Small to Great (guest post by Rochelle Sadie)

I’m delighted to post this week from my friend Rochelle Sadie’s blog My Dear Sister. In spite of her blog’s name, please know that this post is not only for women but for men as well, anyone who has been harmed by a spiritually abusive system and made to feel “small.”

I could feel the cold hard wood floors on my feet as I stumbled in the dark, looking for my glasses. “Okay, feed the dogs, getting my coffee…” Continue reading “Small to Great (guest post by Rochelle Sadie)”

Do you always have a log in your own eye?

One time some friends and I were studying a book about the Christian life, and we came to a section about the way abusers think and act. I said, “Some of you may be able to think of someone you know who fits this description.”

One woman replied that for this study she only wanted to look at herself; she didn’t want to look at anyone else.

Now, I understand that thinking. We need to ask the Lord to show us the sins in our own hearts, and we need to repent of them. Absolutely.

But we also very much need to be able to see and understand other people besides ourselves, because understanding the people in our lives is part of how we can accomplish full maturity.

Don Hennessy, in his book How He Gets into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser, said,

“The focus of our work with a client is to explore with her the reasons for and the effects of relationship abuse and violence. This is best achieved by drawing her attention to the thinking and the mindset of her abuser. This changes the focus of the woman’s analysis away from self-examination. This focus of self-examination has been instigated and orchestrated by the offender right from the beginning of the relationship.”

The fact is that the continued pattern of self-focus for sin issues can become very unhealthy. It’s okay and even like Jesus to focus some attention on the thinking and mindset of how abusers work, even one’s very own specific abuser.

The Scripture

And this brings us to this Scripture. Because for some, what I’ve just said seems to go against what Jesus said. So let’s look at it.

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus said to His listeners,

Why do you look at 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,” and behold, the log is 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.

An example of the hypocrite

In the church, perhaps Member Zach is beginning to enjoy earning a lot of money for the first time in his life. Elder Charlie wants to warn him of the danger of love of money, which is legitimate, and how he needs to be sure to give a goodly amount to the church.

Elder Charlie says to Member Zach, “You, brother, have a small sin that needs to be dealt with. Let me help you deal with it. It isn’t harming others, but I can see how you’re beginning to turn away from God.”

Ah, but Elder Charlie. What about the log in your eye? You are secretly looking at pornography. (A sinless activity, you say? How dare you. The victims of this crime are legion. Your own heart is being scarred. The way you view women is affected.)

Elder Charlie, first repent of the sin you’re engaged in that is harming so many others. Turn away from it and turn to God alone. Then you will see clearly to help Zach with his speck.

My friends, I just told a micro-story that is repeated over and over in churches beyond number.

THIS is the kind of thing Jesus is talking about.

Jesus is obviously saying here that there are degrees of sin. Some are a speck, and some are a log.

Maybe some sins are monstrosities

Also, Jesus wasn’t saying that the sin of the other person is always necessarily only a “speck.” Another person who claims to be a Christian may in fact be committing monstrosities.

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Matthew 7:5, said,

A hypocrite, who professes to be what he is not (that is, a true Christian), is obliged, for the support of the character he has assumed, to imitate all the dispositions and actions of a Christian. Consequently he must reprove sin and endeavor to show an uncommon affection for the glory of God.

Sound familiar?

Our Lord unmasks this vile pretender to saintship and shows him that his hidden hypocrisy, covered with the garb of external sanctity, is more abominable in the sight of God than the openly professed and practised iniquity of the profligate.

But this Scripture is used against people who are trying to get help

This Scripture is regularly quoted at people to say, in essence how dare you bring an accusation against anyone or talk about anyone else’s sins. You should look at the much greater sins in your own life.

Often the assumption is even made that somehow even if Christians repent of their “beam,” it will continue to be there.

Is this what we would say about the apostle Peter when in Acts 2 he preached to the Jewish leaders about how they had killed their Messiah?

