“You can see the speck in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the log in your own eye.” (Matthew 7:3) It’s one of many truth bombs that litter the early chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. For a long time, it surprised me how little this verse seemed to pop up in Christian discourse and sermons. Yet the reason is simple: the truth is always unacceptable.
Truth is dynamite
Jesus goes to great pains to warn us that truth is dynamite.
So does his precursor, John the Baptist. “I baptise you with water so you will give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
Truth burns. Everything Jesus asks us to be and do is difficult. Unless it’s challenging, inconvenient, and painful, then it’s not truthful.
If the truth were easy, we would’ve already accepted it. If we read something and think, “Oh yeah, I totally get that,” we’re not taking on anything new. We’re only reinforcing what exists.
Every single truth we need to accept requires pressure, initiation, a trial by fire. The realisation of deep truth is a harrowing experience.
Falling out through truth
When truth lands, friendships and relationships explode. Jesus was specific about this.
“Don’t think that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came to bring trouble, not peace. I came to turn sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law.” (Matthew 10:34-35)
This is another of Jesus’ searing, uncompromising statements that’s not frequently quoted. Why? Because the truth is unpalatable.
Often, truth lands in our lives when a friend, family member or colleague mirrors back to us an immature part of ourselves that we’re refusing to acknowledge. Our ego defences kick in. Our instinctive reaction is to expel the other person from our lives, the one who has busted us, exposed us, shamed us. The one who knows we’re in denial.
In these situations, we may try to seize the moral high ground and rationalise why we’re right in rejecting the other. Yet we’re simply acting out Matthew 7:3. We refuse to accept responsibility for the log in our eye. We see ourselves as right and the other as wrong.
Here’s a simple test to tell whether you’re refusing to see the log in your own eye. If you look at a painful, inflamed situation, and you think you’re entirely in the right and the other party is entirely in the wrong, you’re blanking out the truth.
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy this is known as black-and-white or absolutist thinking. Reality is always grey. For we are all equal under God and we have equal access to God’s truth. What differs is our willingness to accept the unacceptable.
Washing our robes
What happens when we accept the unacceptable?
A cleansing. Over time, the dross of lies falls away. We see and live with growing clarity.
The journey to Christ is a journey to a higher level of truth. It isn’t easy and it isn’t for the faint-hearted because truth bombs take no prisoners. The final chapter of the Bible signals the destination of this journey.
“God will bless all who have washed their robes. They will each have the right to eat fruit from the tree that gives life, and they can enter the gates of the city.” (Revelation 22:14)
The gates of the city are, of course, the gates of the New Earth.
That’s the last step of the journey. The first is recognising that every shred of truth we need to embody to make that journey will, at first, seem alien, wrong-headed, and unacceptable.