Poking Each Other in the Eye

Imagine for a moment that you are talking to a friend face-to-face, discussing something important. As you are talking you notice something floating in his eye. I would imagine that you would say, “Do you see that? “Doesn’t that bother you? Does it hurt?”

“What? See what?” They ask.

“Well, that thing in your eye. Can’t you feel it?”

“No, I don’t feel anything.” They reply, “I’m fine.” But they aren’t fine because this thing in their eye will eventually cause pain and damage. You feel compelled to help them.

“Come on; let me get that out for you.”

How quickly are you going to let a friend put their finger in your eye and pull something out? I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. My eye is incredibly sensitive. If your friend agreed to let you help and you were to pick this speck out of his eye, how would you do it?

I think it is safe to say that we would all be exceedingly gentle. We’d wash our hands, have the person lie down or sit in a chair, then we’d get an extra light so we could see better, then gently hold their eye open with one hand and with the gentlest touch possible you try to get the speck without poking your dear friend in the pupil causing pain and possibly more damage. You patiently try and try again with equal gentleness until the speck is out.

Now, imagine this scene again, except this time you have a patch on one eye and blurred vision in the other. Can you still get the speck? Or what if you just jump him in mid-conversation, peel his eyelid back rubbing, picking, and poking his eye until the speck is out? This would leave him in shock, pain, and stress. Would you do it this way or the first way? Does it matter? I think it matters greatly. Let’s look at some scripture inspiring this scene.

Matthew 7:1-5
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We know this passage of scripture from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in regard to judging others and pointing out hypocrites. But, have we ever considered what it takes to actually get the speck out of our brother’s eye? Have we ever thought about the gentleness and sensitivity that it takes? Did Jesus use the eye here because of how sensitive our eyes truly are? So often we like to focus on not being “hypocritical” when pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye and forget about our methods. We’ll use this passage when feeling defensive: “you can comment on my sin when you get that gigantic beam out of your own eye!” Rarely do we even consider taking special care in how we “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Isn’t this level of gentleness and sensitivity the primary goal?

As disciples of Christ, we are to bear the fruit of the Spirit. We are to walk in the Spirit as per Paul’s words in Galatians 5:22-23. We are dead to our flesh and alive in the spirit now, but somehow we seem to forget what precedes these verses in Galatians 5 regarding walking in the flesh. Paul tells us in verses 13-15 the following:

Galatians 5:13-14:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And we all say, yes of course! Love one another. Love me as your neighbor! But verse 15 is a little more convicting:

15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

I fear that more often than not we are biting and devouring and consuming our brothers and sisters in Christ by bringing charges against them and calling out sin in their life (which may be completely valid and needed) but we do it in a fleshly manner (which is just as sinful). This is the log that obscures our own view. Later in Galatians 5 Paul gives even more to convict us with a summary of what sinful fleshly behavior looks like. Here is a couple items from verse 20:

20 “…strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions…”

These are defined in the Greek Lexicon simply as: “Contention, strife, zeal in defending anything, putting oneself forward, partisan, fractiousness, and dissensions arising from diversity of opinions.” Any of these sound familiar? Are we exhibiting fruit of the flesh or fruit of the Spirit in how we deal with one another? Additionally each of these fleshly behaviors is listed with sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness, orgies and the like. Yikes! These are bad things and as disciples of Christ we should avoid any of these sins or the slightest appearance of sins such as these. We have a higher calling.

We have a knack in our sinfulness to justify our actions in the name of defending the truth and contending for the faith by claiming we are to expose sin wherever we find it. We stand on the Temple steps pointing down at others as we rail on their sin ruthlessly all the while with the enormous beam of division, dissension, anger, self-righteousness, and abrasiveness sticking out of our own eye. We are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in all that we do and especially with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. If we don’t we might as well smash our own hand with a sledgehammer, shoot ourselves in the foot, or slam our fingers in the car door. We are one body, and there is one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and one Father above all (Ephesians 4:4-6). When our behavior is found in Galatians 5:20 we should repent immediately and ask for forgiveness; especially when we see our behavior contrasted with the FRUIT of the SPIRIT…the fruit for which we are identified with abiding in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

How are we doing with these? Are we exhibiting LOVE when pointing out the sins of our brother? Are we exhibiting PATIENCE and KINDNESS with a brother who holds to different doctrines? Are we exhibiting GOODNESS and SELF-CONTROL towards our brother when exposing their sin? Or are we exhibiting FITS OF ANGER and DIVISION? Are we poking our brother in the eye as we walk by in the flesh?

