fingerpoints

DESCRIPTION: Man with eyepatch pointing excitedly at other man's eye CAPTION: YES, I HAD THE PLANK REMOVED FROM MY EYE AND NOW I CAN FINALLY TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE A SPECK IN YOURS THAT’S BEEN DRIVING ME NUTS!This cartoon is both funny and disturbing at the the same time. It’s funny in the same way that it was funny when Jesus gave the original teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“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.”

It’s absurd to think that someone would ignore a plank in their own eye and focus on the speck of sawdust in someone else’s… as much as anything else, how would you see the speck if you have a plank in yours? And how could you ignore a plank in your eye?

But the problem is that he hit the nail on the head. We do. We focus on the faults that others have and ignore our own. We are very keen to point the finger at others while forgetting that three other fingers are pointing at us (try it).

It disturbs me that nearly 2000 years after Jesus gave that teaching we still have not taken it to heart. And by ‘we’ I mean Christians. And by ‘we’ I include myself.

How can it be possible that churches that follow the teaching of the Source of Grace and which is full of people who have received forgiveness that was achieved at the ultimate cost (see Easter for details) can be also people who judge others, who are willing to exclude people on that basis, and who are quicker to condemn than we are to forgive?

Let me update one of Jesus’ parables to illustrate (Matthew 18:21ff if you want to read it in the original form).

Simon was in a state of panic that left him in a cold sweat. He was a broker and that morning had bought some stock in the expectation that it would rise in value but instead it had plummeted. In order to try to cover his losses he used his firm’s money to make riskier and riskier (and shadier) investments which had higher and higher possible yields but which had instead lost more and more money. And now, at the end of the day, he had made losses that amounted to millions of pounds.

His activity had alerted his boss, who summoned him to his office. His boss had a print out of the day’s activities and Simon’s were highlighted in red. There was no denying what he had done. His boss spoke calmly (which scared Simon even more) as he set out the situation: Simon’s activities had tarnished the firm’s reputation, would cost them a fortune, and could land him in trouble with the law. Simon had no way of repaying the money and his boss told him that he was going to fire him, he would make sure that Simon never worked again in the stockbroking business and that the firm would be suing him to recover anything they could from him to cover their losses, considering the massive bonuses he had had in the past.

Simon realised that not only would he lose his job, but he would lose his house and perhaps even his family. He pleaded with his boss to allow him to give him another chance and allow him to try to work (legally and sensibly) under supervision to recover the losses.

His boss saw how sorry Simon was and decided to give him that second chance. Simon breathed a huge sigh of relief. With tears in his eyes he left his boss’s office, determined to do better.

As he wandered back to his office he saw one of his colleagues, Julie, who asked him if he was going to join the rest of them for a drink. Simon remembered that Julie owed him £25 he had lent her for the cab fare home last week, and she had not made any attempt to repay it.

How could Julie forget that she owed Simon £25? He had lent it out of the kindness of his heart so she didn’t have to walk home alone but she had forgotten all about it. Simon decided to tell Julie how it was in front of the whole office – he wanted everyone to know what had happened.

“Listen, everyone,” Simon said loudly so everyone could hear. “Last week I lent Julie £25 for a cab fare home and she hasn’t repaid me yet.”

Everyone was listening now, looking forward to the public humiliation that was to follow.

“But just now our boss gave me a second chance after I had blown a fortune today. So how can I worry about £25? Julie, consider it a gift – I am glad you got home safely.”

When Jesus told the story the major debtor did not forgive the minor one. The injustice of the situation was obvious because the lack of mercy of the major debtor clashed with the boss’s mercy. I have changed the ending because I fear that nowadays the clash is between Simon’s mercy and our expectation that he would not be merciful because we know Jesus’ story and because we like …

My concern is that the way we Christians behave sometimes suggests that we have we taken the unmerciful servant’s actions in Jesus’ version as an example to follow rather than a lesson to learn. Surely we should be ‘grace-rich’ environments?

Be blessed, be a blessing

a frame of thrones

Stonehenge 1It is Neolithic Britain. The tribe was proud of the new king because he had overseen the building of Stonehenge. They decided to build him a special house. They put up wooden pillars and then wove together the strong marsh grass into panels which formed the walls and roof. The king was very proud of his house and moved in immediately with his family. The problem he had was that when they had all moved in there was nowhere for him to put his special ceremonial throne. As he looked around his house he saw that there was a space between the wooden supports and the grass panels of the ceiling and managed to wedge his throne into the roof space.

That night there was a loud creaking and the king and his family fled the house just in time to see it collapse under the weight of his throne. The moral of the story is that people who live in grass houses should not stow thrones.

Sorry about that. I could not resist. I was thinking earlier about how we respond to those with whom we disagree and was reminded of the proverb that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Today I am preparing a sermon on Luke 9:51 – 62 and have been considering the response James and John had to opposition. It was aggressive, vengeful, angry and rather over the top. It was definitely not the Jesus way of responding to people who do not agree with us or oppose us:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who will treat you.”

Please God may I respond in that way and not like James and John. May I recognise that I have received grace, mercy and forgiveness and be far more willing to show that to others, even when they oppose me, than to respond aggressively and vengefully… and heaven help me if I am ever tempted to call down fire from heaven on someone!

Be blessed, be a blessing.