Confess your sins: Get the log out of your eye.
- Matt 7:1-5; 5:23-24; Prov 28:13
You must deal with your own sin before you can help others to overcome theirs.
Peacemaking begins with confessing your own sin. Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 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? For 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. Then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” In almost every conflict which I’ve ever tried to mediate, when you get the parties together, what do they want to talk about? The other person, and what they did wrong. And the accusations begin to fly. Well Jesus is telling us that before you can deal with the sins of others, you must first deal with your own sin. He says, later you can get the speck out of his eye, but first you need to deal with the beam in your own eye.
One thing in very practical terms that I’ve tried to do in counseling when there’s a conflict is very early in the session, I’ll say, Mr. Smith, can you please tell me where your sin is in this situation? And I’ll try to explain, here’s the rule. For tonight, you can’t talk about the sin of the other person. All you can talk about is your own sin. Now, people have a really hard time doing that. The typical response when I’m doing that is, well, I’ve really put up with this way too long. That’s the most common answer you’ll hear. And I, and even if they start on themselves, they quickly get back to attacking the other person. So sometimes in managing a counseling session, you need to be very firm. I interrupt people in these situations because they’re violating scripture, what they want to do. They want to go at each other, and they want to attack each other, and show me how awful the other person is. But this is the rule. You can only talk about where your sin is. I actually had an interesting experience along these lines not long ago where somebody I knew sent a couple in and I was really strict on this. I mean, every time one of them started to stop the other one, I would interrupt and make them go back and they didn’t seem real thrilled as I was doing that. But the wife told her friend the next day, said what she really liked about the session was that he would not let us attack each other. Every time we started, he stopped us, and even though she wanted to be attacking, she knew it was wrong and appreciated the control that was exercised in that situation.
Face up to the root of sin in your own heart.
- Jas 4:1-2; Prov 2:24; Matt 15:18
It is also biblical, when we have wronged someone else, and this is another important text to have in mind because if somebody says, well, why do I need to confess my sin? Well, that is what it means to get the log out of your eye, is to repent of your sin and confess to those affected by it, but here Jesus says explicitly, “If you’re presenting your offering at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar. Go and be reconciled to your brother first, and then present your offering.” So Jesus is saying this is so important. He’s not saying that worshiping God isn’t important. He’s saying it’s so important you should delay your worship so that you can address where your sin is. And some people, and this is another thing where some people object and say, but it’s mostly her fault. Well, she may think the same of you, but what should you do if it’s 10 percent your fault? Then confess your 10 percent. And maybe they think it’s 10 percent their fault, and you’ll get to 100 sooner or later. So if you have any fault at all, and I’ll share with the counselee that, you know, I can tell you personally that when I’ve got into a conflict, when I’ve been in conflicts before that have been this serious, I’ve always had some fault. I cannot remember a time when I’ve been in a sharp conflict with my wife or a friend or whatever, where I didn’t have some fault. ‘Cause, part of my weakness is, is when people sin against me, I tend to sin back, with a lack of understanding, a lack of compassion, sharp words. So, you may be the exception. You may be completely sinless because I can’t know your heart with certainty, although if I let ’em talk for a while, I usually have plenty to help them with if they’re not seeing it.
We also need to acknowledge not just the acts of sin, but the heart of sin which is behind the actions. Like we read earlier in James, what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? You desire something, and when you don’t get it, you murder. A lot of times where this gets difficult is the thing you desire you think isn’t wrong for you to desire. Well, shouldn’t a wife expect her husband to remember her anniversary? Yeah. But that doesn’t give you a right to murder him if he forgets. And sometimes when you’re dealing with someone that it’s not just the action, although sometimes it’s the action you need to confess, but what is it in your heart? And our sin can often be, I thought I deserved something, and when I didn’t get what I thought I deserved, now I’m mad. Again, it’s not wrong for the wife to hope that her husband remembers her birthday and their anniversary, but if she becomes angry and bitter and nasty and a fight ensues, she is responsible for making that desire of hers an idol when God ultimately didn’t give it to her. And it’s not wrong for her to go to her husband, we’ll talk later, and gently say, you know honey, it kinda disappoints me that you forgot our anniversary. But for her to start throwing things and screaming is never justified, even if he has sinned. But that’s, I think, James 4 is very, very important in understanding these conflicts because so often, the person who is offended or angry thinks they’re justified. The husband says, isn’t it reasonable for me to expect when I come home from work that my wife will have prepared dinner instead of staring at the computer Facebook application, and having lost track of time and I have to go order pizza or something. Well, yes, it is reasonable for you, hope your wife wants to be a helper to you and that she’s gonna work as hard as you do. But her failure doesn’t give you a right to sin back. There are things you can do. We’re gonna talk about that later.
Seek forgiveness for whatever fault you may have (even if it is only 10%).
There can be a godly response to the sin of other people. But when people sin against you, you’re not authorized to sin in return. We confess our sins. You have to deal with yours first before you can help them. We talked about, thinking about the sin in your own heart. Seeking forgiveness, no matter what percentage you think is your fault. And probably part of seeking forgiveness isn’t to quantify, well I’ll confess to you my three percent hoping you’ll see the light for your 97 percent.