“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” (Matthew 7:5, ESV).
If you own a smart phone with facial recognition technology, it is designed to see what it wants to see: your face.
Your brain does something similar, but less distinct. It seems hardwired to sees faces. It sees faces everywhere: clouds, a grilled cheese sandwich, Mars, the Moon. Your brain is designed to see faces, so it sees them.
This is also true psychologically/spiritually. We are really good at “seeing” what we want to see. We easily recognize things that reinforce what we already think or believe. When faced with a fact that counters what we believe, in most cases we reject it, as social psychologist Carol Tavris argues in her book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). In the opening lines she wrote:
Most people, when directly confronted by evidence that they are wrong, do not change their point of view or plan of action but justify it even more tenaciously (p. 2).
This is not a problem for just a small segment of society. It is true of believers and unbelievers. It is true of people on opposing political sides. It is a challenge to see clearly.
Jesus demands that we rise above this inclination. Not only that, he implies that we can. That we can see the faults within ourselves, and within our own set of beliefs.
One of the things that blinds us is that it is so much easier to see the perceived (or actual) faults in others. A Christian lady I knew for many years used to say:
We see ourselves through rose-colored glasses; we see others through magnifying glasses.
Many Christians were blinded by the social norm of slavery. Many Christians that followed were blinded by the social norm of segregation, and the literal dehumanization of people with darker skin than their own. To me, some of the statements I’ve read are frankly horrifying, and some of it still persists to this day.
But it is not enough for us to ride high in the saddle and wonder how bygone (or present) saints of God could stand for the ownership of another human being, or they could advocate for the division of society based upon the color of one’s skin. The challenge the Lord gives us is not to be well-versed in how inconsistent they are, but to ask myself, how might I be similarly inconsistent?
Do I think I have escaped such inconsistencies? I suppose in the 19th century, many well-meaning people thought they had cornered the market on right thinking and living when they owned slaves. No doubt, they had blind spots. But for a Christian who is striving to be faithful to the Lord, the blind spots aren’t the largest issue. Those are inevitable. It is an attitude that says, “I have no blind spots.” Many Pharisees believed they saw everything clearly, too. Jesus told them:
If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains (John 9:41).
Rather than seeking to affirm what we already know, we must continually affirm our blindness.
Only then will we see.