One of my favourite cartoon characters has got to be Charlie Brown. The Peanuts cartoons are so funny because they carry messages that hit at the heart of our lives. For example: In one cartoon strip, Charlie Brown’s best friend, Linus, asks his eldest sister Lucy, “Why are you so anxious to criticise me?” Lucy responds, “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” To that Linus snaps, “What about your own faults?” Lucy in her self-righteousness responds, “I have a knack for overlooking them.”
“It’s far easier to call someone else a hypocrite than it is to admit you’re one.” Carey Nieuwhof
Here’s what Jesus said next, “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 v 3-5)
This week I was involved in interviewing candidates for the ministry on zoom. I sat there at my desk wearing my nice shirt and playfully commenting on the attire of my colleagues who were interviewing with me. Commenting on their lockdown hair, their flowery shirt or boring non-colourful jumpers, their backdrop, showing off their enormous library or just a blank wall. It was fun. There I was with my nice shirt judging others and then I stood up to give my colleagues a laugh which revealed I had been wearing shorts throughout the interviews. Thank God for zoom!
The cartoon and my story are funny and so is the image that Jesus portrays. The message however is not, many are hurt today maybe even outside the Church that they used to belong to because of a plank pointing at their speck!
As Mahatma Gandhi famously (and sadly) said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The problem the Church has is not that we are unknown the world around us but it is because we are known by people who don’t like what they see.
We need the Church to stand up and say ‘hey its okay, you think you’re bad, look at me, I’m wearing shorts!’
So what is needed?
We need more self-awareness
We naturally just don’t see our faults. We don’t hear the tone of our voice, the words we use, the look on our face. We don’t see our repeated actions, our addicted ways and the damage we do to ourselves and to others. We don’t see the attitude, the self-centredness nor the self-righteousness. There is no awareness. We cannot see the plank. “Search me O God …”
We need more vulnerability and integrity
I don’t know about you but I actually wouldn’t want someone trying to do eye surgery on me who didn’t know what they were doing! Neither would I want someone approaching me unable to see because of a plank in their eye trying to locate the speck they say they had seen in mine. I want someone to come to me and say, “Hey! I’ve been here and actually my life was worse. I had to deal with something far bigger than what is wrong in your life. This is how I got rid of my plank. Now let me help you.”
We need to slow down our response
Responding seems to be more measured, taking the whole into account, there seems to be time for a pause, a deep breath and think. Reaction seems rushed, there is no time for anything measured and can easily become an overreaction. Did you ever consider that the way you react to someone’s fault may be a worse “sin” than the “sin” you are trying to correct?
“Are you wearing shorts Paul? Then why are you making fun of someone’s jumper?”