of logs and stones

blog of logs and stones“let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” john 8:7

“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?” luke 6:41

“do to others as you would have them do to you.” luke 6:31

* * * * *

i have been reflecting a lot about these words from Jesus this week in light of our conversation about equality.

i think they are possibly the least-applied-passages-that-could-actually-change-the-church in the Bible.

honestly, it’s a little comical, how much time and energy has been spent picking apart passages about homosexuality, of which there are few, and women in leadership in church, of which they are even fewer.  book after book and blog after blog have been written about those ones, that’s for sure.

i wonder how come we prefer those to Jesus’ powerful words in the sermon on the mount? how we’d much rather talk about who’s right & who’s wrong than live out the beatitudes?  how we’d much rather spend time & energy defending what’s a sin and what’s not a sin than feeding the hungry or loving the lonely?

umm, i’m pretty sure of that answer (and i’m not certain of much):  it’s a helluva lot easier.

laying down stones, worrying about our own logs & treating others how we long to be treated is some seriously heavy lifting.  one of the things i love the most about the 12 steps & recovery is that people are focused on our own stuff, not someone else’s.  one of the most important rules of the process is to stick with our own struggles, our own hopes, our own work and do what we can to stay on our side of the street as best we can.

it’s really quite beautiful.  and freeing.

and really hard to do in human skin that loves to control.

control is a way to protect ourselves, to distract ourselves from the bigger work of looking at our own painful patterns that keep robbing us of life, of love.

but offering ourselves in humility is what Jesus told us we needed to do–to worry about our own logs instead of anyone else’s.  to worry about the inside of our cups not the outside.  to offer mercy instead of sacrifices to satisfy the law.  to love our neighbor instead of judge our neighbor.

my theory is we’d much rather talk theology and ministry theory than be spiritually transformed ourselves.    it’s a great distraction.

spiritual and personal transformation is painful.  loving our neighbor is easier said than done.  loving God & ourselves, sometimes even harder.  reading blogs & defending positions is a piece of cake.  looking at the logs in our own eyes–pride & control & ego & self-protection & a whole-bunch-of-other-character-defects–isn’t nearly as fun as defending a couple of Bible verses to the bitter end.

i also wonder for all who love using the Bible in every conversation, how come not much time is spent on passages that challenge us on greed?  or power and control?  or comfort and pride?   or sacrifical love?  or humility?

those ones aren’t nearly as fun to rattle on about because they are seriously convicting in our own lives, not just the lives of others.

i get the irony here of me being a hypocrite, of pointing the finger, of throwing stones in a blog post but that’s about not doing that.   and i guess in this moment i would say “yep, i often am”; but i’m being convicted, too.

i can’t help but think that the world is crying out for hope while we’re talking about theology.

people are starving while we’re feeding on blog debates.

women & children are being violated while we’re haggling over whether a woman should be called “director” or “pastor.”

refrigerators are empty & electricity is getting turned off for people while we’re giving money to pay for flat screen TV’s.

if we layed down our stones and worried about the sin in our own lives, i have a feeling we’d be having radically different conversations out here.

if we tended to the forest in our own eye and didn’t give the speck in our brother’s another glance, i have a feeling we’d be plenty busy.

i think Jesus told us these important words for a reason.  he knew we’d much rather throw stones & worry about others’ specks than be radically transformed.

the church has so much it can learn from the 12 steps and the incredible wisdom of the beatitudes.  they embody an attitude of humility & mercy & meekness & purity of heart instead of an attitude of pride & judgment & control & division & finger pointing.

they help us lay down our stones.
they help us focus on our own logs.
they help us let go of needing to be in control or be “right.”
they help us be set free.

free to follow Jesus instead of defend Jesus.
free to learn instead of have all the answers.
free to listen instead of talk.
free to love instead of hate.

God, help us lay down our stones & worry about our own big ol’ logs so we–your body here on earth–can be wonderfully transformed.

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

34 Comments

  • i noticed you miss-spelled a word.
    that is the equivalent, out of a thousand words spelled right the only one i notice is one spelled wrong. and, i am no webster,heck it may not even be wrong- grey/gray. (btw, as always your spelling was flawless, just a point)
    if we wanted, we could spend 10 minutes with any individual and find a character defect if we want, and the problem is we want to. it makes us feel so much better, so strong, so smart. the age old “my poop don’t stink”

    Reply
    • yep, sometimes it takes less than 10 minutes. so interesting, how easy it is to do whatever possible to feel “better, stronger, smarter”. it makes me so sad, when i see that in myself. just my insecurity and lack of feeling loved coming out in those moments. it is really true, the less judged we feel/more grace we experience in our own lives the easier it is to extend that to others. my most critical years were when i felt the sh*ttiest about myself. still, though, it’s always an indicator–why am i so quick to judge? what makes me so desperate in that moment that pointing the finger is my best option?

