“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
The other day my friend, Jill, told me about her friend Hope who’s a fanatic about bullying. Whenever Hope catches wind of meanness among other children she goes to the parents, teachers or whomever to bring the situation to light—often to the point of overstepping her bounds. As Hope went on about the latest incident in their children’s shared classroom, pointing fingers at several students, Jill shared her thoughts.
However, one thought Jill didn’t share was the one circling in her head, “Uh, about the bullying…did you know your daughter has been bullying my child?”
How ironic the mother who’s so critical of mean behavior in other children is completely unaware of that very behavior in her own child. That’s the thing about finger pointing. You’d better be prepared for that finger to come pointing right back at you. As I recently learned.
I had a conversation with someone whose opinion I respect. I complained about a project I’d handled and was frustrated with the lack of response by several of the folks involved, especially one person who never replied despite repeated attempts on my part. My subtext implied, Can you imagine someone so rude and inconsiderate?!
To my surprise, instead of offering understanding, the person to whom I spoke recalled a recent example when I’d been unresponsive to a request he’d sent out. I tried (but am sure failed) to maintain a calm exterior. Inside I thought: Are you kidding me? That wasn’t the same thing at all! I was offended and shocked at the comparison.
A few days passed and I mentally revisited the criticism. The emotion faded, but the truth started to emerge. I thought of several recent instances when I’d put off responding to someone and then forgotten about it. While my intent hadn’t been to ignore, my silence sent a message of disrespect and was inconsiderate. I realized I was guilty of the very thing I’d been so critical about. My friend was right. Ouch!
The experience made me confront a shameful habit: I’m a judger. Honestly, I don’t try to be, but it seems that’s where I end up a good bit of the time. It’s not just me. In our flesh, it’s far easier to judge, condemn or hold a grudge than offer the alternative—compassion, mercy and forgiveness. And it’s a cycle that’s hard, if not impossible, to break on our own. Thankfully Jesus understands our weakness and offers us a way out. His solution? A Plankectomy.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:4-5)
Look at the Pharisees. They were supposedly the most godly among the Jewish people, yet they lived in perpetual finger-pointing mode, identifying infractions, judging misbehavior and punishing rule breakers. They’d perfected their trade: Identify, judge, punish. Condemnation in three easy steps.
Then Jesus came. He revealed their hypocrisy and turned the Pharisees’ wagging fingers back on themselves: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) He left those who thought they had it all together and went to those who knew they didn’t. Jesus’ message found a home among the outcasts – tax collectors, widows, prodigals, lepers, prostitutes, cripples, thieves and the like. He offered a refreshing, and life-giving, change: Follow, repent, believe. Restoration in three easy steps.
We have no idea how blinded we really are. There may come a day when we may need to help our sister with the speck in her eye, but good grief we have a lot of work to do on ourselves first! While I wasn’t happy at the time, I needed to be reminded of the plank in my eye. I don't want to be a condemner, I want to be a restorer like Jesus. I want to help build people up, not tear them to down; offer grace not hold a grudge; and forgive not finger point. But Lord, I need help!
Even though I messed up again, I’m so thankful Jesus freely offers mercy to me (and to all) as He did the adulterous woman. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) Jesus follows up this story by telling the crowds “I am the light of the world.” (v. 12)
It’s funny how much better I see that light without hunks of wood in my eye.