Jesus Told the Bride of Christ to Remove a Plank from Its Eye

The top defense of the abusive and authoritative in the church in recent years has become a kind of projection that reframes legitimate allegations into an attack on the church. The leaders who abuse power, harm people, and cross boundaries can assure themselves of safety by turning attention away from their misdeeds, claiming their accusers are attacking the bride of Christ (the church), and then presenting themselves as its defenders.

It’s a slick play that has become far too commonplace. In addition, they can bolster their positions by pointing fingers at individuals who may have been unfair with the scope of their criticism or who have failed to adopt a more constructive direction for their criticism. It shouldn’t surprise us that those who are wounded by the church will struggle to find the “perfect” way to critique it!

However, regular examination and critique are exactly what Jesus called his listeners to do in Matthew 7. It would be naïve for us to assume that such examination is only personal. There surely are systems, positions, and institutions that are worthy of the same scrutiny.

When addressing hypocrisy, Jesus said to first remove the plank from your own eye before attempting to scrutinize others. In other words, if we don’t want folks to criticize us, then we need to criticize ourselves first. Some have used the word “interrogate” today to describe this process. That captures the seriousness of our examination.

Of course, savvy church leaders committed to their own preservation can twist this verse against those who expose their misdeeds. This is the danger of religious professionals. They can always find a loophole for themselves if they want it.

The words of Jesus remind me that we should expect to find “planks in our eyes.” We will have serious oversights and problems to find and to address.

What makes the Bride of Christ beautiful isn’t the ability to overlook these ugly planks or to deny that they exist. The beauty of the bride of Christ is a redemptive trust in the restoration of God when we expose these ugly planks.

When we have experienced the grace and mercy of God to heal our flaws and errors, then we have grace and mercy to share with others. Whether others have a speck or a plank in their eyes, we will have more to offer than clarity. We will remember what it felt like to live with the pain and confusion of a plank obscuring so much of life.

As we work with others for their healing, we’ll transform our previous pain and confusion into a fellowship forged in the love and acceptance of God.

The stakes of exposing our planks are quite high, but on the other side of God’s healing and mercy, we will find clarity, freedom, and a capacity to minister that we could never touch while denying our deepest flaws. When Jesus points us to a time of examination and healing, he is giving us one of the greatest gifts we can share with others.

Redemption Happens When We Are Called to Light, Not Just Away from Darkness

Rohr forWriters

Richard Rohr writes:

“Anything downright ‘good,’ anything that shakes you with its ‘trueness,’ and anything that sucks you into its beauty does not just educate you; it transforms you. True religion proceeds like the twelve-step program—‘by attraction and not promotion.’ Simone Weil sad it so well: ‘There is only one fault, only one: our inability to feed upon light.’” Immortal Diamond pg. 77

 

When the darkness touches our lives, we’ll only recover by finding the light. That’s the hardest thing about Christianity for me most days. We don’t heal or take any positive steps forward by retaliating. If anything, we make the pain go deeper and that much harder to heal.

When I’ve been wronged or I see injustice, I want to attack, demolish, and avenge. With an important caveat about speaking truth and protecting ourselves from toxic relationships or situations, I’ve only truly recovered from the manipulation, judgment, or anger of others by finding God’s deeper love for me and for others. I’ve found life and even a sense of triumph by letting go of the ways I’ve been wronged in order to forgive.

Writing out of a place of anger or out of my wounds only perpetuates the darkness until I can move toward the light of God’s presence and love.

And here is the great irony of writing. I find that I must write out of the places of my deepest wounds, pain, fear, and shame, but the goal isn’t to rage against them, to call out others, or to even justify myself. When I’m in a healthy place, I explore these dark places through my writing in order to shine light on them, to expose their darkness with the contrasting power of God’s light.

Several of my author friends have a rule that they won’t write about their darkest moments until they’ve had a little time to recover and gather perspective. While there’s certainly a place for writing through your thoughts in the midst of the darkness, there’s also a great deal of wisdom in waiting a little bit for the light to break through. The risks of writing for others in the darkness could be great.

I can say this for myself, and I suspect that it is true for many, but I won’t point fingers: I have never been more liable to spread the darkness than when I’m in the midst of it myself. It’s the adage, “Hurt people will hurt people.”

The hardest thing to realize after going through a number of toxic and damaging church experiences was that I too had become a toxic, damaging person. The havoc that hit my own life from divisive congregations and being treated like fuel for the programs of the church infected me, and I spread that pain to others. Darkness will only bring more darkness.

I had to be healed by God’s light before I could become a presence of healing and redemption.

The words we type into our blog posts and social media profiles have real power to spread more darkness or more light. What we pass on is what we’ve been “feeding on,” to use Simone Weil’s words.

If we have only been exposed to the darkness of anger, intimidation, rejection, bullying, and injustice among one group, we may carry that same darkness to a different group. You could be judged and attacked among conservative Christians, only to find the same vices when you migrate to the liberal Christians, or vice versa.

I care less and less these days about labels and camps. One pastor once said, “I care more about your tone than your theology.” The issue of tone-policing aside, there’s something to that. Have you been feeding on the light of God’s love and does that love make you caring, inclusive, and centered on drawing others to that love? Or have you fed on the darkness that accuses, attacks, and diminishes?

We all have met someone who feeds on light and who draws us in with the acceptance of love.

We all know that darkness and light can be equally attractive.

We may forget that darkness can also transform us.

I have spent a lot of time perpetuating the darkness by telling people to stop indulging in the darkness without feeding on the light myself. I have been most transformed when those who feed on the light invite me to join them. Despite my failures in feeding on the darkness, I have found the most potential for healing and redemptive transformation when I’ve been called toward the light.

May we all find the healing we need in the light of God’s presence in our lives.