Critics and Surgeons

excerpt from “THE FRIEND ON THE ROAD” by Rev. J. H. Jowett, D.D.

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye? . . . First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s
eye.” – Matt. vii. 3,5.

THE contrast is between bad critics and good surgeons. On the one hand there is a man
with very defective eyes passing judgment on another man’s sight. The partially blind is
presuming to be a judge of other people’s eyes. It is a case of a blind oculist. On the other hand, there is a man whose eyes are healthy and full of light, and he is gently removing a spell from his brother’s eyes, and restoring him to cool and normal sight. So that the contrast presented by our Lord is not merely a contrast between a good critic and a bad critic. The word passes beyond the circle of criticism to the realm of service. And Christ presents an ideal to us, and His ideal is that of a man whose eyes are full of discernment, whose heart is full of gentleness, and whose hands are disciplined in helpfulness, and the man is busy restoring sight to others. Our eyes are raised to contemplate a chivalrous surgeon engaged in ministries of emancipation.

“If any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness.” It is the work of the noblest surgeon.

Now, our Lord says that the first necessity to becoming a good surgeon is to acquire true vision. We cannot take splinters out of another man’s eyes if our own eyes are filled
with planks.

“First cast out the beam!”

But the trouble is, we do not always know that the beam is there. That is the subtle, deadening influence of perverted sight. A man’s eyes can be half-full of planks, and yet he may think he has perfect sight. We cannot see ourselves.

“O wad some pow’r the gait gie us,
To see oursels as idlers see us;
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.”

A man can have a woodyard in his eyes and not know it! How much arrogance a man’s eyes can carry, and yet he may not be aware of the load! How much prejudice may dwell in his eyes, and he may be entirely ignorant of the harmful tenants! How much ignorance may be piled up in his eyes, and yet he may assume they are full of enlightenment and knowledge!

How much sin may be gathered in his eyes, and yet he may walk and talk as though he were pure!

And so it is a great problem how we are to see the beams that are in our own eyes. And the only way to see them is to go where there is plenty of light. Where can we find the light? We cannot find it in the ordinary light of conventional social standards. They will not reveal us to ourselves, for that sort of dim, dull light brings nothing into sight. We need a stronger light. Who has not seen shopmen bringing their goods to the doors of their shops in order to have their customers see them in the bright sunshine?

The dull background, with its twilight, does not reveal the things in their true colours.
Suppose we could bring our lives into a sunshine where their real colours would be revealed. Suppose there were some “burning bliss” in which everything stands unveiled. And that is just what there is, and that is just what we can do. We can bring our lives into the light of God’s holiness. We must get into this light; and to see our faults in that light, and to cry out to God for their removal, is to have God for an immediate ally in the work of their destruction. And then do we become surgeons after the Lord’s pattern.

“Then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” We become
experts in gentle spiritual surgery.

And who would not like to be wrought upon by firm, yet gentle hands of this order? I am always attracted by Paul’s description of a spiritual surgeon:

“Full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish.”

An admonition born of those conditions would be like medicinal air from the mountains, healing air made fragrant with the heather and the wild thyme.

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