Originally scheduled for March 10
… So the man behind the pulpit says, “examine
yourselves; then partake.” Things get kind of quiet; you close your
eyes and begin to pray — but about what? You’re supposed to be
examining yourself; the distraction is that yourself often include
your interaction with others — and the others are the ones you’re
praying about. It may be your pastor; and maybe your spouse,
children or parents, who knows? But you’re praying about them and
the way they have offended you.
Of course, this being communion, you’re being
merciful about it. You are quite willing to forgive them, sometimes
without even being asked. And you have plenty of good advice for God
on how he ought to move in our affairs to bring about such a happy
reconciliation. It is a warm and wonderful thought — but it is not
self examination. And no matter how warm and wonderful it feels,
it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.
Christ tells us why:
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and
pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take
the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in
your own eye? You hypocrite, first
take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to
remove the speck from your brother's eye.
You are not here to ask God to change them; you
are here to examine yourself and ask God to change you.
It feels so good to examine others that it may
occur to you to ask why he would want you to examine yourself. The
answer is simple: it is the command of Christ that you remember his
suffering and sacrifice at the cross. Remember that the world’s only
truly innocent man went willingly and suffered and died for your
sake. That, and that alone, makes your self examination and
repentance truly effective. If God does not wish to forgive you, you
cannot be forgiven. He offers you forgiveness, but only on the terms
of the cross. It’s the only way that works. All the examination of
other’s sins will get you nowhere.
If this is so obvious — and it is — why are you
so easily distracted? It’s because Satan understands this to be the
strong point of Christianity. Satan may be able to argue the
intellectual side quite well; there is no denying the brute fact of
the crucifixion and the resurrection. Satan must distract you. For
that reason you must ask God’s aid in avoiding the distraction.
About that speck of sawdust: do you not know
that it is only the pure in heart can see God? Perhaps that is the
kind of vision necessary to remove sawdust from someone else’s eye.