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Is It Me?

 Is it Me?

Years ago my mother-in-law told me the story of when she was in the hospital because she was having a baby.  She was annoyed because there had been some lady down the hall screaming.  When she brought this to the attention of one of the nurses, they informed her that she had been the screaming lady.  For some reason that story reminds me of times when I have been in the dentist chair and the dentist was drilling on a tooth and it smelled like something was on fire or smoldering in the room, and then I realized that is was me. 

Which Answer Would We Prefer?

Allow me to ask us the following question:  “When it comes to trouble in our marriages, families, with co-workers, neighbors, or even with our brethren, do we hope the blame or problem for the strife or drama in the relationship is with us or them?”  “Do we hope that they need to change or that we need to change?”

I think most of us will admit that we hope that the problem is with them.  For that feels a lot better.  It is easier in the moment.  It is easier to focus on the other person, to see their faults, flaws or sins. 

Yet, if the problem resides with them, there is another challenge that soon surfaces.  “So how do I fix this if they are the one with the problem, for I cannot force someone else to change?”  So while hoping it is the other person feels better at the moment, it is actually very hard in the long run because if they have the problem, then I can’t fix that.  I have no control over that.  Often I am left with seeking to be the best example I can be, and maybe even suffering in the process, not just for a day or a week, but for months, years and decades.   Thus, we find the following verses:

  • “Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.  For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19-20).
  • “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedience to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:1-2).
  • “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).  

Before I move on, I do not want to give the impression that setting a good example lacks power.  Even when they are the one with the problem, we still have powerful resources, such as our godly example, and our prayers to a God who controls the universe, and for whom I things are possible.  Yet what I wanted to impress upon us, is that, if there is a problem, we should rather hope it is with us, for you and I can immediately fix that.  We have complete control in that area.  In fact, the following verses are a precedent for the idea of first looking at myself and then asking the question, “Is it me?”

2 Corinthians 13:5

Unfortunately some of Corinthians had been listening to the wrong people when it came to viewing, believing or trusting Paul.  This is sad, because he was the one who had first preached the gospel to them, and had so at great personal cost.  Yet Paul exhorts them to “examine themselves”.  When they listened to the gospel Paul preached, they changed (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), when they listened to the false teachers they reverted to the old ways (3:1-3).

1 Corinthians 4:4

In this verse Paul reminds us that while we may not immediately perceive or sense that there is anything wrong in what we are doing, we are not automatically acquitted.  Rather, the only examination that matters is the one issued by the Lord who sees all, does so without prejudice or respect of persons, and measures us with the standard of truth rather than opinions or feelings.

1 Corinthians 10:12/2 John 8

  • “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall”.
  • Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward”

Matthew 7:1-5

“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”.

  • Jesus is not asking us to suspend all judgments (John 7:24), rather, to avoid condemning someone else when we are doing something just as bad or worse.
  • Neither is Jesus advocating that we set our standards really low and as a result God will judge us by a really low standard. i.e., give others slack and God will ignore your sins.  Rather, He is admonishing us to pick the right standard of measure.
  • The great news in the above passage is that even if I have a log or beam in my own eye, I can fix that, and the text infers that such can be fixed rather quickly.  I say this because Jesus does want us to help the person with the speck in their eye.  Yet if it takes 20 years or so for me to get the log out of my own eye, then that is way too late for the person with the speck.
  • First take.  Now, this does not apply to all situations.  We will not always be the one with the log in our eye.  Yet the verse advises us to first take a good look at our own life and ask, “Is it me?” 
  • I would equally argue that “first take the log out of your own eye” must be connected to following Jesus and listening to His instruction (Matthew 7:21).  The log can only come out if we believe in Him and are seeking to obey Him.  It would be foolish to think that I can fix myself and solve all my own personal problems without any help from God.
  • “The log out”:  This suggests to me a rather large personal/moral problem.  Yet the verse is so hopeful, because with Jesus, I can fix me.  Even problems or sins that are the size of large beams can be removed from my life.  I do not have to live with the log in my eye for the rest of my life.   Compare with 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 3:6-7; 1 Peter 4:1-5.  The early church was filled with members who once had huge logs in their eyes. 

What Can Be Frustrating

While you might be trying really hard to examine yourself, and fix what is not right about you, what can be frustrating is when others around you do not seem very interested in doing the same.  Yes, that does not seem fair.  Yet, that is reality.  The people who will actually do what Jesus said will be in the minority (Matthew 7:13-14).  But allow me to remind all of us of the following:

  • Working on yourself  when others might not be working on themselves is not a waste of time.  For you will grow. 
  • So continue to find out what you need to improve or change about yourself—and work on that. 
  • If you feel that others around you do not deserve the benefits of being around your changed and improved behavior, that you are treating them a lot better than they have treated you, realize that the person whom you really want to please is Jesus.  In fact, Jesus tells us to do the right thing, even if others do not appreciate it.  So treating them right is not so much about them, as it is about Jesus.  Jesus wants me to treat them this way, so I will.  What God deserves is the best version of you!
  • When we change, we will be better prepared for challenges up ahead, and we will be happier.  Do not buy into the myth that you will eventually become “used to” the log in your own eye, and after a while you will no longer notice it.  No, logs turn into envy, jealousy, anger, hate, bitterness and all sorts of other dark things.  The log never stays below the surface of a person’s life, it always breaks the surface, and watch out when it does.

Mark Dunagan/mdunagan@frontier.com

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