Is this what we would say about the apostle Paul when in Acts 17 he preached to the Athenians about their need to know “the unknown God”?

Is this what we would say to the Wesleys and Wilberforces and Whitefields throughout the generations? “You are a hypocrite yourself, so you’re pretty cheeky to be speaking about the sins of others.” Is this what we would say?

But not everyone is a hypocrite

Could it be, rather, that some Christians have asked the Lord to show them their “beam” or “beams,” whatever they may be, and then have gotten them out? After all, Jesus indicates it’s possible to do that. This would be a natural result of true repentance.

Could it be that there really are Christians who are trusting Jesus and living in the power of the Holy Spirit?

I dare to say that there are some Christians who are not hypocrites, which would mean that if they had a beam, they have dealt with it, removed it and repented of it, so that they can see more clearly whatever it is that is in someone else’s eye. (The whole system of Christian counseling is based on this idea.)

Albert Barnes, on the same Scripture:

Christ directs us to the proper way of forming an opinion of others, and of reproving and correcting them. By first amending our own faults, or casting the beam out of our eye, we can consistently advance to correct the faults of others. There will then be no hypocrisy in our conduct. We shall also ‘see clearly’ to do it.

He assumes that Jesus is teaching that we can be free from hypocrisy.

The beam, the thing that obscured our sight, will be removed, and we shall more clearly discern the ‘small’ object that obscures the sight of our brother. The sentiment is that the readiest way to judge of the imperfections of others is to be free from greater ones ourselves. This qualifies us for judging, makes us candid and consistent, and enables us to see things as they are and to make proper allowances for frailty and imperfection.

To be clear, God hates hypocrisy.

But this doesn’t mean that you always have to live under the constant frown of God because you are doomed forever to be a hypocrite.

If you are not a hypocrite—if you’re living the same consistent life of faith and love, for the Lord Jesus Christ and others, in public, in private, and in secret, if you’re listening to the Holy Spirit, applying the written Word to your life, and open to the corrections that Jesus-loving fellow believers offer—then when Jesus referred to those logs, He wasn’t talking about you.

When you have dealt with any sin patterns and hypocrisy, when you are humble before the Lord, then you are in a place to speak out about the sins in the lives of others, especially those who have harmed those in their care.

This is certainly what Jesus did. And we, along with great men and women of God throughout history, can follow His example.


A few other blog posts on similar topics:

Are all Christians hypocrites? A response to a Bill Hybels supporter

“Your greatest problem is your own sin”

“Look to the cross more”–a response to the “gospel-centered” movement

Have you been Philippians 4:8’d?

4 ways teaching Christians to embrace “I’m the worst sinner I know” is harming the church

“Loyalty” is not a Christian virtue

When I was a young graduate assistant working at Bob Jones University (learning publishing at BJU Press), like all the other employees I was given certain odious assignments to fulfill each semester, such as monitoring the “dating parlor” for a couple of hours on a Sunday.

One Sunday after I had finished that odious assignment, my replacement came along, a BJU lifer, Miss Potts. She asked me if I was going to obediently head on over to Vespers (the University’s drama program presented on Sunday afternoons).

“No,” I responded somewhat defiantly. “I’m going to church.”

Miss Potts was an old Southern lady with an absolutely perfect Southern drawl.

“The Univuhsity,” she said, “would want you to go to Vespuhs.” Continue reading ““Loyalty” is not a Christian virtue”

Bill Gothard’s umbrella heresy in a day of protests against police brutality

If you’ve blogged for over ten years as I have, you probably have scores of jotted ideas, half-baked posts, drafts, and . . . what do you know it, full posts that somehow never got posted.

Today, when I had a few moments but wanted to avoid listening to the news that literally put me to bed yesterday on Pentecost Sunday, I began scrolling through my files and files of blog ideas. 

