plank

24 03 2017

We usually see in others the things we don’t like about ourselves. Once we’ve seen it, we have a choice, whether to cultivate that thought or not. Sometimes it’s just a split second –  all of a sudden we’ve written someone off as a chav or a toff or loon or a bad parent or an immigrant or whatever it is that we have judged them on. We grow that thought, we water it, we tend it, and before we know it we have become so riddled with judgementalism and are so far from reflecting the character of God as to be unrecognisable as followers of Jesus. We are acting against them in the very way we would hate them to do to us.

to judge is to take a beautiful window
and wipe it with a dirty smudge
and each time you add a new mark
and the window gets darker
and no matter how much you scrub it won’t budge
the damage is too much
and all you see is distorted
contorted
seeing clearly is thwarted
by the simplest smudge

Jesus challenges us with a simple illustration
from his father’s occupation
you know what it’s like when the apprentice gets sawdust in his eye
and it starts to water and everyone bursts into laughter
in woodwork class because he can’t see
and his sawing goes wonky
and everyone’s laughing at the speck in his eye
but they can’t see the plank in theirs
the plank!
This is our reality dressed up as comedy
pointing at the speck whilst walking round with planks

Now I know this has nothing to do with us
I know we don’t judge
We say
I’m not judgemental, I’m just saying…
I’m not being racist but…
I’m not being rude but…
I’m not being sexist but…
I’m not judging but…

But that ‘but’ is the where the speck becomes a plank
When the bad parts of our character begin to crank
up the judging
That ‘but’ is when we take our marker pen and add to the smudging
on the window though which we see the world.

I’m not judging but…

Jesus doesn’t say we shouldn’t use our discernment
or say that nothing is wrong
instead, Jesus says we shouldn’t use our place as forgiven sinners
to judge others from
love is never just detached observance
like we’re judging trees or who’s baked the best jam tarts
but love means that everything we say about someone else
reflects the love in our hearts
or lack of
we may not like what they do
and we do not have to approve
but do we love with the love that God shows to us

do we see and judge the faults in others
only so much as they give us an opportunity for forgiveness and love?
or do we secretly like the feeling of looking down on others?

to judge is to take a beautiful window
and wipe it with a dirty smudge
to judge makes us blind
whereas love is illuminating
demonstrating the intoxicating
and liberating love God has for us
to judge is to point out the speck
and not notice the plank

So when the instinct to judge
won’t budge
remember what Jesus taught
don’t cultivate that thought
don’t water it and feed it
but starve it of attention
so that in everything
we do to others what we would have them do to us
we love because God first loved us


This is an abridged version of the talk that you can hear but going here, often they sound better than they read!

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a speck in the eye of the tiger

11 12 2009

eye of the Tiger?

There’s nothing the tabloids love more than a squeaky-clean celebrity beginning his fall from grace. And Tiger is beginning to fall. The pedastal is rocking, the ex-girlfriends and (alleged) mistresses are finding their way to a pay-check on US TV, TAG Heur have already removed his image from their website. Apparently a naughty golfer is bad for business in the world of expensive watches. Maybe Gillette will even shave him off the worst razor adverts ever.

Of course there’s an argument for saying he put himself up there, he chooses to market himself on his image, so when it turns out to be a bit of a sham, or at least a little exaggerated, we have a right to point and laugh. Is there? Should we rather laugh at ourselves for (yet again) being taken in by an image, a brand – especially if any of us thought we’d buy a TAG Heur “because Tiger Woods advertises them, and he seems like a nice guy”.  He’s just a guy, a guy thrown into the world of the super-rich, where money and girls (and drugs…) are thrown at you, where your every move is watched for signs of cracks (or crack?). The pressure is unimaginable. Though of course, he can expect little sympathy from us, mere mortals, because he is very rich. And presumably, a bit dull, because he plays golf all day.

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the cream of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the tiger

eye of the tiger

In a strange kind of lyrical reversal, this classic 1980’s song by Survivor sort of sums it up, except the tabloids are the stalkers, the tigers seeking their prey to devour, watching Tiger with the eye of the tiger.

We don’t need to get involved. We don’t need to feed the tiger that hunts the Tiger. Every time we buy the magazine, join in the conversation, jump on the pedastal-tipping bandwagon, we reinforce the values that say that it is ok. It’s dog-eat-dog, he’s had it good, let’s bash ’em whilst we can. No. There is another way. And it involves more puns.

Jesus said something like “before you point out the speck of dust in your brother’s eye, take out the plank of wood from your own”. I have no particular affection for Tiger Woods. I cannot stand golf. Golf courses take up valuable land that could be run on. But I do believe that Jesus was onto something radical here. He was obviously part of a judgemental culture too.  A culture that liked to judge and point and make themselves feel better by pointing out the shortcoming of others. And in our culture, it is not just the religious who are the Pharisees. Everyone is at it. If we join in, we become them. If we ignore it, we allow it to grow. Do we want to be the Pharisee loudly praying on the street corner, mocking others who are ‘worse’? I would hope not. But so easily we are.

May we, when living our ordinary everyday lives and looking at those living extraordinary everyday lives, may we be the ones who remove the plank of wood from our own eye first, before pointing out the speck in the eye of the Tiger.


(This does not apply to cheesy 1980’s rock songs from Rocky films. There is no plank here.  Sit back and enjoy!)








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