Tag Archives: jesus

eyeball

The Speck-Plank Conundrum

(A four minute read)

It sounds like a physics problem: The Speck-Plank Conundrum. It’s not – it’s a moral one. That’s the bad news. The good news is that although a conundrum is a knotty problem, it is one that does have a solution.

It’s an oldie but a goodie and the classic line about hypocrisy. You know it either from Luke 6 or Matthew 7. Jesus asks, ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not see the beam that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye” when you yourself do not see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”’ 1

First, definitions.

Speck, mote – two translations of the Greek κάρφος (karphos) which means ‘straw’.

Plank, beam, log – all these images are used by the gospel translators for the Greek δοκός (dokos) which means ‘a stick of timber.’

Actually Jesus walks us through several examples of our hypocrisy in this passage – I think he wants to make sure we can’t possibly miss the point.

Considering other parts of this passage, If I am blind about something, can I lead anyone anywhere? Yes, but nowhere good.

If I’m a student of Christ, can I possibly know better than he does? No, but having the mind of Christ, I can grow in his likeness.

When I judge others, don’t I do this to feel superior? Yes, always. Isn’t this why Jesus tells us to love our enemies? He wants humility from us.

Finally, since Holy Spirit lives in me – will I not exhibit his good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Well – yes and no. At least not always.

That’s because I’m a work in progress. Look at Luke 6:45.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

My mouth speaks (and leads me to act) based on what’s in my heart. Knowing that, I know I have a ways to go.

Before I was saved, I spent a lot more time judging people than I do now. In fact, it was an occupation at times – like when I was employed to write editorials, and again, when I was employed to write comedy. Being un-saved I thought of this quality as ‘discernment.’

Well no, it wasn’t. Now that I have a relationship with Jesus, I know what discernment is. And yet, growing in discernment doesn’t release me from the speck-plank conundrum. That’s because some evil bits still remain in my heart, and work subtly on my behavior.

Here’s an example. About a year ago, going to my local cash point, I passed a homeless man sitting on the pavement staring at the floor. As I passed him, my so-called discernment showed me he was angry, possibly violent, and had a chip on his shoulder. I often will stop and spend time with the floor-squatters and perhaps even give them a gift, but not this guy. I marched right past.

After inserting my debit card and entering my pin I glanced back at him. Suddenly I saw him very differently. It was as though Jesus was there, saying ‘Here’s how I see him.’ And no longer was there an angry disaffected man sitting there, but a lost, frightened boy.

He called himself Frankie. He’d been in and out of prison since he was 18 and tired of it. He wants to make changes in his life. He needed encouragement. He needed a friend. He needed someone to take the plank out of his own eye and just sit with him.

Funny that. When I removed the plank from my own eye, I no longer saw any speck in his eye. His eye was clear. All I saw was someone created in God’s image, in his likeness.

I am sometimes blind. I all too often put myself ahead of Jesus. I do suffer from the speck-plank conundrum. But the fruit I bear is often good – thanks to Holy Spirit and the things he helps me store in my heart. May I continue to be planted next to his living water.

Heavenly Father, in your mercy, forgive us where we have been blind. Remove that blindness. Holy Spirit, write your words on our hearts, so that we only bear good fruit. Lord Jesus, give us the wisdom to follow you, and not get ahead of you. Make us good carpenters – who know the difference between a speck of sawdust and a plank of wood. In your mighty name we pray. Amen.

Luke 6:41-42

Photo: Victor Freitas via Pexels

hands making a heart

Thoughts on Equality

This is part of an ongoing series about the Ministry of Reconciliation.
A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Two centuries ago a group of Christians from my church in South London were instrumental in ending slavery in the British Empire. Great men and women all: people of bold faith, humility, perseverance and skill. Their desire was for an equitable society.

We are still working on it, but thank God: we are still working on it! We have not given up. Progress is being made. Is it ever fast enough? Of course not. But, who do we remember? Who do we teach about? By and large they are the light-skinned ones.

We celebrate them, of course. But let’s also celebrate the dark-skinned ones: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Ottobah Cugoano.