And then, there before me was a complete post about Bill Gothard’s umbrella heresy that I never had posted. And since Gothard—a man that I, along with many thousands of others, used to adore—has been in the news again recently, and since his teaching promotes complete compliance to abusive authorities (talk about being pertinent to the news!) I’m posting it now.

My previous blog post about the Umbrella Heresy is here. Continue reading “Bill Gothard’s umbrella heresy in a day of protests against police brutality”

Christians and conspiracy theories: a response to The Gospel Coalition

I had to wait a while to write this post, because last Friday I became angry with Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition regarding his blog post about conspiracy theories. (It isn’t the first time his writing has angered me—his notorious “Beware of Broken Wolves” post three years ago fired up several of us abuse survivor advocates and others, so much so that the post itself got over 300 comments. Those comments have all been removed now, but the post still stands.)

I warn you, this is a long post. I’m going to be speaking from personal experience about conspiracy theories. Continue reading “Christians and conspiracy theories: a response to The Gospel Coalition”

The arrest of Jesus reminds us that we need to understand the Pharisees

Dear friend, the world can seem scary and crazy. We’re on lockdown, loved ones are sick, and some are dying. But Good Friday is almost upon us, and then Resurrection Day. There is still reason to rejoice. Jesus is risen and has broken the power of sin and death in the hearts and lives of all who call upon Him in faith.

In each gospel this week, I’ve been reading the account of the betrayal leading up to the crucifixion.

My focus was Jesus. But I couldn’t help but continue to see the Pharisees and other religious leaders, standing out in bold opposition to Him.

They’ve been misrepresented, you know, those Pharisees. Almost every time they’re portrayed or described, we think about them as obviously pompous, obviously arrogant, obviously hypocritical. But their hypocrisy wasn’t obvious to the Jewish people at all.

You think, perhaps, that this is because they were naïve, and you wouldn’t have been so naïve? Well, maybe not. But perhaps there are some among us today Continue reading “The arrest of Jesus reminds us that we need to understand the Pharisees”

A “We Care About Sex Trafficking” Initiative parable, by anonymous guest writer

Pastor: We’re holding this meeting today to talk about ways that we as a community of believers are going to get involved and act as Jesus would to the world of sex trafficking.

Member #1: That’s great—I’ve been hoping we could get involved! Our community has been ripped apart by sexual abuse. It even occurs in our churches, Christian schools, mission programs, Christian universities, Christian camps, youth groups, etc. I have so many friends and neighbors whose lives have been shattered, and they’ve never encountered a church community willing to come alongside them, help them heal, and stand for justice in their oppression. Continue reading “A “We Care About Sex Trafficking” Initiative parable, by anonymous guest writer”

Is God glorified through our suffering?

Recently I received a question from my friend Ana Harris. She said,

When people’s prayers for God to be glorified in my suffering are disconnected from his goodness and love, they start to sound rather cruel, almost like God is using me and taking pleasure in my pain. Does God cause my pain and suffering for his own glory? Why would he need our suffering to get glory for himself? Doesn’t he already possess glory because of who he is?

What is your answer to this? How do we truly glorify God? What is glory anyway?

Continue reading “Is God glorified through our suffering?”

Why the Jeffrey Epstein case matters to Christians

It may feel like voyeurism, reading about it, if you don’t know any of these people.

But as I’ve been saying for some time now, I can be pretty doggone certain that you do know or at least interact with a survivor of sex trafficking, even if you don’t think you do. Because they are all around you.

My primary work is with those who have been sex trafficked in the Christian world. And believe me, there are parallels.

One person or small group of people is/are the traffickers. They may be relatively obscure, as Epstein was.

Others, the wealthy and elites (in my experience, it’s primarily been the wealthy and elites in the Christian world) are the buyers who take advantage of the trafficker’s “services.” (Flying in to the trafficking location is not a problem for the Christian elite.)

There’s a lot to learn about how this all works by reading about the Jeffrey Epstein case. Continue reading “Why the Jeffrey Epstein case matters to Christians”