A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Luke 6: 39-42
The questions that Jesus asks throughout his ministry are meant to be transformative. For us and, ultimately, for the world. He wants us to reflect, to grow, to turn to God. And all this, always, for the sake of the neighbor.
We can’t offer our neighbor the extravagant love that Jesus brings if we are stuck on all their shortcomings and faults. If we focus on another’s weaknesses, we are likely to miss the gifts with which God has blessed them.
Our children have taught us a great deal through the years. Our daughter, Katie, seemed to be a magnet for troubled youth when she was in high school. It wasn’t unusual for her to invite her friends to dinner, and she knew we would usually welcome them. I remember one evening I had prepared an especially large meal counting on the leftovers to feed our family while I was out of town for a few days. Katie asked if some friends could come for supper.
We squeezed in around the table: our three daughters, my husband and me, and the three friends. Katie stretched out her hands to the friends on either side for the table grace. One was a boy with a lot of black leather and chains, piercings, and a scary hair cut – fresh out of juvenile detention, one was a girl who I learned later had been living on the street (more piercings), and one was an honor student. Such variety! Katie had assured us that they were all “really sweet” kids. “Some of my friends just look scary to hide who they are. They’re not that tough. You just have to look past all that to see their big hearts.”
I wasn’t convinced. We held hands around the table for prayer. I admit I was wondering about these young people who were seated at our table. But as our family all said, “Amen” together, Katie beamed as she looked around the table at the meatloaf, squash, green beans, and a large bowl of mashed potatoes. “Isn’t this wonderful? It’s like Thanksgiving! People I love packed around the table and a feast ready to eat!”
I looked at the napkin in my lap, hoping my tears would go unnoticed. I was seeing the specks through the log in my eye. My daughters had welcomed these “hard-living” youth who were rejected by so many, with open arms and genuine love . My heart softened and we started the conversation. It was stilted at first, but the teens opened up and I knew I was on holy ground.
Finally after two hours at the table the boy in black and silver said a little awkwardly, “Can I be excused now? I don’t remember the last time my family ate together, and we’ve never, ever spent this long at the table talking!”
There weren’t any leftovers for the rest of the week, but I knew my family wouldn’t mind. I watched in amazement as those teens all cleared their dirty dishes from the table at our daughters’ example. My heart was full. Not long after that evening, my daughter invited those same teenagers to worship. Our congregation didn’t often have teenagers sporting black leather and chains kneeling at the altar rail for communion. Katie ignored the stares and smiled her winning smile at the congregation as she casually instructed her friends what to do. They really were sweet kids.
Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, professor and prolific writer. One of his quotes reminds me of today’s question from Jesus, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye?”
Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in the light of what they suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Passionate God, give me vision for what you truly want me to see. Grant me forgiveness for being quick to judge others, give me compassion for those I encounter each day, and remove the log in my eye so I might see Jesus with fresh and clear eyes. Amen
* ”Material from Book of Faith Lenten Journey: Beyond Question by Erick Burtness copyright © 2012 Augsburg Fortress. Posted by permission. All rights reserved.”