Would the light-skinned ones have fed the fire had it not been for the dark-skinned ones who lit the match? I don’t know, but I expect not, or at least not as quickly.

One slogan of the UK abolition movement was, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ This remains a relevant question, although we might broaden the language today for more political correctness.

Regardless of all that, the answer from the world of reconciliation is, ‘Yes. Yes you are.’ Indeed we all are, as we’re all made in the image of God, even those of us who don’t currently believe in Him.

I offer this response about reconciliation with humility because I always come from a place of ignorance, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your background. There is much I don’t know and will never know about my dark-skinned friends, simply because I’m a light-skinned friend.

But may I say it: even though the dark-skinned ones have the light-skinned vision broadcast to them endlessly from all corners all their lives, they truly don’t know our lives either.

Many of them are my beloved brothers and sisters, my friends, and in some cases my prayer partners and confidants. But, because the world can categorize us by the color of our skin we did not and will not have the same experiences.

But isn’t that the way of life? Even when I am as like as possible to another person, we are separated by more than skin.

The truth is that I don’t know anyone’s life but my own, not truly. Certainly not someone’s inner life. Not even my wife’s, whom I know better than anyone. ‘For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him?’ 1 Or put another way, ‘After all, who can really see into a person’s heart and know his hidden impulses except for that person’s spirit?’ 2

I can converse with my dark-skinned friends about racial justice issues all I want. But I will never be able to say truly and fully, ‘I know how you feel,’ or ‘I know how it was.’ Nor can they about me, actually. But we can share matters of the heart: love, fear, joy, pain, anxiety, certainty; hopes, dreams and expectancy; all those invisible, eternal things.3 Those are common to us all.

So let us begin there. Those are our common ground. That’s where our reconciliation begins: in humility and vulnerability.4 That was Christ’s model. God humbled himself to appear in the world as a human being. Divine and living a perfect life, yet vulnerable. As a baby, as a boy, as a man killed brutally and unjustly for the crimes of others. For me. For you. Because of me. Because of you.

As I attempt to approach all these ideas with humility and vulnerability, I should be able to ask the same of you. All of us are equal or none of us is. As for the ignorance I experience? So long as I don’t use it as a shield to avoid my deficiencies, I’ll be all right.

1. 1 Corinithians 2:11
2. 1 Corinthians 2:11 (TPT)
3. 2 Corinthians 4:18
4. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Image by Anna Shvets via Pexels

Alan from behind looking into the distance

Finding Myself Again

(A two minute read)

I have people in my life who will say that I ‘found Jesus.’ Others will say that I ‘came to faith.’ They misunderstand. The opposite is true. God came to me. I wasn’t looking for Him. But He was looking for me. Endlessly. And when my time came, I couldn’t ignore Him.

He approached me first, then I found Him. Then I came to find faith in Him. Only then could I hear Him say ‘Follow Me’. Only then could I follow Him.

In that faith that I found, I now know that there are great things in store for me. I’m God’s masterpiece, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that (I) should walk in them.’ *

Here’s the deal: I was His masterpiece before I followed Him in faith. I was His masterpiece when I was still His enemy and hated Him. I was His masterpiece when I was broken. That’s why He came after me, because I was broken and had thrown myself in the trash. I was like Forky in Toy Story 4. Because I lived in the trash, I thought I was trash.

God disagreed, and tracked me down. What artist paints a masterpiece and throws it in the trash? Or, in my case, if the masterwork is thrown in the trash, doesn’t the artist go to retrieve it? To redeem it?

It’s by God’s grace that I was pulled from the scrap heap, saved from my own destruction. Now, I may finally ‘walk out those good works that God prepared beforehand.’

I do this successfully only through complete surrender. Surrender is difficult sometimes, but it renders the Christian life very simple. The simple answer to every question is to turn to Jesus, who tracks me down no matter how far I wander. And when He reaches me again, He says ‘Follow Me’. And I do, because He’s the one worth following, and I find myself again.

* Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Photo by Rachel Richards