Article

Don’t forget the speck

Dec 11, 2013

Did you hear about what so and so has done? She should be ashamed and deserves to be humiliated.

We hear these words whispered in our communities, on the Internet, and worse in our churches. We look around and see the errors of many—their big logs of sin glaring at us, begging us to correct their ill-advised behavior. We must reveal their blind spot at any and all cost. But I wonder, is anyone concerned about themselves? It seems that everyone is concerned about everyone else. I wonder how much more effective we would be if we stopped pointing fingers, and began looking at ourselves and ultimately looking at the cross.

We are hungry for grace, freedom and defending our liberties. We don’t want to be told that we actually grieve the Spirit by our ugliness (Eph. 4:30). At least as it relates to ourselves—as I’ve mentioned it isn’t as difficult for us to see the sin of others. We cry out that we only have specks in our eyes. We all only have specks and our specks aren’t doing harm and our specks are forgiven and our specks aren’t like so-and-so’s disgusting log.

I’m referring to Jesus’ command that we “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). Jesus commands us not to place a person in our personal court of law and pronouncing them guilty—assuming we are free from any wrongdoing. It’s hard to withhold judgment and easy to believe that you are above that temptation. I have pronounced many guilty in my ungracious court. But Jesus tells us not to ignore our sin, but to acknowledge our own wrongdoing and then we will be able to help our sisters and brothers with their specks (7:3-5).

“You hypocrite, first time the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5).

Jesus wouldn’t mention specks if he didn’t intend to communicate that we do indeed sin and need help.

I think pride is the issue of the day as we evaluate and measure one another. Part of this pride is that we minimize our own sin and think our sins are the specks instead of logs. There could be temptations for us to ignore those things that we feel are “little” sins or as Jerry Bridges has coined it: respectable sins (judgmental, pride, anger, etc.). We think that we are okay because they are only “specks,” while Joe Shmoe over there has a big plank poking out of his eye because, in our opinions, he’s prouder, angrier, meaner, etc. And it’s funny how the Lord works, that lustful man repents and the Lord will not despise him (Ps. 52:8). But if we continue in our pride, we will be opposed (James 4:6).

Jesus died to set us free to walk in our new life in him (Eph. 4:17). Christ’s death should motivate me, out of love and thanksgiving, to obey him. We don’t want to continue in our pride and judgment. We do have a potential hindrance to our pursuit: A fear of becoming legalistic as we pursue godliness. So perhaps we excuse them away, they are only specks after all. I believe in my heart that we can pursue Christ and push off the tendency to legalism. I don’t believe that we as Christians are given over to our sin. That is for those who have forsaken Christ (Rom. 1: 21-24). It’s like telling someone who struggles with lust, “Well, don’t fight it, you’ll just do it again.” No fight. Same with our pursuit of God, pursue and push off legalism.

We know the truth—what we think are specks are really our logs. Receive God’s grace, bask in the beauty of his forgiveness, and then ask him to reveal that speck. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay that our best efforts are filthy rags. But let’s recognize that Christ died so we might have a relationship with God. He died for the log and he died for the speck. We are forgiven and loved.

Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is the author of  Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts (2016),  Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015) and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (2014). Her writings on issues... Read More