Once upon a time, I liked a boy–a lot. The truth is, I couldn’t get him out of my head, and I didn’t want to. I loved him and I thought he liked me, and we both sought God. I unfurled my future like a scroll in my head, and he was always a part of it. Then, he ducked out of my life almost accidentally, which hurt because it meant that he had never really cared enough to continue our correspondance. I was broken. Through my pain, I kept asking myself, Could this have been avoided?
I was ignorant. I thought we would get married and have a happily ever after, so I let him take up the valuable space in my mind. But I had friends who saw the danger. They had an inkling that I loved him too much, yet they encouraged my feelings for him. No one warned me that pain was inevitable. I do not blame my friends, but I wish someone had been honest with me. I wish someone had seen to the heart of the danger and told me about it, even at risk of disappointing and hurting me.
For a long time after this experience, I felt that it was my responsibility to point out the faults of other Christians. I thought I had to tell them when they failed so that they could correct themselves and become better people. After all, it’s better to be honest with people now than to let them go to their destruction. I missed the danger in this philosophy.
Humans naturally twist things that are good and make them destructive. I was right to be honest, but I failed to recognize that this honesty could easily be twisted to become cynicism and pride. Before I knew what had happened, I was purposefully seeking out the faults of others. Again, my failure to see the whole picture caused pain. This time, the pain came not just to me but also to a dear friend of mine whom I had repeatedly criticized.
And so, without me even realizing, my honesty had morphed into judgement of my fellow believers. Instead of encouraging them, building them up, and saving them from destruction, I was pushing them further into despair and doubt. When this terrible realization came upon me, I recalled the words spoken by Christ in his Sermon on the Mount: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 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 7.1-5).
Because my own flaws cloud my judgement, it’s far easier for me to find fault with others than for me to see my own flaws clearly. Most of the time, the sins I think I find in others are not specks in their eyes but sawdust falling from the log in my own. Still, I try to justify myself. I say that I am saving other believers, that I will help them recognize their faults so they may change. Yet the truth is that however I try to justify my judgement of others, my heart fully knows the commandments the Lord has given to me: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4.29). My words ought to give grace.
Grace is refreshing. It shows people that they can’t mess things up, because love covers all offenses. It shows them that although they may not be not worthy of it, they will receive it all the same. And in grace I have found a balance: I can and must be honest with others and with myself. But if I have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13). Therefore, if pleasing and glorifying God is my goal, then honesty must always pair itself with genuine love.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.