      Reply
  • I completely agree that the application of those passages should be applied and that doing so would have a great impact. I also believe that the applying of any of Yeshua’s commands should be done in light of the context of the passage and this verse: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

    Within this verse is the instruction to teach to obey everything. As disciples of Yeshua’s and members of His Body, it is important to obey all that he commanded. Focus on some of what he commanded without the balance of the entirety of his commands gives an imperfect picture of the nature of God.

    Since I believe that the context of verses is important, instead of stopping at John 8:7, it is worth reading through to the end of the passage, John 8:11: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Yeshua did not condemn, but neither did he condone.

    How as members of the body, can we do the same, without being conformed to the patterns of the world?

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    • And the challenge of that is to avoid taking that knowledge and feasting on it. That is the forbidden fruit. We hunger for its evil sweetness. Continue from where you stopped in the Great Commission to the actual end of Matthew. Can we make the same promise to our friends that our Lord made to us? Can we say “I will be with you. I will not point fingers”? The authority to judge is vested in One who is way above my pay grade. I will keep my divisive mouth shut so that you can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly. And I will be a conduit for Divine Love wherever the Spirit leads you. To assume that I can do a better job pointing out your specks than the Spirit can is … um … what? … pride maybe?

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      • A verse some questions.

        “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

        What should we do with the rich, especially the greedy rich?
        What should we preach and teach on greed, or would that be judgmental?

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        • You have the Counselor within you. I will not interfere between you and the One who can answer that for you.

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        • I like Jim’s response to your questions.
          I think the point would be to read that verse with the magnifying glass on myself/yourself instead of focusing on someone you thought was rich. We are all greedy in some way, shape, or form. We all have idols we should be relinquishing.

          If you can preach and teach what Jesus preached and taught, all the while submitting the way Jesus did, then looking at others would come less to mind.

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        • Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?

          Luke 6
          39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

          41 “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? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

          Are we all to remain blind? Are we to let our brothers remain blind?

          In no way am I attempting to diminish the necessity of removing the log from our own eye or the necessity of feeding the hungry and loving a hurting world. However, I do think it is important to see the entire context of the verse.

          I think what the church definitely needs to do a better job of showing Yeshua’s love to the world. At the same time, the church has be continue to address sin, especially within the body of the church.

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        • “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

          But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

          At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

          “No one, sir,” she said.

          “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

          ‘scale of life’, I’ll bet that your name is written down in the dirt right next to mine. You say the church has to address sin, especially within it’s own body. That is exactly what I see Kathy doing right here, if you have eyes to see it.

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        • Sage
          First, a quick question. What makes you think that Yeshua was writing names in the sand? I thought (with no proof to back it up) that he might be writing the sins of those who were about to stone the woman.

          Regardless of what he was writing, there is no doubt that I have sinned and still sin. I am not denying that, nor looking to condemn anyone.

          That said, I believe that it is possible to pick and choose verses from scripture and get/give only part of the message. Scripture is most useful when understood in context of passages as well as in context of all of scripture. Otherwise, the message and picture of Yeshua may be distorted.

          Some examples:
          Matthew 10:34
          Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

          Matthew 15:24-26
          He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.
          ”The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
          He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

          Luke 14:26
          If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.

          I think Kathy has made some great points in the post. Based on the selected verses at the beginning of the post and the last sentence of the post, I think it is important to have proper context to have proper application. Yes we should drop our stones of condemnation and show love to the world, but part of that love is a call away from sin and towards righteousness. (The woman, like all of us, deserved death for her sin. If we fail to recognize that, then we will fail to understand the importance of Yeshua’s death and resurrection.) Yes we should address (not worry about) our own sin. We should recognize our sin, repent of our sin, and hopefully not repeat our sin. However, the purpose of this is not simply for our benefit, but also that we can help guide others away from sin.

          Reply
    • the part that i like to keep in mind in all of these conversations is that we can see the scriptures differently. so to you, you might think “for sure this is what that means” and someone else might have another perspective. as in the issue of homosexuality. you may be sure it’s a sin because of your biblical interpretation but others may have studied the same scriptures and sought God’s wisdom and landed in a different place. the trouble i always have in that moment is the certainty. and so as i share these passages to make a point, i’m not saying “i know this is exactly what God means and you better apply it that way”, i am saying it’s something to consider.

      Reply
    • “8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

      The older ones left first because Jesus wrote their list of sins first in the sand. When the others saw this they realized who Jesus was and that he knew their sins.

      Jesus lived love and mercy…..for all. We are not the judges. As we get older and wiser hopefully we can learn to leave our pride and ego at the door and give and receive love and be merciful…to all people.

