With A Gentle Spirit
By Marty Norman
Planks are big and need to be dealt with, especially when they are large, glaring, and stuck in our own eyes. Splinters are small but oh so much easier to extract in comparison.
Recently I was in a Bible study where a friend approached the teacher, concerned that he had misspelled the word transparency on his flip chart. Not one to be shy, she thought he ought to know. Thus followed a detailed discussion about how easy it is to see the splinter in a neighbor’s eye yet how hard to see the plank in our own. We agreed that we rarely see our own mistakes, especially in written form, but oh how they jump off the page on someone else’s paper.
Isn’t that how we are, judging others, while turning a blind eye to our own behavior? That’s where the gentle spirit comes in. Applying a gentle spirit to ourselves and our mistakes is just as important as being gentle with our neighbor.
But sin is different from mistakes and requires a more stringent action. Ignoring glaring or habitual sin is not an option for sin does not reside in a vacuum. Unintended consequences always spill over into neighboring territory. Bringing sin into the light is the best possible solution for everyone.
In order to justify behavior sin is often couched in the argument that what we are doing doesn’t hurt anyone but us. An example might be a proponent of legalizing marijuana. “Why not legalize marijuana,” the say. “After all it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
There are many good responses to that argument. One might be, “Oh, so it’s okay with you if, when you fly, your pilot has been smoking marijuana.” Or how about, “I guess then you don’t mind if your surgeon has a smoke before he begins open heart surgery – on you?”
Speaking truth is always the first line of defense. Most of us are pretty good at speaking truth but do we speak it in love? As the body of believers Paul exhorts us to carry one another’s burdens, as well as be accountable. He tells us not to take our disputes to court but to settle them among ourselves. The scripture is clear. Turn the other cheek. If someone wants your cloak, give him your tunic also. In other words give more than is asked. Walk the extra mile with those in need.
But notice the caveat, always the caveat. Do it with a gentle spirit.
I have a friend Debbie who is the best in the gentle spirit category. Recently we were discussing an argument I had with my husband. With a gentle word she pointed out areas in my response to him, suggestions regarding my own actions that I might take a look at. Debbie helps to keep me accountable.
Putting others feelings and emotions ahead of our own is a litmus test as to our gentle spirit. Such questions as how often are we first in line for the gripe and complain department? How many times have we raced for that parking spot close to the door of the mall, so busy taking care of ourselves we forget to take care of others?
Recently I was at the grocery store, so crowded that even the ten item or less line was four people deep. And all I needed was a carton of milk. The man in front of me had a grocery cart overflowing with everything from tissue to honey grahams. Without batting an eye he motioned me ahead, saying, “Go ahead, you only have one item. My cart is full.” What a great guy. What I thought was going to take 30 minutes took less than five.
You never know where you will find these gentle spirits. They may be hiding in the restroom of a fast food restaurant, a game room of a pizza parlor. But whenever they beckon one comes away with a feeling of kindness and caring. You just know they have to be believers.
So when it comes to planks beware. If we stand in line at the grocery store and criticize those in front of us, we may gather enough splinters to fill a cup. Compared to a plank that is just a spit in the bucket. Far better to take a look at ourselves, see our own faults and sins, confess them, accept God’s forgiveness, forgive ourselves and move on.
Then and only then we will spell and live the word transparency God’s way.