Stop, Look, Listen: Clarity is Emerging

Stop, Look, Listen: Clarity is Emerging
Written by: Pete McClanathan

Before we begin, a few words to those who’ve come through the two previous articles.  First, nice work. If you’ve treated these topics seriously and stepped into the scriptures and discussion with us, you’ve laid a good foundation. Next, has it begun to impact your thinking and responses? Hopefully so. We intend this to be more than a casual read or an intellectual journey.

Lastly, are you finding yourself hungering to see more of what the Word of God has to say about these things? The Bible is remarkably interconnected. It speaks to issues from various times and authors with an integrated message. This subject of relating to others is one important example. Various biblical themes wind their way into and around the subject. Like a building under construction, it takes time to see the structure emerge as we study and apply the scriptures, but wisdom and beauty will also be gleaned as we go, so stay with us in this walk. We figure to be at it awhile.

In our study of Matthew 7, we’ve reached one of those points where we can observe the integration of scripture within a subject. Take a look at the past two articles, which address Mt. 7:1-5 and the matter of judging others. 

At first read, there appears to be disconnect between vs. 1 and 2 (which warn against judging), and the many biblical commands to address sin within the body of Christ (for example,1 Cor. 5:1-5, Gal. 6:1-4). One asks, how can sin be dealt with in the church without making judgments? Scripture cannot contradict itself. So how do we proceed?

It is here that vs. 3-5 step in. Jesus instructs to “take the log out of your own eyes” before you are permitted to judge or criticize another. We are told that only then will we “see clearly.”

How do we make sense of the command of Mt. 7:3-5? Aren’t we well-intentioned and correct in our judgments? Maybe not as much we’d like to believe, it seems. It would appear that our vision and understanding can become so obscured that we don’t see things as they really are, or recognize our own motives well. How can this be?

In the previous article we probed deeper into the matter of idolatry. We noted how our desires and priorities easily blend into our thoughts, actions, and decisions. Because of our sinful natures we are naturally self-driven in our perceptions and conclusions. Attainment of our desires and protection of ourselves become the goals of our thoughts and actions and relationships.

Until we STOP.

Recall our Stop, Look, Listen tools. STOP...the road of thinking and acting you’ve been on.  LOOK...around you. How has it been going? Are you willing to humble yourself and consider biblical wisdom and submit to its authority? LISTEN...to the Word of God and the voices of wise counsel (pastors, authors, counselors who measure wisdom and truth by the Word of God exclusively).

Then follow. Take the Bible seriously, believing that it actually does apply to your situation and your struggle. Begin to identify and challenge thoughts, memories, habits, and beliefs that prove false or questionable in light of scripture.

Humbly seek to obey even if you find that to be confusing or difficult. Remember, if a train of despair and confusion is bearing down on this crossing in your life, it will do no good simply to stop, look, and listen at the crossing. Doing so will gain you valuable information and tools, for sure. But if you’re not willing to heed them, if you decide to continue with your own agenda into the crossing, you need to realize that the train won’t stop for you. 

Consider the words of a well-known phrase:

 “If you keep on doing what you've been doing, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting.” 

That phrase is not taken from scripture, but Gal. 5:14-15 carries a similar message: 

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”  

The NIV rendering of vs. 15 is even a bit sharper, warning to “watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” 

The costs of conflict are real, and often ignored.

This would be a good time to call upon a crucial principle of learning from scripture: Read Your Own Mail. It is all too easy to approach a subject like Mt. 7:3-5 and find yourself cataloging the flaws of the other party. (“I’ll deal with my stuff when I see that He’s dealing with his”).

That attitude is obviously what Jesus is warning against. The text of Mt.7:3-5 speaks for itself. 

Here, though, we encounter the devious nature of our hearts. Our pride or fear can hinder us from even engaging the healing process. That reluctance can be a log in itself that needs to be addressed. Beware of it. Read your own mail.

We close this article with an exercise in idol-spotting. Revisit our previous article (The Trap of Tunnel Vision), where early on you’ll find a list of hypothetical conflict situations. Take some uninterrupted time and for each one, consider what idols might be governing the responses of the parties. There are several in each situation, some more than others. Write down your thoughts. 

Share them in the comments below if you wish. We’ll discuss them in the next article.

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