I’m commanded to first take the log out of my own eye. I’m told that it’s there, and that I’d better deal with it first. So, I must get on my knees before God, metaphorically or literally or both, and ask God to help me see the log in my own eye and get it out.
As a father of six, I often feel like I’m constantly involved in conflict resolution —though not as much so as my wife, since she’s full-time with the kids whereas I have a “day job”. I suppose some of this conflict is almost inevitable —with eight people in the household, that means there are 28 different pairs of people who could have a conflict at any given time. But I digress. All this conflict keeps bringing me back to Matthew 7:3-5 (LSB):
“And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
This text is so simple, yet so deep and profound. Here, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses our natural propensity to judge others, and to judge them unfairly. When it comes to others, we’re ready to make a huge issue out of even something very small, which he describes here as a speck in their eye. But when it comes to ourselves, we’re ready to overlook even huge glaring issues, so much so that he takes it almost to a comical level and pictures us being willing even to overlook having a log in our eye. Imagine someone with a whole log in their eye, trying to help someone else remove a tiny speck! Clearly that would be impossible; if I have a log in my eye, there’s no way I’m going to be able to closely inspect someone else’s eye to help them get a speck out of it. It’s obvious —yet how much do we fail to do what this says?!?
So often, when there’s a conflict, our first response is to think of all the things the other person did wrong. This is how my kids often communicate to me about their problems —they bring a list of the ways they were wronged, and of course they must be an innocent victim. But it takes me back to my first year or so of marriage, when Maura and I fought so much —and I remember having all the same thoughts myself. If there was conflict, I could clearly see all the ways she had been wrong, but of course I was innocent, or at least I had good excuses for how I had acted. But I kept coming back to this passage, and to Ephesians 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless.
Here, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church, wanting what’s truly best for them. This call to love isn’t limited to marriage, though —it extends to siblings and beyond. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said (Matthew 5:44, LSB):