Remember that before Jesus teaches on the speck and the beam in regard to judging our brothers and sisters, he begins the Sermon on the Mount with these eternal blessings:

Matthew 5:3-9
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy…9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Paul in the Spirit piles on as he continues in Galatians 6 and thanks be to the grace of our almighty Savior, God, and King for giving us such clear soul convicting truth. I challenge each of us to renew every day, again, and again to abide by these wise words from Paul:

Galatians 6:1
1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Restore our brother caught in transgression with GENTLENESS – You who are spiritual – that’s us – you who walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh – that is supposed to be us.

I want to line up more encouraging words on this topic. I want us to grow into the likeness of Christ. I want there to be less of us and more of Him.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Tenderhearted? We are to be tenderhearted and kind to one another. What sweetness within the unified Body.

Ephesians 5:19-21
19 …addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is hard to rail on each other when we are communicating through loving words, singing and speaking in psalms and hymns. But, when we need to, let’s bring challenge, rebuke, correction, and reproof to your brother in the spirit that Paul calls us to:

Colossians 3:12-17
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

How can we miss these things? How do we not bleed kindness and gentleness with scripture full of these commands…and yet more:

Romans 12:9-11
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Ouch. Double ouch. Are we living this way? Abhor evil! Abhor it! But evil includes roughly gouging our brother in the eye. The Body of Christ is full of people that don’t agree with us and frankly that don’t hold to the same “standards” as we do. We have to remember that the Body of Christ is incredibly diverse and well balanced all through individual and unique God glorifying journeys of sanctification in the Spirit.

I pray that we will investigate this theology of gentleness and truly walk in the Spirit, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit as we deal with one another. I pray that we would bring reproof and correction to our brothers in love, gentleness with the hope of restoration and I pray we would bring the reality of sin to lost souls with the same love that Christ would bring them. May the love of God be in us and work through us to His glory! I pray that we will defend and contend for less popular truths.

12 thoughts on “Poking Each Other in the Eye

  1. The Master's Slave says:

    Nicely done my friend. Don’t mind if I repost this excellent article? I think the more us Christians who read articles like this, the more accountable we will be.

    BTW, mark July 23rd on your calendars… :)

  2. Abidingthroughgrace says:

    Thanks! Feel free to post links to this…just keep it to the defending contending for context and accountably.

  3. David L. says:

    Great post. Thomas Manton says something similar in his commentary on Jude 22-23:

    “[M]any reproofs are lost, because there is more of passion than compassion in them. It is spiritual cruelty when you can turn a finger in your brother’s wound without grief.” ~ http://www.newblehome.co.uk/manton/vol05/jude-22-23.html

    This needs to be said more often lest people become “unturned cakes”:

    “A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the heat, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic pretentiousness of those religious performances which suit their disposition. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day, and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other. ” ~ Spurgeon

  4. Great post, ATG, and very well written.

    I have been striving for some time now to season my discourses and correspondences with salt and grace. In this area, vigilance is vitally important.

    I have noticed too many exchanges between brothers and sisters get ugly and we often need reminding of this. I recently posted a short video on how our defensiveness is an indicator of our spiritual pride.

    Also, your timing is very good because next Thursday’s sermon of the week deals with an ugly (but necessary) subject; one that many of those who said “ouch” while reading this post will again say “ouch” when listening to the message.

    Again, great job.

    – Pilgrim

  5. “Are we exhibiting LOVE when pointing out the sins of our brother?”

    One thing I’ve noticed is that “love” is very often redefined. People can make it mean almost its exact opposite. “‘Love’ isn’t just warm-and-fuzzy, puppy dogs and ice cream, etc.,” they say. “Love is discipline and rebuke.” I’ve even heard some people say essentially that the best expression of love is rebuke. What? That’s absolutely unbiblical. But it has the appeal of allowing them to criticize sinners without exerting the effort it requires to love them truly. We need to make sure we have a 100% biblical definition of love: love must be tough sometimes, yes, but it ought to be overwhelmingly the “good stuff,” the stuff for which these self-designated superapostles have such manly contempt. The stuff commanded in all those passages you quote above. There are churches where these things are rarely, if ever, mentioned because the leaders are so preoccupied with the one passage that talks about exposing sin. These churches need to be seriously rebuked because of the damage this re-definition of love does to peoples’ souls.

  6. abidingthroughgrace says:

    Thanks, guys. It has been a convicting issue to me for years and something lost in our witness for Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ…we represent him everywhere we go and with all we say.

  7. Suzie says:

    (Proverbs 27:5-6) An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Eccl 7:5) It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. How else does iron sharpen iron! (Prov 27:17) Great devotion!

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