Spiritual Practice in a Time of Division
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? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
I loved the music of the Moody Blues back in the day. One line was a particularly haunting commentary on what was later called post-modern society: “red is grey and yellow white, but we decide which is right and which is an illusion.” The line came from the poem “Late Lament,” which asserts that ideas surrounding “right” and “wrong” are all simply products of human perception. Interestingly psychology professor Jay Van Bevel points to a “Bias Blind Spot” meaning that we see bias in others, but not ourselves. We claim that we are the rational ones! We live in an increasingly polarized society in which we can’t imagine how people can view world events so differently than ourselves, whether perspectives on racial justice, public safety, the pandemic, and so much more.
It is human nature to think that we are right, others are wrong and therefore we are prone to judge others harshly. Jesus had little patience for such judgement of others. Jesus calls us continually to deal with our own “stuff.” We are all limited by our capacity to perceive, know and understand. Even our best efforts in the discernment of truth are impacted by inner feelings of guilt, insecurity, worry, anxiety, stress, misinformation or arrogance. In plain language, a “Bias Blind Spot” means that we have limited self-awareness and often can’t realize how messed up we are! (of course I speak for myself). Jesus calls it hypocrisy.
I invite you to the spiritual practice of “pause.” Before judging, scorning and condemning a person’s viewpoint, perception or actions, pause and ask yourself, “What is causing me to react so emotionally or harshly?” “What is going on in my own heart and spirit at this moment? “Am I seeing it the right way?” “Am I seeing this situation the only way?” “Why does the other see a situation so differently?” “What causes them to behave or react the way they do?” Practice the pause. Check your own plank.
Remarkably even from the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them.” May we grow in grace even as we face divisive days in the world and in the church. May we reflect the grace of Jesus Christ even as we passionately seek justice. May we reflect mercy even under attack. May others see Jesus’ love in us. Practice the pause!
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.