Sunday, June 23, 2013

Can’t You See that You’re Blind?

Fourth Sunday after Trinity
June 23, 2013
The answer is no. You can’t see that you’re blind. How could you? You’re blind. You go around in life looking and looking but never seeing. You look for those specks in other people’s eyes. Sometimes you don’t even go looking for it, it’s just as plain as day, those faults and sins and failings of others. How they treat others. How they impede you and fail you and run you down. There is so much sin for you to see in others. And when you’ve exhausted all the ones you can see you go looking for those that are hidden. Determining just what their motives might be. Determining just what might be behind their obviously sinful and selfish actions. You are very good at seeing all of these things.

And it’s just this that makes you blind. It’s just this that makes it so that you can’t even see that you’re blind.

You go around judging others but above the fray, knowing that Jesus says that if you judge you will be judged, but that it obviously doesn’t apply to you because we must call a spade a spade. You see clearly acts and words of others that must be condemned and so you condemn, knowing that when Jesus says if you do, you yourself will be condemned but that He obviously is speaking to those who condemn when it’s not in their place to do so. And you are clearly in your place, because you have seen the gross sins and actions with your own two eyes! You judge and condemn these people rather than forgiving them because obviously if you were to forgive them they would be emboldened in their sinful and harmful behavior. You must stand in judgment and condemnation of them just as you would expect the same of them if you had sinned against them. You do not give them grace because what they need to see is how they have acted wrongly and have harmed others.

But don’t you see that in doing this you stand under judgment? Can’t you see that when you judge others in this way you have condemned yourself? Won’t you see that in your refusal to forgive others you have removed yourself from forgiveness? Can’t you see that if you do not extend grace to others then you are yourself outside of grace? No, you can’t see this because you are blind. You can’t see in yourself the judgment you hand down on others yourself.

It is because what you are seeing in others is a speck. It doesn’t look like one. It looks like a log. You judge them and condemn them because you see giant logs in their eyes. But what you don’t see is that they are really specks. The reason you don’t is because you are the one who has a log in your eye. Trying to see past that log is like trying to see in a dense forest at night without any light. You see, but not clearly. You see things, but they are like shadows or shapes that you can’t quite make out. But you can imagine what they might be. And so you’re seeing, but really you’re not. You may as well be blind because you can’t see clearly. You can’t see things for what they really are.

And so when you see the sins and the failings of others, you imagine what must be at the root of those sins. You are convinced that their motives are utterly selfish and impure. You see giant logs in their eyes even though they are tiny specks. You see it this way because you are blind.

Can’t you see this?

Oh, that’s right, we already answered this. No, you can’t. You can’t see that you’re blind, because, well, you’re blind. Jesus posed the question of whether a blind man can lead a blind man. The answer is obviously no. The one who can’t see will lead the other who just the same can’t see astray. So when you are out there seeing all that you see—those sins, those actions, those things that are wrong—you, blind as you are, are leading them astray. You are turning their specks into logs because you have turned your log into a speck. It’s much easier to see past a speck than a log. Maybe that’s why you do it. It’s much easier to see the failings of others than to confront your own.

And you are so blind that you do just that. Ignoring that log in your eye and calling it a speck so that you can see with great clarity just how wrong and sinful those other people are. Especially those who have sinned directly against you.

You are blind, and you will never see this.

Never, that is, with your own eyes. Never with your own heart, or your own mind, or your own emotions, or your own desires. You will never see you are blind because a blind person simply cannot see of his own power or will. Never.

And you can’t even see that.

Since you’re a Christian and you have successfully convinced yourself about those logs in your eyes really being specks, there’s a word that Jesus has to use specifically for you: hypocrite.

When you judge others as sinners and stand above them in that judgment, you are a hypocrite. When you condemn them and stand above it yourself, you are hypocrite. When you refuse to forgive others as if you yourself did not need it, you are a hypocrite. When you refuse to give freely to others kindness, gentleness, and grace, you are a hypocrite. You, being blind, do not see this. But then, that’s the nature of hypocrisy, isn’t it? It’s the hypocrite who doesn’t see that he’s a hypocrite.

On the other hand, the one who sees his sin for what it is, sees so clearly that he is terrified. Terrified of the judgment that is upon him. Terrified of the condemnation he rightly deserves. Terrified that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness and grace. Terrified, because those logs in his eyes have grown into a forest of trees that can no longer be hidden or ignored.

This is what you need to see. It is what your Heavenly Father opens your eyes to see. When Joseph’s brothers saw that now that their dad was dead and there was nothing stopping Joseph from exacting revenge on them, they were terrified. That’s what the Holy Spirit does, is bring the Law to bear upon you so that you can see the terror of the judgment and condemnation you are under. God will exact His vengeance upon you.

But notice what Joseph does. He is gracious. He is forgiving. He is kind. He is gentle. He doesn’t judge or condemn. He doesn’t go all high and mighty on them. He forgives them. After all, was he in the place of God? No. He himself saw in his own heart the filthy, selfish, unholy sins that were no different than that of his brothers. He would not judge them, he would forgive them.

Joseph. A man of God, acting in a godly way. In humility. In love. In forgiveness. In grace. All the things that are opposite of judgment, condemnation, and refusal to forgive and act in a giving way. And in a great irony, he was actually wrong. When he said, “Am I in the place of God?”, making the point that he wasn’t—in other words, that he was simply a sinner just as they were—he was wrong. He was in the place of God. He was standing before his brothers in the place of God. For Joseph could in no way forgive his brothers in this way—so freely, so graciously, so immeasurably. He knew this. He knew that it was only by the grace of God that he could and did forgive his brothers.

He was blind as they were. But God opened his eyes. He opened his eyes to see. That he had a log in his own eye and therefore would and could freely forgive his brothers for the speck that was in their own eyes.

This doesn’t diminish in any way gross sins. The laws of the land still must be upheld and violaters must still be punished. Households must have order in them and consequences for wrong behavior. Jesus is not saying we can never, and should never, call sin for what it is. Namely, sin. We must do that.

What He is saying is that you had better not do it while you are blind. You must not do it while you have convinced yourself that you are somehow less of a sinner than the person you are calling to account. Humility is the order of the day. Seeing clearly is what Jesus is getting at. Call a spade a spade when it comes to the other person, but not until you have seen the spade in your own life, which must always be a log in comparison with the speck that is in the other person’s eye.

It goes against the grain. You want what is due that person when he sins against you. But if you go that route you will remain blind and in your own sin. If it seems too unfair, consider this: Christ, on the cross, had no log in His eye, nor even a speck. There was not the slightest taint of sin in His life and being. He alone was without sin and alone had the right, the authority, and the power to truly judge, condemn, and refuse forgiveness.

But there was one more thing. He alone saw clearly. He alone, not having any log or speck or anything getting in the way of His sight, saw so clearly, that we can’t even see straight to comprehend it. What did He do? He forgave them. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This, dear friends, is why we forgive others. It is because of Christ. It is because He forgives us. It is because His sight becomes ours. For when you begin to see how He sees you, you see much more clearly how He sees others. And that is in love and forgiveness. Amen.


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