If I’ve been outside playing with my kids and I notice they have mud all over their pants, which will surely get all over our house, do I not tell them just because I probably have mud on me somewhere too? Instead, can’t we be free to laugh as they in turn point out that I also have mud on my shoes and the back of my sleeve where I cannot see it, and even somehow got a huge smear of mud across my forehead? Of course we would! We could laugh at our mess rather than being embarrassed by it because the solution would be simple: strip off those muddy clothes and jump in the shower or bath.
When such a simple solution is readily available, how absurd would it be to deny that we were actually muddy, or to run to our corners of the house to either hide our mud or to sit and sulk because someone pointed it out? It would be rediculous to just let all that mud get smeared around the house (and eventually make it smellier than it already seems to be) because somehow we thought it would be “nicer” not to point out the gross state of one another.
Or consider an even greater danger after being outside: ticks! Do I not want someone to comb through my hair to be certain a little creature wasn’t lurking within, getting fat on my blood and infecting me? Why then, when these are so obvious, do I do exactly the opposite in regard to my sin? I consider it a great offense, a dibilitating wound and a relationship bomb to be told of the mud and ticks of sin visible by others, infecting me worse than a disease and causing my surroundings to stink.
With mud I can run upstairs and shower. With a tick, I can just hand some tweezers to a trusted friend. Ahh, and here is what is exposed: 1) I find the problem of my sin shameful, condemning and life-sucking (which it is) so I absolutely cannot have anyone see it. 2) I don’t believe Jesus bears the full burden of my sin, nor do I believe He “showers” me even as He tweezes my sin out of my heart and places it fully on His record instead. 3) I cannot handle #1 because I do not believe #2 because deep down where I don’t even realize it, my confidence lies far more in my faithfulness than in that of Jesus alone. If, however, I no longer live but Christ lives in me, why would I care so much that the dying Jane is clearly not perfect when the living Jesus is? Why would I be so embarrassed for others to see that just like my faith claims, I genuinely do need a Redeemer?
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. Matt. 7:1-5
Apart from the Gospel, I always read this to mean “Do not point out the mud, you muddy one!” The thinking quickly becomes, “Hey, we’ve all got issues. Therefore, live and let live.” But it doesn’t say that at all. It says, essentially, “first deal with your own mud then you can help your muddy brother.” And if I’m stuck back at #1 without #2, I have no way of dealing with my own mud because there is no shower and there are no tweezers that I can use on my own effectively. My sin is embarrassing if my faithfulness in the eyes of others is more important than their seeing His faithfulness to redeem even me.
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. Romans 3:25-27
God is the only just judge because He knows what really dwells in my heart. Those who think I’m flawless can’t see the sin that God can see. To ignore sin would not be just. But He is also the one who justifies me – not pardons – but transfers my guilt to Jesus and transfers His innocense to me. If I am only pointing out someone’s mud and ticks without also including Jesus’ shower and tweezers, I am offering only condemnation and shame. When I only see someone’s sin, I am not seeing the covering of Jesus over their shame and certainly not offering to cover them as He has covered me. His judgment sees the grossest truths of my sin and justifies me fully through the person and work of Jesus. Only in this context can I rightly help my muddy brother.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could be more willing to see our own mud, have others search out our ticks and do so gratefully with lighter hearts, because we really started to believe and trust more in His faithfulness than our own? For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Cor. 4:7
I’m so glad to be tasting this kind of Gospel community now, and enjoying just a few of these kind of Gospel friendships, but oh how I long for it to become the norm rather than the exception to the rule!