I think Jesus said it best: “Before you take the speck out of another person’s eye, take the log out of your own. Then you can help the other.” It is one of the many places Jesus put a mirror up to His followers and told them to make things right in their own lives before they try to make things right elsewhere. Like the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 and the command to “love your neighbor as yourself”, I think Jesus was all about teaching His followers to be the best they could be so they could help others, not so they could judge them or ridicule them or point a finger at them. “Before you ‘cuse me,” Bo Diddley famously wrote, “take a look at yourself.” Self-reflection – being convicted by our own sinfulness; these are not easy to do. It is far easier to deflect and deny and condemn others than it is to be honest about our own need to be better.
In the church, we are often our own worst enemy. I was at a great program a couple of weeks ago where we heard dismal predictions of where the church might be in the next decades. After the speaker was done, I said, “The problem with us Christians is that we are often really bad at following Jesus.” Almost every comment after that blamed the people who are missing from our pews for their absence; many of those present just didn’t get that blaming the victim is part of our problem! Too many congregants and clergy focus on what is wrong with everyone else instead of looking in the mirror. We are like spiritual vampires; we can’t see our own reflections.
This is why Christians must confess every week (or every day) that we need to be and do better. It isn’t like we are telling God anything new; God watches us and weeps when we cast blame on others without seeing ourselves for who we are. Like the story about the woman who was dragged before Jesus after she had been caught committing adultery; Jesus gave permission to the crowd to stone her IF they had no sin in their own lives. After they left, He told her to stop doing that. The part we often miss about that story is this; if she was caught in adultery, where was the other person? For Jesus, this was an issue of unfair punishment – justice wasn’t being dispensed equally.
I don’t believe God expects perfection from us; if that’s the case, heaven will be pretty empty. I do believe God expects us to do better. This goes both ways; the church and all who are part of it need to be their very best, with the understanding that we will mess up. It isn’t a question of if, it’s a question of when. Those searching for a faith community need to lower their expectations of congregational perfection; that doesn’t exist. Everyone needs to be more graceful and forgiving, especially if we expect the same in return. We all need the benefit of the doubt occasionally; to believe otherwise is delusional. We will never be perfect, but we can be faithful. That’s all any of us can do.
Prayer – Holy God, You created us flawed and You love us anyway; keep us moving forward and teach us to offer grace to others as You have offered grace to us. Amen.
Today’s art is untitled by Rafal Olbinski.