and faults with others in order to help them is what speaking the Truth in love is all about. As the apostle Paul said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst," while at the same exhorting believers to live a life worthy of the calling they have received. Let's follow Paul's example and practice the Plank In The Eye Principle.

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