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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Comparison

1-5 "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor."
(Matthew 7:1-5)


I am probably not the only one that felt a little "picked on" in elementary school.  In fact, there are actual laws on the books today to deal with what you and I just simply had to muddle through - they are called "anti-bullying laws".  The instruction we received from our parents and school counselors was that the tendency to "bully" or "pick on" another individual was really a clear sign that the "bully" was pointing out the faults of others because they did not want to have others know their faults! 

Now, we are in the workplace and faced with a whole new dynamic of "bullying" that we must deal with - it is sometimes called "office dynamics".  The "gurus" that analyze the "office dynamics" tell us that we need to first increase our own self-awareness so that we can successfully begin to interact with others through an awareness of the other person.  In short, and without a whole lot of hype, what we really need to do is take ownership for our own actions and stop comparing ourselves to the other guy!

Comparison is not a bad thing - if the focus is on how much we have in common.  It is when we begin to meddle with the things that are different in a manner that is rude, judgmental, or hurtful that we begin to break down the relationship.  Comparing ourselves to another individual is a "flawed" concept, simply because the other individual has their own set of strengths and weaknesses.  We have ours.  No one individual is "completely" strong or weak.  In fact, that is why we find ourselves attracted to another individual sometimes - their strengths offset our weaknesses.

Our passage today reminds us of the dangers of comparison - we have a tendency to elevate what we see as our strengths and diminish what we actually are displaying as our weaknesses.  It took a long time for me to realize that pointing out the weaknesses of another did NOT take the heat off of me when I displayed those same weaknesses.  In fact, it MAGNIFIED them.  That is why Jesus tells his disciples that they must first remove the LOG from their own eye before they take aim at the speck in the other person's eye!

The more we try to "down-play" our weaknesses by pointing out those of another, the more we play the part of the "bully".  It took me a long time to get comfortable enough with myself to be truly honest about my "junk".  The "junk" of my past, those things that make me who I am, is nothing I can down-play or hide.  In fact, it lends to my character!  As time has gone by, I see that God has been at work on the things I tried so hard to down-play.  In turn, as I was open to the fact that the "junk" existed in me, I was allowing him to use others who had struggled with similar "junk" to help me overcome my "junk". 

So, today is a new day for us all.  We have the opportunity to stop down-playing our weaknesses by pointing them out in others.  We have the chance to be totally free of the need to compare, criticize, and create tension.  The first step is to admit that what we are really pointing out is that LOG in our own eye!