And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Luke 6:39 -42
Knowing Christ does not have to do with knowing the weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings of others. Knowing Christ aright has first to do with knowing one’s own weaknesses, failures, shortcomings—yes, sins, before God.
It is natural for us to point the finger at other’s faults, to the degree that we ignore and downplay our own. But like the Pharisee in the temple who boasted about himself before the Almighty, comparing himself to the lowly tax collector, all who look down and despise others, thinking that they are better, will themselves be despised and rejected by God. It was the humble and lowly tax collector that went home justified before God, and not the hypocritical Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14).
The Pharisee thought himself to be better, to be more ‘complete’ and more greatly pleasing to God because of the things he did and had done. But such is not the way of the penitent. The way of the penitent is not to see oneself as better, more righteous, more giving, more anything. The way of the penitent, the way of the righteous before God, is not to first see other people’s sins, but to see and acknowledge one’s own, and say with the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
In this way, Christians, not having a righteousness of their own but Christ’s, and trusting in the Lord’s mercy alone for His acceptance, learn to criticize, judge, mock, and murmur against others less and approach God’s throne of grace with greater frequency and humility(Hebrews 4:11-16).
Will Christians still criticize, judge, mock, and murmur against others? Yes, they will. Their flesh and blood sinful nature still remain. Yet they will also acknowledge that this, too, is contrary to God’s will, and that following the way of the flesh is not the way of God’s people (Romans 8:5-11). Thus will they all the more seek God’s forgiveness where He gives it—in Christ. They will also seek forgiveness from others that they have spoken evil against, and genuinely desire to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2). They will also seek all the more to edify and encourage, put the best construction on everything, and be merciful, even as the Heavenly Father is abundantly merciful to them (Luke 6:27-36). Amen.
“Take note how deeply those who you now hold as great Christians and yet who will not endure or have mercy towards Christian weakness are yet stuck in the law and hypocrisy when they do not see complete holiness and special wonderworks in those who now know and have Christ and the gospel. To them no one [else] is truly established so heaven will fall and the earth go under. They can do nothing more than criticize, judge and mock…But by this they show in an excellent way how blind they are and still know nothing of Christ, always bearing the beam in their own eyes.” (Geo. Link, Luther’s Family Devotions, 626)
Prayer: Gracious Father, you are merciful to me, a poor miserable sinner. I in no way deserve any of your kindnesses, for I am unworthy of your favor. Yet, on account of Christ, you neither ignore my needs nor condemn me to an eternity of hell. Help me to show the same mercy towards others that you in your compassion have shown to me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.