      Reply
  • Great post!

    The last few weeks I’ve been studying Near Death Experiences. The one concept that seems to come through the various testimonies over and over is that when we get to the other side, they don’t care what we believed. Instead, there is only one question… Did we love?

    Reply
    • Oh, thank you Ed. Sitting at this very moment with a dear dying friend. He has been crossing back and forth for a couple days. Calls it the other reality. Love is the only thing remaining and it is strong, so strong. It is not that there is no right and wrong, of course there is but I think I often don’t really understand what that loving wisdom is. Love makes many things not matter that we think so important. And other things really matter, that we need to stand up for more important than we knew. Not sure that makes sense.

      Reply
      • sending all kinds of love and prayers your way, dear lori.

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  • Oy! … to the self-appointed gatekeepers of orthodoxy who tithe and abstain and are straight but have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness and the love of God.

    Lord have mercy on us all as we struggle back down to the path we were meant to be on all along … away from our high road of pride and greed. Silence our petty theological bickering so that we may once again hear Your still … small … voice.

    Amen! Kathy.

    Reply
  • I got teary eyed reading this. Thank you so much for posting.
    It reminded me of my experience the other day.
    Driving to work I saw a bumper sticker that had several “F” words in it. I thought to myself, “now that’s an angry bumper sticker, what kind of a person would put that on their car”, so I pulled up and looked, and said “oh, of course, that kind of person”, in my worst kind of judgemental head, but then immediately I said to myself “Mary, you’re the kind of person who has that bumper sticker, because that bumper sticker is pasted on your heart this morning.” And it was.

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    • thanks beautiful friend. oh i know what you mean, how easy it is for me to point and judge without even thinking about it, it’s like a reflex. i’m guessing that’s why Jesus made such a big deal of it all over the place, because he knew that it was so natural and that he was beckoning us to another way that wouldn’t feel so cruddy and would honor all of our dignity, all of our humanity, and keep us all humble.

      Reply
  • I love that you bring yourself with every challenge. You are not distancing yourself from the truth, but staying in the whole process and leaning into vulnerability.
    love you
    -ang

    Reply
    • thanks my brave friend, so glad that we are learning so much at the same time, together, but across the miles. xo

      Reply
  • Thank you for something that should be preached and read and taken to heart – over and over and over and over.

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    • thanks for taking time to share here. i know i need to be reminded over and over and over again.

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  • First aid for eye trauma *always* involves a total blindfold; eyes are synched, so if either tracks any movement it aggravates the injury. It also involves emotional support when the blindfold goes on and the victim remembers to be afraid of the dark.

    Doctors aren’t supposed to be contagious, mentors aren’t supposed to be confused, pastors aren’t supposed to be lost. We focus on the motes in other peoples’ eyes because treating our own would be *demoting.*

    Reply
    • “doctors aren’t supposed to be contagious, mentors aren’t supposed to be confused, pastors aren’t supposed to be lost.” so true. it’s so freeing to just admit that we are. but boy does it make people feel uncomfortable.

      Reply
  • You do a wonderful job getting us to contemplate the bigger picture Kathy. Law and grace, faith and works,mercy and justice. All under the umbrella of love. In the Gospel of John Jesus tells the apostles, *if you love Me you will obey My commandments.* What commands were those??? Hmm i think the 2 greatest are…..love God and everyone else. We are weak humans, I wonder why the attitude of God and Jesus comes across so annoyed,displeased and disappointed both within our own minda and hearts as well as from preaching,teaching and writing so often???

    M Scott Peck in his incredible book The Road Less Traveled began it by saying life is difficult. Once we can graps and accept that then the difficulty shifts just a bit. I think you echo Pecks admonition my friend!!! All your deconstructing posts have been sooooooooooo inspiring!!! Keep it coming sista!!!! Btw, did you get my email?? Just wanted to check in case i need to resend. Love you kathy my crazy friend!!! 😀

    Reply
    • thanks my friend, yes, i got it and am just behind (what’s new?) but i’ll share with you an idea for it that i have for a summer series here called “what it’s like…” i hope you can participate. it’s so interesting, that “why the attitude of God and Jesus comes across so annoyed, displeased, and disappointed..” in us. what a crappy place to live, and one that i know well from my own experience. as a parent, it’s the last thing i would want for my kids to feel.

      Reply
  • “I can’t help but think that the world is crying out for hope while we’re talking about theology. ”

    Amen, Kathy!

    Reply
  • Just my way of seeing things – I think the Bible is intended to be a mirror in which we look at ourselves, not a magnifying glass we use to examine others. I think Jesus tells us and show us to look at others through the eyes of love.

    Reply

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