August 12, 2020 John A. Murphy, Jr.

How's Your Whittling?

How's Your Whittling?

We all have those verses in the Bible that just convict us again, and again, and again, and again... you get the idea. One passage that has always convicted me is from Matthew 7:1-5. I've summarized it in my own head reminding myself, "I need to be a better whittler."

You see (whether I like to admit it or not) I, like most people, can be really good at seeing little faults here and there in others. It's interesting to note that the Bible does not encourage us in this at all; instead the Bible reminds us to take a look in the mirror at ourselves. "First take the log out of your own eye..."

There is something so keystone cops about the visual here. Imagine if I did have a log protruding from my eye. Every time I turned my head I'd be smacking people upside the head with it, whether intentionally or not. Much like the keystone cops and the still hilarious "ladder routine". We watch them, and we think, "How can they be so blind to their actions?" and yet we too recognize in ourselves that we are often blind to the ways in which our words and actions impact others.

As the inequality and systemic racism of our culture has come to the forefront in our so called Great American Society, the log in my own eye has become increasingly clear to me. I've spent time listening to people with different shades of melanin than mine, and am learning more and more how differently these friends and others have experienced our world. I'm seeing how the log in my eye has blocked my view.

So, I'm whittling. I'm creating space for the Light of the world to get in. It's actually less of me creating the space and more about me surrendering to our Creator and allowing God to create the space. I'm reading more about different perspectives of race; I'm engaging in intentional conversations about race and the inequalities of our life experience. I'm being very intentional to listen and to be honest it sometimes takes everything within me not to say, "But..." and to discount and judge what I'm being told. This is because these conversations are not comfortable.

It's not just about race. It can be about any social, religious, political, or philosophical idea we might hold. Like it or not, we ALWAYS think our opinion is right. Otherwise, why would we hold them? And still, we will admit we're not always right. And so the question comes, "How do you know?" "How do you know whether your opinion is right or wrong?"

In college a professor informed our class that we all prejudge, and then asked if prejudice was wrong. We all agreed that prejudice was wrong and many disagreed with the statement that we all prejudge. What is the difference between prejudgment and prejudice?

Prejudgment is what we all do when we first encounter someone. We approach them with a general belief of who they are and what their experience has been. I prejudge that a child will not be able to understand complex words and so I speak to them with simple words. It's an action of our adjustment to our perception of a person or situation. Prejudice is where we assume our prejudgment to be absolute and correct. They tend to be all or nothing statements. There is no room for change or correction. "All black/white people are..." "All democrats/republicans are..."

No one would pridefully say they are prejudice. It's a shameful thought. Yet, if we take a serious look at ourselves in self-examination, we will see at least a glimpse of the log in our own eye. As we begin whittling on that log and allowing the Light of Christ in, a world we were blind to begins to be revealed. The more of the log that is removed, the clearer we can see ourselves reflected in the mirror in the Light of Jesus. It drives us to a place of humility. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you," (James 4:10).

I'm whittling on my log, not only for my own benefit. It's because when the time comes that you would like help to remove the speck from your eye, that I can see clearly to help you. As a christian, we are all called to do the same. So, how's your whittling?

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 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."

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 7:1–5). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.